FIRST SKI B.A.S.E. OFF THE MATTERHORN – SUPER FRENCHIE™DIARIES EP4
This descent could have easily been the last descent of my life… After ski BASE jumping the Eiger with a textbook frontflip into the north face, I decided to focus my energy towards the Matterhorn – the most intimidating peak in the Alps.
However, the Matterhorn is a much more technical mountain to approach for a ski descent than the Eiger due to its shape and topography.
Growing up, I always heard stories about how impressive the Matterhorn was but you don’t come to realize it until you see the mountain itself.
First, we had to find a face that would hold enough snow to be able to ski over all the rocks. Based on pictures taken by Simon Anthamatten and his expertise, the iconic east face seemed like the best option.
Second, based on the short window we had to reach our goal, we needed to book a helicopter. As we were hovering over the face, we could see that there was a straight line from the top of the triangle to a natural diving board into the north face. This particular exit point guarantied 450 feet of vertical wall followed by a few thousand feet of positive rock below.
The last challenge of the approach was the landing itself. The matterhorn is so steep and exposed that we could not land with the aircraft. The Air Zermatt pilot decided it was safer to lower me onto the mountain using a winch that I could clip into the harness of my parachute.
Hanging from a cable under a helicopter over this monstrous and terrifying mountain was one of the most intense experiences in my existence. You are all of the sudden going from the comfort of the cabin to pure vulnerability but it also helps you channel you thoughts and forces you to focus. Survival starts with focus.
Once, I was secure on the Matterhorn with Simon’s help, I clicked in my skis, turned on my GoPro cameras and it was time to get in the zone and focus on the line.
As I reached total relaxation, I remember telling myself to be ready for the worst. Aside from the technical details to approach the mount, it all seemed too easy. This is not a regular mountain… This is the Matterhorn… Many people have lost their lives climbing this mountain. It was not time to be complacent but on the contrary, it was time to pay extra attention. As I always say, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
I signaled the pilot I was ready and dropped into the face.
As I reached the edge of the cliff and prepare myself for launch, my ski snagged a rock that was hidden behind the jump. The snow density was much lighter on the edge of the cliff than on the east face that I had just skied which caused my ski to sink in. It came to a sudden stop and came off as I was going full throttle. All I could do was to throw a giangantic frontflip in the north face and slow down the inertia which created a window to pull my parachute without getting tangled in my lines…
This is the worst thing that can happen to a parachute assisted big mountain skier and was a true test of my survival instinct. The mountain gave me a warning and I was skilled enough but also lucky enough to survive. There are no heroes on the mountain… only survivors and the mountain let me go home safely.