Swiss perspectives in 10 languages

“King of the Alps” dies

Inderbinen posed for the cameras one day before his 100th birthday Keystone

Switzerland’s most famous mountain guide, Ulrich Inderbinen, has died aged 103.

Active to the last, Inderbinen made his final ascent of the Matterhorn at the age of 90.

Dubbed “King of the Alps” by his admirers, the internationally acclaimed mountain guide died in his sleep at home in the mountain resort of Zermatt.

Zermatt’s most famous son only stopped work at the age of 95. Even in his 90s, he regularly climbed peaks of more than 4,000 metres.

By his own estimation, he stood on the summit of the Matterhorn – “the most beautiful mountain in the world” – at least 370 times.

Inderbinen was born on December 3, 1900, into a family of mountain farmers. One of nine children, he helped tend the cows from the age of five.

Way of life

Mountaineering was a way of life for the people of Zermatt, at that time a poor farming village of 700 people. Dominated by the Matterhorn mountain, Zermatt is now an important tourist and skiing resort.

In 1921, Inderbinen climbed the Matterhorn for the first time. Four years later he qualified as a professional mountain guide.

“I have never felt bored,” he once said in an interview. “That is unless my clients walk too slowly.”

During the course of his 70-year career as mountain guide, Inderbinen enjoyed exceptional health. His first dental appointment came when he was 74.

“My good health I attribute to my positive attitude to life, my enjoyment of nature and my profession,” he said in a 1996 biography. “As a child I learnt to be satisfied with little, to make no demands on life and always to work.”

Life begins at 80

Inderbinen said one of the best periods of his life came after his 80th birthday, when he started competing in skiing races for fun.

He was given a pair of skis for his 90th birthday, and for his 95th birthday he was presented with an ice axe.

A devout Roman Catholic, he attended Mass every day after his retirement. He fulfilled a lifelong dream by travelling to Rome to receive Pope John Paul II’s blessing when he was 96.

Inderbinen saw huge changes in Zermatt during his life, but was reluctant to move with the times himself, preferring to do without a telephone, car or bicycle.

Throughout his long life he remained under the spell of the Matterhorn, Switzerland’s most famous landmark.

“It’s simply a fascinating mountain, which was as appealing to me on my last climb as it was on my first,” he said.

swissinfo with agencies

Ulrich Inderbinen biography:
1900 – born in Zermatt, southern Switzerland.
1921 – makes first ascent of the Matterhorn.
1925 – becomes a mountain guide, a job he holds for 70 years.
1980 – takes up skiing
1990 – makes final ascent of the Matterhorn.
2004 – dies in Zermatt, aged 103

Deeply Read

Most Discussed

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here . Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR