22 Summits Stories

Lunar eclipse on the Zinalrothorn

On 14 September 1932, Émile-Robert Blanchet, an alpinist from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and his guide Kaspar Mooser from Täsch were confronted with a rather romantic and at the same time dangerous situation on the east face of the Zinalrothorn. Blanchet not only achieved various alpine feats between 1901 and 1942, he was also an important pianist and composer who looked at the world with different eyes and who was granted a special natural spectacle on the night in question, which the two mountain heroes would probably have liked to do without. Blanchet reports in his notes: "Mooser performs a significant feat as a rope artist to get up there. I miss the point of this showpiece, for my guide soon disappears from my field of vision. With this cursed backpack, I have no way of lifting my head either!" Artist Blanchet listens instead, head bowed, to the sound of the mountains: "Immobile, I wait, endlessly waiting. Silence - hammer blows - nail scratching - silence again ..." He and his guide were getting nowhere. Their retreat was cut off. It was getting dark. Then the bright full moon rose in the east and they climbed on. Then suddenly total darkness fell. Émile-Robert Blanchet and his guide Kasper Mooser were surprised by a lunar eclipse. With lanterns, they continued climbing on a vertical, extremely difficult and fragile wall, because Mooser wanted to avoid a bivouac. Then the lantern slipped away and they had to wait for the end of the lunar eclipse. At 1 a.m. they climbed out onto the Kanzelgrat and had climbed a large part of the east face for the first time.

The fact that the light conditions that night were due to an astronomical event that only occurs about 88 times per century was apparently not clear to the two mountaineers, even in retrospect. Blanchet does not mention the lunar eclipse in his report.

We owe the reference to this romantic and dangerous climb to the Zermatt mountain guide Hermann Biner. It is retold from his book "The Matterhorn and its Mountain Guides". Biner is considered one of the best experts on Zermatt's alpine history. He assumed responsibility for the mountain guide guild in a wide variety of roles at local, national and international level, including as president of the International Mountain Guide Association.

Read more

Hermann Biner: "Das Matterhorn und seine Bergführer" (Rotten Verlag, Visp 2015)

Émile-Robert Blanchet: "Hors des chemins battus: ascensions nouvelles dans les Alpes (Les éditions de France, 1932)

Information Lunar Eclipse

WILEY-VCH Publishing House, Weinheim 1933