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Thomas Gaisbacher: Skiing the Matterhorn’s East Face

Monday, February 19, 2018
BD Athlete Thomas Gaisbacher is an Austrian ripper who charges the steepest lines out there. However, he had never been on a ski tour in Switzerland … until just recently. In classic fashion, Gaisbacher teamed up with an all-star crew for his first Swiss tour … which turned out to be the East Face of the Matterhorn!

On Wednesday evening I got a call from my buddy Thomas Mariacher. He asked me if I was ready and prepared. I didn't think much about that and answered, “yes for sure I'm always ready.”

He laughed.

“Ok that's good I will pick you up tomorrow at 11 a.m.,” he said. “We will drive to Zermatt to ski the Matterhorn east face. Good Night!”

That was how this trip started.


Thomas had checked the webcams. The snow conditions looked really good and the weather forecast showed sunny skies for the next three days and 19 degrees at 4000 meters. He was pretty sure that skiing the east face could work out really well. For me it was a little bit early in the season, so I called Sam Anthamatten to ask what he thought about this project. Sam is living in Zermatt and he is the man to ask. But he had just came back from Japan and didn't know much about the conditions up high. He said I should give him a minute, and he would make some calls. After a few minutes, my phone rang and Sam told me that the conditions should be good and then he asked if Jeremie Heitz and he could join the party. This was going to be a hell of a mission!

On Wednesday evening, after a 7-hour drive, we arrived at Sam's house in Zermatt. We decided to take the first cable car up to Furksattel and climb and ski the face in one day.

The next day we met Jeremie at the lift station at 8:45 a.m. and started our project. We skied down underneath the Matterhorn and prepared ourselves for the ascent. It was freezing cold, which was just perfect because there wouldn’t be any danger of falling rocks or sliding snow. We traversed bellow the seracs really fast and climbed up in the direction of the Hörndli hut.

On a plateau we started to skin up to the left where the entrance of the east wall was. It got steeper and next to the entrance we had to put on our crampons and exchange the ski poles for ice axes. After a few minutes of climbing up we were really exposed. The view was unbelievable. Hundreds of meters of air underneath us and the clouds were coming in like waves, but stopped in front of the Matterhorn. The snow was perfect too. Knee deep and a little crust on top. Thomas was in front of us and broke the trail like a piston-pulley. We only had to follow his tracks which made the ascent way easier and gave us time to play around with our electronic stuff … like Instagram and Facebook;)


Sam also had his drone with him and recorded some mind-blowing footage. After a million footsteps we reached the spot where the traverse to the Solvay hut was. But there was not enough snow to. We decided to climb straight up as high as possible and ended up below a big rock wall. We had nearly the same elevation as the Solvay hut but just one snow field more to the left. Going higher was not an option because there was just enough snow to put on our skies.

As a steep skier, the scariest moments are when you pull off the crampons and put on your skis. There is no space for a mistake. You will not find a hold with your naked ski boot.

But the spot we had was fine and everyone got on their skis. Thomas skied first, Jeremie second and me third. Followed by Sam´s drone. Sam skied last.

When I made the first few turns, I realized that my legs were a bit tired. I haven’t felt that for a long time. But I started smiling because I realized that this line was my first ski tour in Switzerland—a pretty cool one I have to say. So, I took it easy on my way down. Jeremie and Sam skied down in perfect form. The descent was pretty long, and the face didn’t want to end, but with the amazing view it was a real pleasure.

Back in the valley we all smiled. What a line, what day, what a team!

Climbing and skiing the Matterhorn with these guys was such a good experience. Everyone was laughing and having fun all the time. There was no room for stress or other negative stuff. Everyone was a full professional and you really can feel it when you are with such a team!

Thank you, guys for such an awesome day and especially Thomas Mariacher aka Piston Pulley for your effort!

--Tomas Gaisbacher