|The year before, I had come to Zermatt to climb the north face of the Matterhorn and it had snowed for six days straight. I thought I could still cajole a local climber into making a quick trip up the Hornli Ridge, the mountain's autobahn, the route climbed by unskilled hordes every summer. But no climber was interested. I tracked down several guides, all of whom shook their heads. One of them ended our conversation saying, "No one. No one. No one guide Matterhorn when it snows."
I hiked up beyond the Hornli hut alone and found more than a foot of snow on the route and the rocks so slippery it was as if the mountain had been coated in grease. I descended, chastened.
Now, a year later, I was back with a partner, John Harlin. The north face was loaded with avalanche-prone, unconsolidated snow, and John had climbed the Hornli Ridge on a previous trip, so we decided to attempt a traverse: trek halfway around the mountain, crossing from Switzerland into Italy, ascend the Italian Ridge, cross over the 14,690-foot summit, and descend via the Hornli. The hike over to the south side of the mountain would give us a chance to acclimatize and the weather a chance to shape up.