More than half a century after the Matterhorn was first climbed, a teenaged member of the British royal family has made it to the top.
Arthur Chatto 17, the Queen's grand-nephew and twenty-third in line to the throne, and his Eton College friend James Tamlyn, have successfully worked their way up and down both the iconic Swiss "Toblerone" peak, at 4478m and Mont Blanc, at 4810m the highest peak in the Alps.
Their ascent of the Matterhorn was in sharp contrast to the first ascent in 1865, when four of the party were tragically killed when the rope broke during the descent. The event prompted Arthur's great, great, great, great, grandmother Queen Victoria to consider banning all Britons from mountaineering. She famously said she would never again permit English royal blood to be wasted on the Matterhorn, and one suspects she would not have been amused by the teenagers' exploits.
James prepared for his Alpine trip by skiing the famous Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. In response to being asked the perennial question: "Why do you want to climb these peaks?" James remarked modestly: "I felt both Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn would be a challenging and memorable way to experience Alpine mountaineering for the first time." Arthur himself cut his teeth on home turf. "After doing some mixed winter climbing in Glencoe and rock climbing in Snowdonia, I wanted to do some more peaks at higher altitude" he said.
Their winter training came in handy as they encountered tough conditions with 70km/h winds on Mont Blanc and fresh snowfalls on the Matterhorn. Gianni Dorigo, their mountain guide, recalls that despite their having to hold their hands in front of their faces to see where they were going, they sang and joked all the way up Mont Blanc, remarking that it was "just like Ben Nevis"!
The biggest difference between climbing in the UK and the Alps is, of course, the altitude. Arthur and James tackled the Cosmiques Arête on Mont Blanc du Tacul, followed by serious 4,000m acclimatisation on the Gran Paradiso (not a nightclub in Chamonix, but the highest peak in Italy before Mont Blanc itself), with the Matterhorn as a fitting finale. James recalls Mont Blanc as "an amazing experience, but the strong winds made it a slog and we didn't spend much time on the summit". In contrast he remembers the view from the top of the Matterhorn as "simply extraordinary".
Arthur and James completed their guided twin peaks challenge with Mountain Tracks, and the company's founder Nick Parks asked Arthur and James what might be next for them in the world of mountaineering. "I would love the next challenge to be the Eiger" said Arthur. James, however - not satisfied with just one ascent of Mont Blanc - now wants to ski down it too. Their most memorable moment? "A Matterhorn selfie on learning that we were the first to summit that day".