'Too dangerous': Calls for Switzerland’s Matterhorn to be closed to climbers
Switzerland's iconic Matterhorn mountain should be closed to climbers, mountain guides have told a Swiss newspaper in comments that have divided the climbing community.
"The mountain has become “too unstable and therefore too dangerous to be a tourist attraction climbed by loads of people every day," one unnamed guide told Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung.
The comment comes ten days after two climbers died on the mountain in the canton of Valais after a rock fall. So far, six people have died on the mountain this year. Last year it was eleven.
Now some climbers want to the mountain closed to climbers as was the case after a huge rock slide during the extremely hot summer of 2003.
It is still not clear what caused the rock fall that killed two climbers recently but geologist Hans-Rudolf Keusen with the Swiss Alpine Club told SonntagsZeitung that hot conditions were “very probably partly responsible”.
Keusen said that permafrost was thawing at increasingly high altitudes.
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He said that this was why rock falls and avalanches were increasingly common above 2,500 metres – especially on the exposed north faces of mountains.
But Keusen is against closing mountains to climbers. He says climbers have to take personal responsibility for risks and must inform themselves about local conditions.
Closing the Matterhorn 'a laughable idea'
Meanwhile, Raphaël Mayoraz, head of the natural hazards department in the canton of Valais called the idea of closing the Matterhorn “laughable”.
He said climbing was a “private activity” and that authorities should instead ensure climbers are aware of the risks.
But, as Keusen admitted, this risk is hard to measure. He noted increased instability at higher altitudes was an issue across the Alps as a whole, affecting cable car stations, hiking tracks and climbing routes.
No plans to close mountain
In comments made to Swiss national broadcaster SRF, Zermatt commune president Romy Biner said a closure of the mountain was not being considered.
She noted there were 38 4,000-metre peaks in the commune and that the issue of thawing permafrost was not only applicable to the Matterhorn.
"We can't take responsibility for everything," the commune president said.