I was enjoying some Swiss cheese fondue and a glass of wine in Zermatt when I saw them walk by. They didn’t look like the other tourists. They carried helmets on their packs and walked with a certain resolve that immediately caught my attention. These guys are on a mission, I thought to myself. Imagine my surprise when I returned back to my hostile and found them lounging in my door room. I introduced myself and asked about their gear. Christoph and Herbert Maile couldn’t contain their excitement. They were about to fulfill their 16-year dream to climb the Matterhorn, and sometime later that evening they agreed to give me the honor to tell their story.
I did my pre-climb interview the next morning with Chris, who speaks fluent English. He was 24 years old and full of energy. As we sipped our cappuccinos and ate our breakfast, I pestered him with a bunch of questions. His enthusiasm was contagious and I hoped to god they would make the summit.
Me: How many people are in your climb group?
Chris: Me, Dad (who is 56) and two guides. One is assigned to helping my father and one is assigned to helping me.
Me: Do you mind if I ask how much the guides cost?
Chris: No, that’s fine. They cost 1,000 euros each (about 1,180 USD).
Me: What does your mom think of this?
Chris: She knows she can’t stop us, so she just accepts it.
Me: How long do you anticipate it will take you?
Chris: A few hours the first day to reach the Carell hut where we spend the night. Then we will leave at dawn or whenever the weather is right for the summit. That should take another 4 to 5 hours, even though it is only 700 meters. It will take an additional 3 to 4 hours to climb down to the Carell hut and then we have to leave that night so we are hiking all the way back down to the bottom which will be another 4 hours.
Me: So, you could be climbing for 12 to 13 hours that day?
Chris: Yah, (he says, with a shrug of his shoulders, like it’s no big deal).