Four Girls and a Matterhorn
Lorraine Huber Shares What It’s Like to Shred One of the Most Dangerous Peaks in the World
Written by: Anna Bernard
It stands at 14,692 feet tall, is nearly symmetrical and is one of the highest peaks that resides in The Alps. The Matterhorn is known as one of the deadliest peaks in the world and undeniably one of the most beautiful. In May of 2016, four women welcomed the challenge as they skied down the Matterhorn’s east face. Lorraine Huber, Giulia Monego, Melissa Presslaber and Liv Sansoz shredded the untouched spring powder with the help of calm weather, preparation and, of course, endless positive vibes.
The combination of these four women had never been seen before. “The four of us got along famously and there was a lot of respect and support in our team,” said Huber. “The positive energy we shared was palpable and it made the experience all the more special.” Some of these women were meeting for the first time on this trip, while others had previously skied and filmed together. The dynamic of this group made it hard to believe that these four hadn’t been skiing together their entire lives.
While the ease and steeze of this adventure may appear almost second nature, these women put in many days of hard work and preparation. Huber specifically discussed her week in Chamonix (located at the base of Mount Blanc in The Alps) as she tried to get acclimated to the high elevation, as well as physically prepare herself for the Matterhorn. “I wasn’t able to do very much specific training for ski mountaineering, however, since my focus in the winter is on competing on the Freeride World Tour,” said Huber. “As a freeride athlete, I mainly work on building strength, not endurance, which comes with the skiing.”
Huber was also just coming out of a recent recovery, from an operation on the head of her tibia at the first Freeride World Tour stop. Yet, she still managed to finish off her freeride season strong, and months later, successfully skied down the Matterhorn on the first attempt. “Climbing and skiing the Matterhorn is one of the best and most gratifying things I’ve done on skis so far. I want more of that,” said Huber.
Photo courtesy of planetmountain.com.
The mentality of Huber’s is exactly what it takes to climb and descent the Matterhorn: determination, practice and pure passion. Even from the footage of this trip, it is clear that all four women held similar mindsets.
The team started at the base of the Matterhorn’s east face, traversing across lower portion of the mountain to reach the Hörnlihütte at 10,695 feet. The Hörnlihütte is a hut at the foot of the north-eastern ridge that many have spent the night at before summiting the Matterhorn.
“The following morning, we left the hut at 4:15 am and reached the top around 8 am,” said Huber. “Giulia and Liv were ahead of Mel and I, and did a good job of scouting the line. We descended at 9 am to allow the snow to soften up enough and make for enjoyable skiing.”
The climb began before the sun rose, and took about four hours to reach the east face before meeting the drop-in point, which was at about 13,287 feet elevation. “The climb was amazing and just as enjoyable for me as the descent. The exposure and views were exhilarating,” said Huber. “Conditions were literally perfect for summiting: the temperatures weren’t too warm, it was wind still, and we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises we’ve experienced so far.” Huber also noted that the Matterhorn’s steepness at times was quite intimidating. “I chose to just put my head down and focus on bringing one foot above the other, not looking down too much, especially on the firmer and rockier sections,” she said.
Though the snow was hard to read at times, and resulted in extra traverses, Huber never once doubted her abilities. “Looking up at the climb above me, I saw that I was capable of what lay ahead and my confidence never left me,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the ascent and even if I had had the chance, I wouldn’t have used a heli for anything.”
The descent required just as much physical and mental strength as the ascent. Lasting about an hour, each turn was carefully calculated as it was exhilarating. The entire face of the Matterhorn is steep – hence its allure – but even at its mildest, the face still resides at a 45 degree angle. “After the first ten turns I became aware of how tense my muscles were. I was able to relax my muscles and soften my breathing after that, and that’s when it became fun,” said Huber. “It also helped me to watch how in control and smooth Giulia and Melissa were turning before me. That’s always confidence inspiring.”
Some may call it good timing, solely skill or just luck. Surely all three of those factors played a role in one of the most legendary summits for women, but this trip goes far beyond any of those things. Four women set out to do something few have tried and even less have achieved. Despite the daunting reality that the Matterhorn’s east face holds, these women never doubted the abilities of themselves or their team. With confidence, perseverance and sheer joy, these women were able to summit and shred one of the most remarkable mountains in the world.