Eiger is a mountain in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland, rising to an elevation of 3,970 m (13,025 ft.) It
is the easternmost peak of a ridge-crest that extends to the
Mönch at 4,107 m
(13,474 ft.), and across the Jungfraujoch pass to the Jungfrau at 4,158 m
The peak is mentioned in records dating back
to the 13th century but there is no clear indication of how exactly
the peak gained its name. The three mountains of the ridge are
commonly referred to as the Virgin (German: Jungfrau
"Young Woman" - translates to "Virgin" or "Maiden"), the Monk
) and the Ogre (Eiger
). The name has been
linked to the Greek
, meaning "sharp" or "pointed", but more commonly to
the German eigen
recorded first ascent of the Eiger was
made by Swiss guides
Christian Almer and Peter Bohren and Irishman Charles Barrington who
climbed the west flank on August 11,
railway runs in a
tunnel inside the Eiger, and two internal stations provide easy
access to viewing-windows in the mountainside. The railway terminates
in the Jungfraujoch col at the highest
railway station in Europe.
In July 2006, a piece of the Eiger, amounting to approximately
700,000 cubic metres of rock, fell from the east face. As it had
been noticeably cleaving for several weeks and it fell into an
uninhabited area, there were no injuries and no buildings were
Geographic setting and description
The Eiger is located 5.5 km north-east of the Jungfrau, in the
north-eastern part of the Bernese Alps. At the same distance
on the north lies the village of Grindelwald, which is not far from Interlaken. Other close settlements lie on the west, in
the valley of Lauterbrunnen. The south side of the massif consists only of
large glaciers: Aletsch, Fiesch and Lower
Grindelwald for the closer ones, thus uninhabited
massive wall of the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger itself is the most visible and impressive
feature of the Bernese Alps, as it can be distinctly seen from many
places on the north side, thus making it a major tourist
destination in the Alps. The higher Finsteraarhorn (4,270 m) and Aletschhorn (4,190 m), which are located about 10 km on the
south, are generally less visible and situated in the middle of
glaciers in less accessible areas.
The whole area south of the Eiger, comprising the highest summits
and the large glaciers, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
"north face", is the spectacular north (or, more precisely,
north-west) face of the Eiger (also known as the
, ("Eiger north face")). It is one of the six
great north faces of the
Alps, towering over 1,800 m (5,900 ft) above the
valley in the Bernese
first climbed on 24 July 1938 by Anderl
Heckmair, Ludwig Vörg, Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek of a German–Austrian group.
The group had originally consisted of
two independent teams; Harrer (who didn't have a pair of crampons
on the climb) and Kasparek were joined on
the face by Heckmair and Vörg, who had started their ascent a day
later and had been helped by the fixed rope that the lead group had
left across the Hinterstoisser
. The two groups, led by the experienced Heckmair,
co-operated on the more difficult later pitches, and finished the
climb roped together as a single group of four. A portion of the
upper face is called "The White Spider", as snow-filled cracks
radiating from an ice-field resemble the legs of a spider
. Harrer used this name for the title of his
book about his successful climb, Die Weisse Spinne
(translated into English as
The White Spider: The Classic Account of the Ascent of the
). During the first successful ascent, the four men
were caught in an avalanche as they climbed the Spider, but all had
enough strength to resist being swept off the face.
Since then the north face has been climbed many times, and today is
regarded as a formidable challenge more because of the increased
rockfall and diminishing ice-fields than because of its technical
difficulties, which are not at the highest level of difficulty in
modern alpinism. In summer the face is often unclimbable because of
rockfall, and climbers are increasingly electing to climb it in
winter, when the crumbling face is strengthened by the hard ice
Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the
north face, earning it the German nickname, Mordwand
"murder wall", a play on the face's real German name
The north face on a clear summer
- 1858: First ascent by the west flank, 11 August (Charles Barrington,
Christian Almer and Peter Bohren).
to Harrer's "The White Spider", Barrington would have performed the
first Matterhorn ascent instead, but his finances did not allow him
to travel there as he was already staying in the Eiger
- 1871: First ascent by the southwest ridge, 14 July (W. A.
B. Coolidge, Meta
Brevoort, Christian Bohren, Christian Almer and Ulrich
- 1890: First ascent in winter, by Mead and Woodroffe, with
guides Ulrich Kaufmann and Christian Jossi.
- 1921, September 10th: First ascent by the Mittellegi ridge by
Fritz Amatter, Samuel Brawand, Yuko Maki and Fritz Steuri.
- 1924: First ski ascent via the Eiger glacier.
- 1932: First ascent via the Lauper route on the northeast
- 1934: First attempt on the north face by Willy Beck, Kurt
Löwinger and Georg Löwinger reaching 2,900 m.
- 1935: First attempt on north face by the Germans Karl Mehringer and Max Sedlmeyer. They froze to death at 3,300 m,
a place now known as "Death Bivouac".
- 1936: Four Austrian and German climbers, Andreas Hinterstoisser, Toni Kurz, Willy Angerer and Edi Rainer, died on
the north face in severe weather conditions during a retreat from
- 1938: Alpine Journal
editor Edward Lisle Strutt calls
the north face 'an obsession for the mentally deranged' and 'the
most imbecile variant since mountaineering first began'.
- 1938: First ascent of north face by Anderl Heckmair, Heinrich Harrer, Fritz Kasparek and Ludwig Vörg, achieved in three days.
- 1947: Second ascent of north face by Lionel Terray and Louis Lachenal.
- 1950: First one-day ascent of north face by Leo Forstenlechner
and Erich Wascak, in 18 hours.
- 1957: Two Italian (Claudio Corti
and Stefano Longhi) and two German
climbers (Franz Mayer and Gunther Nothdurft) encounter extreme
difficulties in the higher part of the route, as Nothdurft becomes
ill and Longhi, who is suffering from severe frostbite, falls near
the "White Spider" and cannot be lifted by his companions. Corti
(who has been in turn hit by a falling stone) becomes the first man
rescued from the face from above when German guide Alfred Hellepart
is lowered from the summit on a steel cable. Longhi is not so
lucky, and dies of exposure before he can be rescued. Mayer and
Nothdurft died in an avalanche on their
descent of the Eiger's west face after completing the 13th ascent
of the north face (they had left the injured Corti with all their
provisions – including a small tent – and were trying to descend
from the mountain and call rescue). The body of Longhi remains on
the wall for more than two years before being recovered.
- 1958: Kurt Diemberger and
Wolfgang Stefan made the thirteenth ascent. As the bodies of
Nothdurft and Mayer were found later on the descent route
from the Eiger – both have been killed by an avalanche – Diemberger
and Stefan were finally awarded the 14th ascent of the Eiger North
- 1959: Adolf Derungs and Lucas Albrecht two Swiss masons by
profession climbed the face with very primitive equipment Derungs
wore four shirts one on top of another and Albrecht carried an old
overcoat as far as the Spider. Both students, brave to the point of
rashness and very tough, they descended by night by the dangerous
Western Flank. (White Spider) Three years later, in 1962, Derungs
disapeared whilst attempting a solo ascent of the North face.
- 1961: First czechoslovak ascent of the north face by Radovan
Kuchar and Zdeno Zibrin.
- 1961: First winter ascent of the north face by Toni Kinshofer,
Anderl Mannhardt, Walter Almberger and Toni Hiebeler.
- 1962: First all-Italian ascent of the north face by Armando Aste, Pierlorenzo Acquistapace, Gildo
Airoldi, Andrea Mellano, Romano Perego, and Franco Solina.
- 1962: First all-British ascent of the north face by Chris Bonington and Ian Clough.
- 1962: Two very young men who successfully climbed the North
face were arrested when they arrived back at the foot of the face.
A distraught mother had informed the police of her sons
inexperience at mountaineering. (Searching for names)
- 1963: August 2–3: First solo ascent of the north face by Michel
Darbellay, in around 18 hours of climbing.
- 1963: August 15: Two Spanish climbers die in a storm, Ernesto
Navarro and Alberto Rabadá.
- 1963: December 27–31: Three Swiss guides complete the first
descent of the north face, retrieving the bodies of Ernesto Navarro
and Alberto Rabadá from the "White Spider".
- 1964: German Daisy Voog becomes the first woman to reach the
summit via the north face.
- 1966: After a fixed rope breaks, American John Harlin falls to his death
while making an ascent of the north face by the
direttissima, or "most direct" route. His colleagues
(Haston, Lehne, Votteler and Hupfauer)
push on to achieve the first direttissima ascent, which is
named the "John Harlin Route" in his honour.
28–31 July: First ascent of the north ridge, by Polish team:
Cielecki, Łaukajtys, Szafirski,
- 1970: First ski descent, on the west flank, by Sylvain
- 1970: Leo Dickinson, Eric Jones, Pete Minks and Cliff
Phillips (GB) make the first complete film of the climb.
- 1971: First Belgian ascent of the north face by Renaat Van
Malderen and Vincent de Waele.
- 1971: Peter Siegert and Martin Biock are winched from above the
Death Bivouac to a helicopter, the first such successful
- 1974: Reinhold Messner and
Peter Habeler climb the north face in
- 1976: First alpine-style ascent of Eiger Direct (Harlin Route)
by Alex MacIntyre (UK) and Tobin Sorenson (USA)
- 1977: First Dutch ascent of the north face by Ronald Naar and
- 1981: First British solo ascent by Eric Jones - Filmed by Leo
Dickinson and released as "Eiger Solo"
- 1981: 25 August: Swiss guide Ueli Bühler solos the face in 8
hours and 30 minutes.
- 1983: First winter solo ascent of the north face
direttissima by Slovak Pavel Pochylý 
- 1983: 27 July: Austrian Thomas Bubendorfer solos the face
without a rope in 4 hours and 50 minutes, almost halving Bühler's
- 1992: 18 July: Three BMG/UIAGM/IFMGA clients died in a fall
down the West Flank: Willie Dunnachie, Edward Gaines and Phillip
- 1997: Benedetto Salaroli aged 72, became the oldest man to
climb to the North face. he climbed the face in a single day with
guides, Ueli Buhler and Kobi Reichen
- 2003: 24 March: Italian Christoph Hainz breaks Bubendorfer's
record by ten minutes, climbing the face in 4 hours and 40
- 2006: 15 July: Approximately 20 million cubic feet (700,000
cubic metres) of rock from the east side collapses. No injuries or
damage are reported.
- 2006: 14 June: François Bon and Antoine Montant make the first
speedflying descent of the Eiger.
- 2007: On the 9th April, Christophe Profit, the famous French
mountain guide, guided the North face for the tenth time.
- 2007: 21 February: Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck breaks Christoph
Hainz's record, soloing the north face in 3 hours and 54
- 2008: 28 January: Swiss mountaineers Roger Schäli and Simon
Anthamatten set a new record for a team ascent (of the Heckmair
route) climbing it in 6 hours and 50 minutes.
- 2008: 13 February: Ueli Steck breaks his own record, soloing
the north face in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 33 seconds.
- 2008: 23 February: Swiss mountaineers Daniel Arnold and Stephan
Ruoss better the team record (Schäli and Anthamatten) climbing the
Heckmair route in 6 hours, 10 minutes.
- 2008: 31 May: Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck was presented with the
inaugural Eiger Award.
- 2008: 7 August: Dean Potter (USA)
free-solos Deep Blue Sea (5.12+) on the north face, then BASE jumps from the top using an ultralight rig
he wore during the climb.
- The 1972 novel The Eiger
Sanction is an action/thriller novel by Rodney William
Whitaker (writing under the pseudonym Trevanian), based around the climbing of the
Eiger. This was then made into a 1975 film starring Clint Eastwood and George Kennedy. The Eiger Sanction
film crew included very experienced mountaineers as consultants, in
order to ensure accuracy in the climbing footage, equipment and
- The 1997 book The Power of
Now by Eckhart Tolle mentions
the Eiger in Chapter 3. The Eiger is mentioned in a comparison of
extreme danger in physical activities versus the ease of which one
may directly enter a state of intense consciousness in the mind through total
awareness of the present.
- Eiger Dreams, a collection
of short stories by Jon Krakauer,
begins with an account of Krakauer's own attempt to climb the north
face of the Eiger.
track Eiger Nordwand in the game Gran Turismo HD Concept and
Gran Turismo 5
Prologue is set in Kleine Scheidegg. Interestingly this is despite the fact that
the location is actually a car-free zone. Although motor racing was
illegal in Switzerland for over 50 years, the ban was lifted in
- Skiers Shane McConkey and J. T. Holmes "skibase"-jumped off the
western flank of the north face. This footage can be seen in the
film Yearbook by Matchstick Productions.
- The Eiger was the name of the first song on 2005 album
The Wedding by
the rock band Oneida.
- The IMAX film The Alps
features John Harlin III's climb up the north face in September
2005. Harlin's father, John
Harlin II, set out 40 years earlier to attempt a direct route
(the direttissima) up the face, the so-called "John Harlin
route". At , his rope broke, and he fell to his death. James Swearingen created a piece named
Eiger: Journey to the Summit in memory of him.
- The 2007 docu/drama film The Beckoning Silence
features mountaineer Joe
Simpson, of Touching the
Void fame, recounting – with filmed reconstructions – the
ill-fated 1936 expedition up the north face of the Eiger and how it
inspired him to take up climbing. The film followed Simpson's 2003
book of the same name, which covered the same subject among musings
on broader mountaineering topics. Those playing the parts of the
original climbing team were Swiss mountain guides – Roger Schäli
(Toni Kurz), Simon Anthamatten (Andreas Hinterstoisser), Dres
Abegglen (Willy Angerer) and Cyrille Berthod (Edi Rainer).
- Nordwand, a 2008
German/Swiss/Austrian feature film directed by Philipp Stölzl, also
recreates the fatal 1936 attempt by Hinterstoisser's party.
Nordwand Philipp Stölzl
- Anker, Daniel (ed.) Eiger: The Vertical Arena,
Seattle: The Mountaineers, 2000
- Harrer, Heinrich, The White
Spider: The History of the Eiger's North Face, translated from
German, London, 1959 (revised 1965, 1979)
- David Pagel, My Dinner with Anderl, Ascent, AAC Press, Golden, CO, 1999, pages