I can’t say enough positive things about my experience. We did not get to summit (weather conditions prevented us from attempting it) but I consider the trip a great success.
Most important to my feeling the trip was a success is Jonathon Spitzer. He has the right blend of leadership, knowledge, encouragement, and a sense of humor that made the trip a learning experience and alot of fun. Jonathon is obviously an accomplished mountaineer but, in addition, he knows so much about the mountaineering culture in Zermatt that I felt very much at ease traveling around those areas with him and the other guides. The hut culture is also something I had no awareness of, and Jonathon, with his unique blend of seriousness and humor, taught us about this.
The other two guides, Eric and Dylan, were also top notch. And I felt a genuine camaraderie among the three of them which made the trip all that much more enjoyable. All of us on the trip had many questions and any of the guides would be able to give us very thoughtful answers; and if their opinions deviated, they would explain why. From gear, to food, to weather reports, to particulars with Zermatt guides….any question. Plus, they are all very encouraging and offer suggestions to problems and provide distractions when the going gets tough. They are all great conversationalists — there is, after all, a lot of time spent together hiking and talking. It was a true pleasure to climb with any three of them.
I had no misgivings about doing what any three of the guides told me to do. They are not arrogant or preachy. Just very sincere in sharing their deep knowledge of the mountain and the culture around the mountain. It is very evident that all of the guides are really pulling for us to summit. The fact that weather shut down our attempts seemed to be a disappointment for them, not just us. But safety first! None of us ever doubted any of the guides’ decisions.
The prep in advance of attempting the Matterhorn was rigorous but made sense and built confidence. There is no way to know what the Matterhorn will be like but our various climbs and especially the Weissmies summit simulated it as much as possible. The scenery was spectacular, too, and we got to sample a bit of what is available in the Alps. We ended the trip with the Gorner Gorge via ferrata which was amazing and a great way to do something fun and easy off of the Matterhorn.
I have written a lot about the climb but prior to the climb, I have to praise Jonathon for being so on-the-ball and responsive. Really remarkable how quickly he answers on email and how thorough his responses are.
Which leads me to comment on the logistics of the trip…all very well handled and carefully thought through. From early check-ins, to showers before heading to the airport, to having time to buy snacks before the climb….all handled exceptionally. And Jonathon was very flexible to make changes in plans if needed. The huts are terrific. The hotel in Zermatt was good — the rooms are a bit small with the big duffel bags I had but very clean and serviceable and the staff were friendly and accommodating. The guides are 100% spot on regarding gear and clothing and snacks. Do not deviate from the recommended packing list! And if Jonathon says 10 snacks, get 10 snacks. Seriously.
On the topic of gear and clothing, Matt Miller was extremely helpful in picking out gear and telling me what features were important and why. Matt answered all of my questions thoroughly and quickly, and he was really great about swapping out a pair of gloves right before I left for the Matterhorn. It is very helpful to have the gear department know exactly what the guides require and why.
My final comment will hopefully illustrate how highly I thought of Jonathon and the rest of the guiding team and of Matt Miller and of Alpine Ascents in general (shout out to Chris Thalman). From my experience on the Matterhorn trip, I think Alpine Ascents is represented by serious professionals who know what they’re doing, take no risks, and have fun all at the same time. I can’t imagine climbing a mountain with any other professional guiding company. In fact, I am returning to Matterhorn in July 2018 on a private guided trip this time. Hopefully to summit but I know it will be fulfilling regardless.
Highly highly recommend!!!!