GORE-TEX Experience Tour: Daniel realizes his alpine dream with Robert Jasper

As part of the GORE-TEX Experience Tour, participants from all over Europe had applied to realize their own individual mountain dream with Robert Jasper, one of the world’s leading extreme climbers. The winner was Daniel Bouskila. At the beginning of May he realized his mountain dream with Robert Jasper.

Read this report from Robert Jasper which describes what happened on the tour:

“Daniel’s dream mountain is the Matterhorn. Its summit is 4,478m high and overlooks the town of Zermatt. It is an iconic emblem of the Alps and attracts climbers from all over the world. Daniel wants to climb the Hörnli ridge route in the winter with me. An exciting adventure! At this time of year there is no-one else on the mountain, it almost seems as though it has gone to sleep for the winter. On top of that, Daniel has virtually no experience in Alpine mountaineering. In March we had to abandon our first attempt. The avalanche danger was too high and the conditions on the mountain were extremely unfavourable.

It’s now May, so you can’t really say that it is winter any more. Nevertheless, everything is very quiet around Zermatt and there is still plenty of snow. The hike up to the Hörnli mountain cabin turns into a quite an adventure: the path is covered in deep snow. Even with crampons and an ice axe our progress is slow. We finally reach the mountain cabin carrying everything we need for the next few days: food for three days, sleeping bags, stove, gas, etc. Under these circumstances even a mountain as popular as the Matterhorn becomes a minor expedition. GORE-TEX Experience Tour winner Daniel from London, mountain photographer Ralf Gantzhorn, and mountain guide Florian König try and make themselves as comfortable as possible in the winter quarters of the Hörnlihütte. Unusually for a mountain cabin in the Swiss Alps, the Hörnlihütte has no heating. With the temperature around freezing, even inside the cabin, we feel as though we are spending the night in an ice cave. Understandably, we retreat to our sleeping bags as soon as possible.

6 May 2011: 4 a.m. The alarm clock goes off. We put on our GORE-TEX garments and freezing cold GORE-TEX boots, melt snow, have breakfast and leave the cabin. Using ice axes, crampons and ropes we climb the Hörnli ridge in two roped parties. Unfortunately Daniel doesn’t feel good today! He has had a cold for the last few days and has little experience wearing crampons and climbing up loose, snow-covered rock. Added to this, we have now reached an altitude of over 3,000 metres. These factors all combine to make the going very difficult for him. We make painfully slow progress. It is all much more demanding than Daniel had imagined. Climbing the Matterhorn in the winter is not an easy feat!

After about one third of the route we realize that we won’t make it today! There’s too much snow on the route, the climb has already sapped too much of Daniel’s energy. There is no way that we can continue without risking the safety of the whole group. Even if we get to the summit in daylight, that’s only half the battle. We’ve still got to climb all the way down again – already tired and exhausted. We decide to turn back and climb all the way down to Zermatt. Nevertheless, the attempt on the Matterhorn summit was a thrilling adventure for Daniel. He has certainly learnt something from this experience. Daniel’s British sense of fair play helped him accept the decision to turn back: in mountaineering fair play is all about knowing when to turn back.

So that Daniel could say that he had reached the top of a mountain and the magic threshold of 4,000m, the next day we decide to climb the Breithorn. From the cable car station of the Little Matterhorn we traverse across to the Middle Summit and spontaneously decide to take the Breithorn south flank route. This route gives Daniel his first opportunity to climb an approximately 300m long, snow-covered “ice wall” with a 45°-50° gradient. Daniel appears to see this as a reward for the strain and exertion of the past two days. He pushes himself to the limit and, in the safety of our group, manages to have his own Alpine adventure after all.

The weather is perfect as we reach the Middle Summit and then traverse along the sharp ridge to the Breithorn West Summit. It provides a glorious view of Switzerland’s highest mountains and even of Mont Blanc – a fitting end to the GORE-TEX Experience Tour.

We all agree that despite the fact that we didn’t manage to reach the summit of the Matterhorn, we have all learnt something from this experience. Mountaineering is a never-ending learning process. Daniel has now taken his first big step towards realizing his dream of climbing the Matterhorn. “I’ll be back,” says Daniel. That mountain is not going to run away!”