Domestic cats can climb with great efficiency and expertise. They have stamina and persistence combined with excellent balance, sharp claws and a flexible body. This kitten used all these attributes to climb unaided to the summit of one of the highest mountains in the Alps and Europe in August 1950. The newspaper clipping of the time reports that the kitten was black and therefore lucky! Black cats can be lucky or unlucky depending on where you are.
The newspaper report does not provide detail. It is all fluff and puff but Dr Morris in his book Cat World tells the story admirably. The kitten followed mountaineers to the top. I don’t know the gender of the kitten so I’ll use ‘her’ for the sake of convenience to mean him or her.
She belonged to Josephine Aufdenblatten of Geneva. Morris writes that at dawn each day she watched the climbers depart for the mountain and one day decided to emulate them.
Edmund Biner was in a climbing party and he was amazed to see her at a hut at 3,736 metres (12,556 feet). She went higher the following day. She kept up with the climbers. She managed to reach the Swiss summit and then the Italian summit. She never lost sight of the mountaineers despite having to cling on several times after nearly falling.
At the summit she was fed by the mountaineers from their food supply. She was given a free ride on the descent in the rucksack of one of the mountain guides. She made it home.
It is a story which is hard to believe or comprehend but it is true. The Matterhorn is a very attractive mountain of near symmetrical design, looking like an gargantuan, icy pyramid. It is in the Alps, straddling the main watershed and border between Switzerland and Italy. Can you imagine a 4-month-old, black kitten at the top! Amazing.