Photo by Steve Copeland
|Best months for climbing:||Jul, Aug, Sep|
|Year first climbed:||1858|
|First successful climber(s):||Charles Barrington, Christian Almer, Peter Bohren|
|Nearest major airport:||Bern, Switzerland|
|Convenient Center:||Grindelwald, Switzerland|
Eiger, whose name means Ogre, is appropriately named for the severity of its towering north face. This mountain is the farthest east on the same crest that holds Jungfrau and Mönch. Of the three mountains, Eiger is the most spectacular. The first ascent of the Eiger was made by Swiss guides Christian Almer and Peter Bohren with Irishman Charles Barrington who climbed the west flank on August 11, 1858.
The Eiger North Face towers over 5,000 feet. Several climbers have been killed on this face, including the two Germans who first tried ascending it in 1935. In the 1930's, the mountain became famous for its escalating death tolls, and was referred to by such names as "The White Spider", "The White Cobra", "Murder Wall", "Eiger Mordwand", and others. There are several routes to the summit of the Eiger, but all are very serious, even those which do not ascend via the North Wall. A railway and high elevation hotel shortens the approach, but the climb to the summit is no less severe.
In 1936, another tragedy arose when an Austro-German group perished on the face. Hinterstoisser, Kurz, Angerer and Rainer all died on the face in adverse conditions. The lack of a fixed rope, laid at the Hinterstoisser traverse led to the party being trapped on the face, having to try a direct and difficult descent.
The first successful ascent of the Eiger North Face was by a mixed Austrian German group in 1938 sustaining no fatalities. The group consisted of Andreas Heckmair (Germany), Ludwig Voerg (Germany), Fritz Kasparek (Austria) and Heinrich Harrer (Austria). Three years earlier, in 1935, the Germans, Karl Mehringer and Max Sedlmeyer froze to death at what is now known as 'Death Bivouac' ("Todesbiwak"), a position above the Flatiron ("Bügeleisen").
The White Spider is not a name for the face, merely an icefield of the face that lies near the top of the route and is reached via the Traverse of the Gods. It is so called as the snow filled cracks radiating from this icefield resemble the sinuous legs of a spider.
Due to the reduced amount of rockfall and ice fall in winter, in recent years ascents of the Eiger North Face are often being tried in stable good weather periods, but in winter conditions. In contrast ascents via the Eiger west flank (normal route) or the Mittelegi ridge (east ridge) are usually done in the summer as both of these routes are very delicate in icy conditions.