Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and the Eiger are the Alpine big three. Why climb them? – Matt Dickinson
These peaks are busy under good weather and conditions, plus an attempt at each peak is a large investment in time and money. Wouldn’t it be easier just to view each peak via the latest internet app? Well of course not! The rewards of accomplishing these milestone mountains are far greater than the cost. Each peak represents a tangible milestone of achievement that once obtained is never erased. All three mountains are ‘household names’, even your curtain twitching neighbour who never leaves the house has heard of Mont Blanc, Matterhorn and the Eiger! An ascent of each mountain is a badge of honour which can be remembered through generations. Even though there are thousands of beautiful and challenging mountains in the world, there is satisfaction to be gained from climbing peaks that friends and family have heard of and can relate to.
Climbing the big three can take a single alpine season if the conditions and weather are kind, but for most this is a multi-year project. Usually it is Mont Blanc which is attempted first and although this is the highest, it is also the technically easiest and can be accomplished by a strong hill walker with just a little alpine climbing experience. The second peak is usually the Matterhorn, the level of stamina needed is similar to Mont Blanc, but the mountain is more technically demanding, and ranks as a ‘climbers peak’ rather than a walkers peak. The Eiger is left until last, it is more fickle in nature, conditions need to be just right to secure an ascent, plus it is more difficult to retreat from in bad weather. The Eiger is only for more experienced mountaineers with several routes of grade AD under their belt, an ascent of the Matterhorn would be perfect preparation!
Mont Blanc (4810m)
At 4810metres, Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps, and the highest peak in Western Europe by a margin of 200m (the second highest peak is the Dufourspitze in Switzerland). From the French side, Mont Blanc looks like a huge white dome surrounded on all sides by tumbling glaciers and huge rock faces. There’s a part of every mountaineer that wants to climb Mont Blanc and this is an achievable goal not only for experienced climbers but also for competent winter walkers. However this is never an easy mountain and should not be underestimated, serious alpine dangers await with stone fall, crevasses and seracs, not to mention the rigours of altitude.
The Eiger (3970m)
The Eiger, whose name means Ogre, is appropriately named for the severity of its towering North Face. This mountain is the farthest East of the famous trio ‘Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau’. Of the three mountains, the Eiger is the most spectacular, a striking peak from all sides and a worthy climb by any of its many routes, none of which are particularly easy. Because if it’s notorious North Face, the Eiger is one of the most famous and written about peaks in the world. The battle to climb this face has captivated the interest of climbers and non-climbers alike since the time of the first noteworthy attempt in 1934.
The Matterhorn is the most easily recognised peak in the world. Compared to most alpine peaks it looks impossibly steep and uncompromising. But on the other hand, it is a popular mountain which (during the season) is climbed on a daily basis by fit and determined people with varying amounts of experience. The route is both complex and exposed, so it is a necessity that the leader knows the mountain well. We would never advise attempting the peak without using a qualified guide. The Matterhorn is not an easy peak, even when in good condition it presents a considerable physical and psychological challenge, both in length, continuous exposure, and a need to move quickly. The route is essentially a rock climb, though crampons are usually worn from the shoulder upward. The climbing is continuously steep, but rarely technically difficult. For many mountaineers, an ascent of the mountain is the crown jewel in their careers and always represents an important and unforgettable milestone.
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Liv Along The Way | Salomon TV
Since she first summited Mont Blanc as a teen, Liv Sansoz knew she would make her life in the mountains. She was twice crowned World Champion in sport climbing, and eventually expanded her professional horizons to mixed climbing, ski mountaineering, and base jumping. In 2017, at 40 years old, Liv set out from her base in Chamonix, France to attempt to climb all 82 4000m peaks in the European Alps in a single year. As she’s learned several times throughout her life, things don’t always go as planned.