I peered over the backside of the couloir and was stunned. From my earlier visit to Whorl Mountain I knew that despite the severity of Matterhorn’s north face, its south slope was gentle class 2 talus. The guidebook even mentioned that the East Couloir was the easiest way to gain the summit, so I’d assumed that the West Couloir would be similar. Instead I was presented with a shear granite face.
We arrived at the crux of the climb where I had read that the standard route ran up the gut of this gully and was called “The Staircase.” I could indeed see the large 3-5 foot ledges and agreed that this was probably the easiest way up, normally. At that moment, however, the steps were buried in 3 to 12 inches of snow.
The other group was watching me and based on their comments I must have made it look particularly difficult. I assured them that I was not a great climber and that the route probably was not as bad as I’d made it look, but they seemed unconvinced.
This is far and away both the largest and the most experienced group of people I’ve ever hiked with. I don’t imagine I will have to worry about the group slowing me down much during this trip!