Death on the Matterhorn: a mystery that no one can solve for 150 years
This mysterious story happened as much as a half century ago in the small town of Zermatt, in Switzerland. 150 years have passed since the first man climbed to the top of the Matterhorn, a curved megalith rising on the border of Italy and Switzerland. And just an hour after this historic achievement in 1865, four of the seven ascended fell off and crashed to death.
There are various rumors, but it is unclear whether it was a deliberate murder or criminal negligence. Or was it an accident, complicated by the conflict of the characters of a wealthy British climber and two illiterate guides?
Now Zermatt - the famous resort at the foot of one of the most famous peaks in the world, which glorified the achievement of the British climber Edward Wimper. Tourists stop here to admire the spill of the waters of the Vispa River, lights that mark the path of Whimper and illuminate the mountain flooded with rose-purple light of sunset.
However, there are plenty of disputes around the town of Zermatt. This is especially true for tough competition, which dates back to the times of the “Golden Era” of mountaineering. In those days, the British laid the foundation for unofficial competitions in climbing alpine peaks in equipment a little more difficult than tweed suits and studded boots.
Do not forget that in the early 60s of the 19th century in Zermatt and Sharmoni dominated sluggish and rather poor agrarian economy. And the tourist business, which was accompanied by eccentric foreigners in the mountains, brought a lot, one might even say - unprecedented money. This circumstance led to fierce competition.
Thus, disputes about who is actually responsible for the tragedy that occurred during the ascent continue to boil and hang like clouds over the city. It is as if the events described in the book “Dissolved in the air” (“Into thin air”) and occurred on Everest in 1996, occurred in 1865, supplemented only by a degree of hostility comparable to the opposition of the Hatfield and Makkoev clans.
The other two survivors were Peter Taugwalder and his son Peter Taugwalder, Jr.who came from the city of Zermatt, and one of the victims was Michel Croz - a highly respected and much more experienced guide from the city of Chamonix.
According to the most disgusting version, Taugwalder Senior envied Crozu and cut the rope, thus destroying the competitor. Or, if the cause was not jealous, then perhaps he went to kill in order to survive and save his son.
The same brave Britons, like Whymper, climbed the frightening alpine peaks in gear, not much more than tweed suits and studded boots.
The lack of evidence that Tvugwalgeru really had the spirit and courage to commit the murder at the top of the Matterhorn, did not stop the local Swiss channel from releasing this year's rather popular TV show called "Crime Scene: Matterhorn".
“Yes, throw you! The version that it was Taugwalder that cut the rope can only exist with a great stretch, ”says Edwin Hammond, a member of the Alpine Club, a 77-year-old historian who specializes in the Alps. Hammond, who first ascended to the Matterhorn in 1967, believes that if Taugwalder is guilty, it is only that he did not pay enough attention to checking the equipment.
But, despite the fact that Zermatt celebrates the victory of Whimper, the locals try to hide from the tourists that not everyone here loves Whimper so much. In one of the hotels of the fashion chain “Alex Hotel”, in which representatives of high society have been staying for several decades, an interesting incident occurred. When someone mentioned the name of Edward Wimper at the reception desk, a passing man shouted "I know the version of Taugwalder"!
“It’s very sad that people have to take one side or the other,” said Sarah Randall, a local writer and expert on the biography of Wimper. Sarah regularly takes part in annual celebrations: she demonstrates a video book and participates in an annual theatrical production. As a popular journalist, she writes a blog every day about the ascent of 1865.
“All this confrontation does not allow a person to pay attention to many amazing facts from the life of Whimper and that era as such,” says Randall, “it was the Victorian era, and men like Weimper were literally imbued with assertiveness and confidence that they can do everything.” .
But the long-term negative attitude towards the personality of Whimper, a London illustrator,sent to the Alps in 1860 to make a few sketches of the mountains, and as a result - who conquered them, in fact arose from his own memoir “Climbing in the Alps in 1860-'69”, where he describes his career as a climber, printed in 1871 .
In the book, Whymper, in essence, throws mud at the Taugwalders, not only calling them cowards, but also claiming that they did not carefully pick up the ropes, which caused Peter Hadow (the least experienced member of the expedition) to stretch the rope through the mounts of the first four members of the expedition; , because the rope was not long enough. The paintings in the Alps Museum in Chamonix, based on the Whimper version, depict Hadow, Michael Croz, Charles Hudson and Lord Francis Douglas falling into a glacial crack from a height of more than 4,000 feet.
Many believe that the ill-fated rope is wrapped around the body of Douglas, which was never found. And after many years, the experts checked the ropes in connection with numerous accusations surrounding the tragedy, and did not understand why Taugvalder did not use the longer rope (which was in the equipment) to secure the top four participants.
Wimper wrote in his book that immediately after the fall of the four unfortunate Taugwalders froze with fear, "wept like children and trembled all over, as if trying to scare us with the terrible fate of our fellow travelers." Whymper continued to descend, using, as Taugwalder’s claim, a longer rope than they had, because the descent continued anyway: “several times old Peter looked at me and, with an ashen face and shaking all over his body, pronounced significantly: "I cant".
The situation was aggravated by the gossip that Taugwalder purposely cut the rope in order to deal with its rival.
The investigation, which began on July 21, 1865 and lasted for three days, decided that Peter Hadow, because of his inexperience, had broken down, which resulted in the tragedy that had happened. There were no formal accusations, but the Taugwalder family’s reputation was seriously damaged. And since the Taugwalders could neither read nor write, their version is not known to many. The only source of factual information has always been Whymper, Hammond says.
To date, the only version of the incident was the version of Wimper.
Matthias Tauvalder, a direct descendant of Peter Taugwalder, a man with a strong will, who himself won the Matterhorn three times, first told the story that he calls the "Taugwalder version."
As a programmer and photographer, Taugwalder attracted a large number of people via the Internet to raise funds for an amazing three-language exhibition at the Matterhorn Museum, called "The Search for Truth."
Using documents that remained unknown for a long time and, citing Messer Ranhold's opinion on the ascension legend, Taugwalder states that charges in the tragedy in 1865 should be dropped from his ancestors.
“So far, there has been only one version of what happened,” Taugwalder stated publicly on Sunday at the museum, demonstrating confidence with his whole appearance, “but now you know the other.”
Taugwalder's exhibition is very honest. One part of it is called "Three Eyes" and includes a video interview with Nigel Hall - Whimper's granddaughter - who expresses sympathy for the dead. The interview was also taken from the grand-nephew of Peter Hadow, who also considers the accusations made against his grandfather not fair.
But Matthias Taugwalder openly agrees with Messner, who, as shown in the video interview, believes that Whymper so sharply accused Taugwalder to divert attention from his own responsibility for what happened, because he was the leader of the group. Achievements confirming the competence of Whimper himself are not so high: he tried 10 times to conquer the Matterhorn, and all 10 attempts were unsuccessful. “There is no doubt that Whymper was trying to fully arrogate to himself the success of the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn,” says Messner.
However, the majority of representatives of the British diaspora, who visited Zermatt and loved him as much as Whimper, believe that the new version only casts a shadow on the remarkable achievement of their countryman, which is completely inappropriate.
“In fact, in the story that took place on July 14, 1865, the main thing was not who first broke, or how strong the rope was, or who was accused of what happened,” says Angus Potter, who arrived in Zermatt as a child and now manages hotel chain "Chez Nous". The story of the tremendous ascent to the summit of Matterhorn, which so long remained unapproachable. "