Austrian climber dies in fall from Matterhorn

A 33-year-old Austrian climber died on Thursday when he fell 600 metres down the side of the Matterhorn after ascending the iconic 4,478-metre mountain in the Swiss canton of Valais with a colleague, also from Austria.

Austrian climber dies in fall from Matterhorn
Photo: Zacharie Grossen/Wikimedia

The two climbers left the Solvay Hut, perched on a ridge of the mountain at 4,003 metres, to continue their descent at around 8am, cantonal police said.

About 100 metres below the hut the victim fell 600 metres down the Matterhorn’s east face, police said. It’s not clear what caused his fall.

The two men were not roped together, the force said. The dead man was reportedly from Styria.

The accident is a grim reminder of the risks undertaken by alpinists climbing the Matterhorn.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain overlooking Zermatt by a team led by English explorer and climber Edward Whymper in 1865.

On that climb four members of the party were killed during the descent.

Over 500 people have died climbing the mountain straddling the Swiss-Italian border since the first ascent and it claims an average of 12 victims a year.

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Hochvogel: A famed mountain straddling Germany and Austria faces a rocky collapse

It is one of the most famous mountains in the Allgäu Alps - and it could soon be history. According to experts, the summit of the Hochvogel will soon collapse, and up to 260,000 cubic metres of rock could fall into the valley.

Hochvogel: A famed mountain straddling Germany and Austria faces a rocky collapse
The summit of Hochvogel. Photo: DPA

Yet the possible scenario is hardly shaking up the locals: According to the authorities, there is no particular threat to the population near the mountain.

For years now, a huge crevasse at the summit on the border between Bavaria and Tyrol has been growing in size, and the first rock falls have already occurred. Researchers use sensors to monitor the movement of the massif in order to be able to predict large rockfall.

SEE ALSO: Weekend Wanderlust: Reaching new heights in the Allgäu

The only building near the Hochvogel summit is the Prinz-Luitpold-Haus, an almost 140-year-old refuge of the German Alpine Club. But it is so far away that hardly anything can happen to it, says Andreas Kaenders of the Oberallgäu District Office.

There is no built-up area on the Austrian side, says Thomas Figl from the Tyrolean Landesgeologie association. “If there is the big rockfall, there will be a cloud of dust in the Hinterhornbach community depending on the wind, but the area is definitely not threatened,” he says.

The village is more than two kilometres as the crow flies from the mountain.

The rock movements at the Hochvogel are monitored by researchers. According to them, the crack at the summit is currently a good 40 metres long, 8 metres deep and 3 metres wide.

In the Zugspitze area as well as in two other regions in Austria and Italy, threatened mountain regions are also being monitored by drone flights and measurement technology.

It is unclear whether the Hochvogel summit will actually come to an end with a great deal of noise. “There have been smaller and larger events for years,” says state geologist Figl.

It is difficult to assess whether the rockfalls will continue piece by piece or whether the “big bang” will suddenly occur.