the north face pullover Facing up to the deadly Matterhorn
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On the 150th anniversary of the first ascent, Jane Jeffries talks to a New Zealander who conquered the mountain that has taken more than 500 lives
The postcard pretty, snowcapped mountain looming over the Swiss mountaineering and ski resort village of Zermatt does not look like a killer.
The giant pyramid of rock will be the subject of celebration this week, ablaze with a string of 50 lamps marking route taken by the first alpinists to reach the summit on July 14, 1865.
But the jubilation of the expedition’s leader, British mountaineer Edward Whymper, was short lived when on the descent, four of his party fell to their deaths.
The 4478m Matterhorn represented the 30 year old’s greatest challenge he had just three years’ of rock and mountain climbing experience.
Aware of the mountain’s death toll, Leslie was relying on rigorous training and preparation to pull him through. “I wanted the ultimate experience and to climb a mountain people would recognise,” he says. “Everything in my life was lined up.
“I was feeling confident about my rock climbing, I had some time off work, a bit of money, so decided to give it a go.”