The Cat Who Climbed the Matterhorn

On September 7th, 1950, the Times of London printed a news story about a 10-month-old black-and-white kitten who became the first feline to conquer the Matterhorn, a formidable mountain in the Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy.

The cat lived at the Hotel Belvedere, situated on the mountain’s Hörnli Ridge at an elevation of 3298m (10,820ft) and used as a starting point for Alpinists attempting the dangerous climb. Having become accustomed to watching the dawn departure of the climbers, the cat set out one morning to follow them up the mountainside. Soon outdistanced, he climbed solo and spent his first night at the Solvay Hut, a refuge at 3827m (12,556ft). The next day he climbed still higher, and bivouacked that night in a couloir (gully) above the shoulder.

The next morning, he was spotted by a group of climbers, who passed him by, convinced that the small feline would be unable to negotiate the challenging Ropes Slabs and the Roof. Hours later, the climbers were astonished when the cat joined them on the summit  at 4,478m (14,690ft), and they rewarded him with a share of their meal.

The climbers’ guide, realising that cats descend with more difficulty than they climb, took the cat in his rucksack for the descent down the Italian side of the mountain. He brought him to the Rifugio Principe Amedeo di Savoia at 3890m (12,763ft), and left him there until a party returning to the Swiss side of the Matterhorn was able to take him back.

Upon return to his home at the Belvedere, the cat was content to occupy his time on the rather more mundane task of hunting mice, having earned his place in history as the first cat to cross the Matterhorn.

Addendum: On September 10, 1975, having reprinted the story as a “25 Years Ago” item, the Times received a letter from Christopher R Simpson of Birstall, Leicester, who remembered the story of the fearless feline well. He gave the date of the kitten’s climb as August 18-19, 1950, and said the Italian guide who carried the kitten down the mountain in his rucksack left him at the Riondet hut in Italy. Mr Simpson, along with his guide Alfred Biner, brought the kitten back with them over the Furggjoch to the Swiss side of the Matterhorn, where he eventually reached his home at the Hotel Belvedere. Even more remarkable was Mr Simpson’s recollection that the kitten was just four months old when he made his ascent up the mountain.

Source: The Times, 07 Sep 1950, pg. 4 and 10 Sep 1975, pg. 15.

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