“The battle for the Matterhorn”

Story 37

In the summer of 1865, the Matterhorn was first climbed by the mountaineers Jean-Antoine Carrel and Edward Whymper. The battle about who would be the first to climb the Matterhorn was featured in the 1937/38 German film “The Mountain Calls” (“Der Berg ruft”).  

Two men with the same dream 

Tyrolean-born director Luis Trenker portrays Carrel as having only one wish: to be the first person to climb the Matterhorn. This is why the Italian mountaineer is known in his home village of Breuil-Cervinia as a good-for-nothing.  

But when he meets the English mountaineer Whymper on a mountain tour, his motivation becomes even greater. The Englishman, too, is obsessed with the desire to be the first to climb to the top of what until that point had been an unconquerable mountain. Carrel and Whymper become friends and decide to climb the Matterhorn together the following year.  

In the summer of 1865, the two men decided to embark on the agreed tour.  

Fight over where to start 

However, Carrel and Whymper disagree on which side of the mountain is best to climb. For Carrel, as an Italian, he will only accept climbing from Breuil. Whymper, on the other hand, believes that the ascent from the Swiss base of Zermatt is less dangerous.  

As the film shows, the question of the best starting point is about much more than just mountaineering expertise. Both villages at the foot of the Matterhorn, Breuil and Zermatt, were hoping for a stream of wealthy tourists, something closely linked to the starting point of the first ascent.  

Carrel and Whymper finally get into a fight. Their battle is so intense that they now set off separately and the race to the top of the mountain begins.  

The Mountain Calls 

How the story ends can be seen in the German mountain film “The Mountain Calls” (“Der Berg ruft”) from 1937/1938. Luis Trenker not only directed, but also took on the role of Italian mountaineer Carrel. Some of the filming was done on the Riffelhorn below the Gornergrat. The film is based on the fictional novel “The Fight for the Matterhorn” (“Der Kampf ums Matterhorn”) by Carl Haensel and describes the first ascent of the Matterhorn in a dramatically pointed and condensed way. 

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