Location: Canton of Valais, Pennine Alps Map

Altitude: 4478 meters (14690 feet)


Description of Mountain Matterhorn

Matterhorn (German), Monte Cervino (Italian) or Mont Cervin (French) is probably the most recognized mountain in the World due to its distinct shape of its summit.  Matterhorn peak is situated on the border between Switzerland and neighbouring Italy in the Pennine Alps. Its peaks reaches to the altitude of 4478 meters (14690 feet) above sea level, making it one of the highest peaks in the region.


The German name of the mountain, Matterhorn, derives from the words Matte, which means "meadow", and Horn, which means "horn". The migration of the name "meadow" from the bottom of the country to the peak is common in the Alps. The Italian and French names (Cervino and Cervin) come from Mons Silvius (or Mons Sylvius)  of the Latin word silva, meaning forest (again, with the migration of the name from the bottom to the peak). The change of the first letter "s" to "c" is attributed to Horace Bénédict de Saussure,  who thought that the word referred to a deer (French: cerf and Italian: cervo).


The Matterhorn is an isolated mountain. Due to its position in the main alpine watershed and its high altitude, the Matterhorn is exposed to rapid changes in weather. In addition, its steep slopes and isolated location favor the formation of orographic cloud formations, with the air flowing around and creating vortices, with condensation on the leeward side.


Relief and surroundings
The Matterhorn peak is located in the Pennine Alps on the border of Switzerland (in the canton of Valais) and Italy (in the province of Valle d’Aosta). From Switzerland, the nearest settlement to the summit is the mountain resort of Zermatt, located at the foot of the northern wall of the summit. From Italy, near the southern wall, is the Italian mountain resort of Breuil-Cervinia. Both resorts are interconnected by the pass Theodul 3317 meters high above sea level, which is located east of the peak. Theodul Pass is the easiest route between Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia. Even in ancient times (from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD) it was used as a trade and transport route between the Roman Empire and the Romanized Celts. The saddle of the pass on the north side is covered by the Theodul Glacier. The Furggyoh Pass, located to the west of the peak, was not used as a transport artery due to its greater difficulty, despite the fact that it is lower (3271 meters above sea level).

The walls of the Matterhorn are steep, and for this reason there is little snow and ice on them. Snow falling on the slopes of the Matterhorn regularly falls in avalanches and accumulates at the foot of the walls in the upper parts of the glaciers, which flow down from the top from all sides. The largest Matterhorn glaciers are the Tifmatten Glacier at the base of the western wall, which is a tributary of the Zmutt Glacier, and the Matterhorn Glacier at the foot of the northern wall. Smaller glaciers lie at the foot of the southern (lower Matterhorn glacier - Italian. Ghiacciaio Inferiore del Cervino, FR. Glacier inférieur du Cervin) and the eastern walls (nameless glacier).

The Matterhorn summit is located on the watershed between the catchment basins of the Rhone rivers from the north (through the Zmuttbach rivers from the northern and western slopes of the summit and Horner from the east, which feed the River Burggbach, which, in turn, flows into the Rhone tributary of the Vispa river) and Po from the south ( through the Torrente Cervino River, which flows into the Po through the rivers Marmor and Dora Baltea).

On the 90-meter ridge at the junction of the northern and southern walls of the Matterhorn there are two separate peaks. The highest point is located in the east of the ridge and is called the Swiss peak. Its height is 4477.5 meters above sea level. In the west of the ridge is the Italian peak with a height of 4,476.4 meters above sea level. The peaks got their names by the name of the countries from which they first climbed, and not by territorial criteria. Both peaks are located on the border of Switzerland and Italy, which was fixed by a joint convention of these countries on July 24, 1941.

The first documented height measurement of the Matterhorn was made by Horace Benedict de Saussure on August 13, 1792 from the Theodul Glacier, using a 50-foot chain and a sextant. The height of the peak he obtained was 4501.7 meters above sea level. In 1868, the Italian engineer Felice Giordano obtained a peak height of 4505 meters using a mercury barometer, which he brought with him when climbing to the top. On the map of Dufour, which came out after Italian studies, the Swiss peak had a height of 4482 meters. In the 1920s, the height of the peak was measured with an accuracy of half a meter and amounted to 4477.5 meters above sea level. In particular, in the official list of the four-thousander peaks of the Alps, published by the UIAA in 1994, this particular height appears. In 1999, the Italian professor of geology, Giorgio Poretti, measured the height of the apex to the nearest centimeter using GPS technology. The result was 4477.54 meters.

The relative height of the peak is 1027 meters. Weishorn (the highest peak in the western part of the Matterthal valley) is considered the parent mountain in relation to the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn and Weisshorn peaks are connected by a ridge with its lower point 3451 meters above sea level on the saddle of the Col Duran pass between the peaks of Pointe de Zinal and Mont Duran. The closest peak, superior in height to the Matterhorn, is West Liskamm (4479 meters above sea level). It is located 14 kilometers southeast of Matterhorn.


The Matterhorn summit was included in the list of alpine four-thousanders, first published by the Austrian mountain climber Karl Blodig in 1923 and containing 59 peaks. In 1994, the UIAA included the Matterhorn peak in the main list of the four-thousanders of the Alps (a total of 82 peaks were included in the list). According to the Blodig list, the Matterhorn peak is tenth in the list in absolute height; in the UIAA list, the Matterhorn is in twelfth position.

Walls and crests
Matterhorn has a pyramidal shape with four faces facing in parts of the world. Three of them (northern, eastern and western) are territorially related to Switzerland (Mattertal Valley), and the southern wall faces the Italian side - the Valtournenche of the Valle d’Aosta region. The northern wall of the peak is turned towards the peak of Ober-Gabelhorn, located 7 kilometers from the Matterhorn and separated from it by the Zmutt Glacier and the valley. At the foot of the northern wall of the peak at an altitude of 1608 meters above sea level is the mountain resort of Zermatt. The eastern wall of the peak descends to the Theodul Pass, separating it from the Horner Glacier between the Gornegrat Mountain Range and the peak of Dufour Peak (10 and 17 kilometers respectively). The western wall of the Matterhorn faces the upper part of the Zmutt glacier between the peaks of Dans d'Eran and Dans Blanche, located 4 and 7 kilometers respectively. At the foot of the southern side of the peak is the Italian mountain resort of Breuil-Cervinia. The Matterhorn is not a tetrahedral pyramid of ideal shape, since the northern and southern walls of the peak are wider than the eastern and western ones. In the upper part of the summit, the northern and southern walls form a ridge with a length of about 90 meters, which connects the eastern and western walls. All the walls of the Matterhorn are steep, with almost vertical sections closer to the top.