“Although it was a great achievement, it can’t be compared to others,” said Michael Lerjen, commenting on their feat on the Bonatti route. The conditions on the north face of the Matterhorn are always very different.
Just a few days after the death of mountaineering legend Walter Bonatti (22.6.1930-13.9.2011), Michael Lerjen (25) and Patrik Aufdenblatten (23) from Zermatt set out to tackle the extremely challenging route. Bonatti, rated by experts as one of the most talented climbers, opened the direct route in February 1965. His solo climb took six days. In March 2006, speed climber Ueli Steck (35) accomplished the rarely-climbed route in 25 hours. Until now, no one has succeeded in completing the route in a single day.
Pioneering achievements of local people
The two Zermatt climbers, Michael Lerjen and Patrik Aufdenblatten climbed the route in 7 hours and 14 minutes on Wednesday, 21 September 2011. This pioneering feat was achieved thanks to physical fitness and climbing skill, experience on joint international climbing tours and tips from a previous climber, with Ueli Steck passing on his detailed knowledge to the pair. It was also essential to wait for the right time. “We were already on the face on Saturday but had to turn back because of weather conditions,” said Michael Lerjen. Ueli Steck was also the first non-Zermatter to congratulate the two on their achievement.
Michael Lerjen recently set a world record when he became the youngest mountaineer in the world to climb all 82 mountains over 4000 metres high in the Alps. Starting at the age of 14, he reached the summit of his last 4000-metre mountain – the Jungfrau, 4158 m – on 10 September 2011.