Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and "Time Is Irreverent."

Climbing the Matterhorn with Broken Hands and No Ropes


Marty’s photo of the day #1776: It’s “CC, HP: ESC Month,” featuring photos and excerpts from my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents.

The below excerpt from my book takes place after Deb, Emad (a Swiss-Egyptian friend of ours), and I attempted to climb partway up the Matterhorn (to the Hörnlihütte, which is one-third of the way up). I’ve never been a fan of heights, and when we hit ice, I was the first to turn around. In real life, turning around was embarrassing for me. In my book, I handled it with humor. My editor called it my “Walter Mitty section.” The below excerpt picks up after I suggested to my readers that they skip my initial account of the aborted climb:

Okay, lovers of he-man outdoor writing, you can now safely start reading again. You were wise to skip down to here. No one wants to read that wimpy emotional stuff anyway. In fact, I just read it myself and had to break three computer keyboards just to get my testosterone level back up to normal. Now that I feel sufficiently manly again, I wish to present to you the properly spun facts about what really happened. The following section—of absolute truth—picks up right after I laughed at the ice and sprinted up the trail:

I reached the Hörnlihütte a good ten minutes before Deb and Emad. I would have made it up sooner, but the sheets of glare ice were too much for my fainthearted companions. To make their climb easier, I ran down to the ridge several times and brought up packs full of dirt for the slippery spots. Even then, I still had to carry both of them across the most dangerous sections.

Once we were all together at the Hörnlihütte, I looked out over the Alps. I could see heavenly white snow-covered peaks in every direction except behind me, where the ominous sheer face of the Matterhorn continued skyward.

“I’m glad we made the climb,” I said, “but I had hoped for a better view.”

“The view is fantastic!” said Emad. “I can see for miles. How could it possibly get any better?”

“We’re not high enough,” I said. “Imagine how stunning the Alps would look from the summit. Nothing would be in the way to block our view. I know we didn’t bring any climbing equipment, but we’re already a third of the way up the Matterhorn. What do you say we finish the job?”

“The way you conquered the ice to guide Emad and me up this far was an amazing and manly feat,” said Deb. “But how could you possibly get us to the top of the Matterhorn without ropes? After all, you’re only human.”

“No problem, my little woman. You and Emad can just hold onto the back of my three-hundred-pound pack, and I’ll pull us the rest of the way up. We’ll be at the top in less than an hour.”

“Oh, Marty! You’re such a hunk!” cooed Deb.

“You da man!” exclaimed Emad.

“Just give me a second to smash these casts off my broken hands and we’ll get started.”

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