Marco and Hervé Barmasse, a father-and-son pair of guides from northern Italy, completed a 1,200-meter new route on the south face of the Matterhorn on March 13. The route had been attempted a number of times, including a previous attempt by Marco Barmasse 25 years ago.
The new line, Couloir dell’Enjambée, begins on the 1931 south face route, and then continues straight up the face, staying left of the 1983 South Face Dirrettissima. In the last 400 meters, it follows the right side of the steep gully that splits the face, ending on the 4,478-meter peak’s broad southwestern shoulder. The two completed the new line after 8 p.m. and then descended to the Carrel Hut, which they reached around 1 a.m.
In an excellent interview at PlanetMountain.com, Hervé Barmasse says, “I won’t go into the M grades…because these often depend on the conditions at the time. I think though that it’s a very difficult climb with run-out pro—four pieces for some of the 60m pitches—rendered all the more difficult by the rock quality, which I’d define as being ‘difficult to interpret’ instead of stating ‘poor.’ And even though it’s a couloir, we hardly came across any ice.”
Asked about climbing this route with his father, Barmasse said, “After having come to terms with this ‘first ascent,’ I now know with certainty that had my father managed to climb that route in 1985 in a single day, it would have represented a real revolution for mixed climbing. I’m saying this because even today what remains is a difficult ascent, from a technical and mental point of view. Without the possibility of ascending [or] finding pro on ice, falling was quite simply out of the question. In the light of all this, I cannot but congratulate my father for having managed to carry out this climb [at] age 61.”
Hervé Barmasse, 32, has climbed a number of significant routes on the Matterhorn, where he works as a fourth-generation guide, including the first solo of the Casarotto-Grassi Route and the first solo and first repeat of the South Face Dirrettisima, a route established by his father and two other climbers. In 2008, he completed the first ascent of 6,940-meter Beka Brakkai Chhok in Pakistan with Simone Moro.
Date of Ascent: March 2010