The Matterhorn is a mountain of the Alps, straddling the main watershed and border between Switzerland and Italy. It is a large, near-symmetrical pyramidal peak in the extended Monte Rosa area of the Pennine Alps, whose summit is 4,478 metres (14,692 ft) high, making it one of the highest summits in the Alps and Europe.
This mountain overlooks the Swiss town of Zermatt, in the canton of Valais, to the north-east and the Italian town of Breuil-Cervinia in the Aosta Valley to the south. Just east of the Matterhorn is Theodul Pass, the main passage between the two valleys on its north and south sides, and a trade route since the Roman Era.
The first ascent of the Matterhorn was made in 1865 from Zermatt by a party led by Edward Whymper which ended disastrously when four of its members fell to their deaths on the descent. That climb and disaster, later portrayed in several films, marked the end of the golden age of alpinism. The north face was not climbed until 1931 and is amongst the three biggest north faces of the Alps, known as "The Trilogy". The west face, which is the highest of the Matterhorn's four faces, was completely climbed only in 1962. It is estimated that over 500 alpinists have died on the Matterhorn since the first climb, making it one of the deadliest peaks in the world.
The mountain's current shape is the result of cirque erosion due to multiple glaciers diverging from the peak, such as the Matterhorn Glacier at the base of the north face. The Matterhorn has become an iconic emblem of the Swiss Alps and of the Alps in general. Since the end of the 19th century, when railways were built in the area, the mountain has attracted increasing numbers of visitors and climbers. Each year, numerous mountaineers try to climb the Matterhorn from the Hörnli Hut via the northeast Hörnli ridge, the most popular route to the summit. Many trekkers also undertake the 10-day-long circuit around the mountain.