Similar to Kim's post, it's interesting seeing the different era being presented here. The mid-19th century was a time of great growth and expansion of transportation, so it's no surprise that humans would be spurred to transport themselves up the Matterhorn. If you thought the imperialist mentality was bad in the text we read before, it's worse now. The pride of nationalism was operating in full force when Whymper describes the Italians fleeing the scene (391). He also uses old familiar words such as "conquering"to describe the ascent of the mountain. It's somewhat unsettling to treat mountain climbing as a battle. The members of the expedition are placed directly against the mountain. Instead of the mountain being a companion, the mountain is an adversary.
Our culture is so obsessed with competition. I found it alarming how ecstatic Whymper and his team were when they summited. They were so excited to the extent that they tried to injured other climbers. Whether they were intentionally trying to injure the climbers or they were just plain stupid I can't tell. Competition is such a driving force in human nature; so much so that we see its negative effects here. Behind this competition was a need for a sense of completion. The Matterhorn was the last major Alpine summit to be climbed. This reputation of it being the last surely increased fervor and the scramble to see all the summits conquered. It's sort of like the space race; there's a final frontier that everyone wants to be the first to claim. However, these heights of human glory also bring out the worst in people.
It's also interesting to find out how the summit of the Matterhorn ended the golden age of alpinism. It's as if that upon summiting all the major mountains in the Alps, mountaineers decided it wasn't as worth it anymore. This draws attention to the idea that maybe conquering and imperialistic attitudes are the primary motivation for adventure similar to Herzog's plight. I was first inclined to think that the Matterhorn expedition would actually spur more people to alpine climb because it proved every major summit could be done by man. But once all the summits were collected, I guess interest waned.