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The Eiger is a mountain in the Bernese Alpsmarker in Switzerlandmarker, rising to an elevation of 3,970 m (13,025 ft.) It is the easternmost peak of a ridge-crest that extends to the Mönchmarker at 4,107 m (13,474 ft.), and across the Jungfraujochmarker pass to the Jungfraumarker at 4,158 m (13,641 ft.). 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, lit. "Young Woman" - translates to "Virgin" or "Maiden"), the Monk (Mönch) and the Ogre (Eiger). The name has been linked to the Greek term akros, meaning "sharp" or "pointed", but more commonly to the German eigen, meaning "characteristic".

The recorded first ascent of the Eiger was made by Swissmarker guides Christian Almer and Peter Bohren and Irishmanmarker Charles Barrington who climbed the west flank on August 11, 1858.

The Jungfraubahn 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 stationmarker 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 hit.

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 Grindelwaldmarker, which is not far from Interlakenmarker. Other close settlements lie on the west, in the valley of Lauterbrunnenmarker. The south side of the massif consists only of large glaciers: Aletschmarker, Fieschmarker and Lower Grindelwaldmarker for the closer ones, thus uninhabited regions.

The massive wall of the Jungfraumarker, Mönchmarker 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 Finsteraarhornmarker (4,270 m) and Aletschhornmarker (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 in 2001.

The Nordwand

North face
The Nordwand, German for "north face", is the spectacular north (or, more precisely, north-west) face of the Eiger (also known as the Eigernordwand, ("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 Oberlandmarker below.

It was first climbed on 24 July 1938 by Anderl Heckmair, Ludwig Vörg, Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek of a GermanmarkerAustrianmarker 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 Traverse. 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 Eiger). 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 present.

Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the north face, earning it the German nickname, Mordwand, or "murder wall", a play on the face's real German name Nordwand

Climbing history

The north face on a clear summer day

  • 1858: First ascent by the west flank, 11 August (Charles Barrington, Christian Almer and Peter Bohren). According to Harrer's "The White Spider", Barrington would have performed the first Matterhornmarker ascent instead, but his finances did not allow him to travel there as he was already staying in the Eiger region.
  • 1871: First ascent by the southwest ridge, 14 July (W. A. B. Coolidge, Meta Brevoort, Christian Bohren, Christian Almer and Ulrich Almer).
  • 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 face.
  • 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 Death Bivouac.
  • 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 Face.
  • 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.
  • 1968: 28–31 July: First ascent of the north ridge, by Polishmarker team: Cielecki, Łaukajtys, Szafirski, Zyzak.
  • 1970: First ski descent, on the west flank, by Sylvain Saudan.
  • 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 rescue.
  • 1974: Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler climb the north face in 10 hours.
  • 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 Bas Gresnigt.
  • 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 [48306]
  • 1983: 27 July: Austrian Thomas Bubendorfer solos the face without a rope in 4 hours and 50 minutes, almost halving Bühler's time.
  • 1992: 18 July: Three BMG/UIAGM/IFMGA clients died in a fall down the West Flank: Willie Dunnachie, Edward Gaines and Phillip Davies.
  • 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 minutes.
  • 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 minutes.
  • 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.


Popular culture

  • 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 techniques.
  • 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.
  • The track Eiger Nordwand in the game Gran Turismo HD Concept and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is set in Kleine Scheideggmarker. 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 2007.
  • 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.

Climbing accounts

See also


Nordwandmarker Philipp Stölzl 2008


  • 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 13-26.

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