Sunday, May 26, 2013
Next to Whymper's Matterhorn ascent the conquering the Eiger's North Face is a story that deserves to be told over and over again. The first to get really high on the face were Max Sedlmayer and Karl Mehringer who in 1935 were halted by bad weather. Their bodies were spotted weeks later. The following year saw one of the most traumatic episodes in the Eiger's history.our young climbers - Andreas Hinterstoisser, Edi Ranier, Willy Angerer and Toni Kurz - made a renewed attempt on the north wall. Hinterstoisser opened up a route to the summit with a brilliant traverse but it could not be reversed without a rope in place. After being caught up in a huge storm they were unable to retreat the way they had come and all four were killed. Toni Kurz perished hanging from his abseil rope only feet from a rescue team. The would-be rescuers tried to reach the stricken climber from a window which emerges onto the face from the railway tunnel running right through the mountain. But a knot prevented him sliding any further towards the outstretched arms and his own fingers were so badly frozen he could not free himself. The rescuers had to withdraw for the night despite the stricken climber's pleas not to be left alone. When they returned the next morning he was much weaker and with the words "Ich kann nicht mehr" (I cannot go on) he died almost within reach of safety. (In 2008 the German movie Nordwand ("North Face") tried to dramatize that story for the big screen, but failed badly.) After more fatal attempts to climb the mountain by its most difficult face, a group of four finally managed to put up a route. Two Germans, Anderl Heckmair and Ludwig (Wiggerl) Vörg, and the Austrians Fritz Kasparek and Heinrich Harrer, joined forces in 1938 to make the first ascent. The dramatic tale was recounted in Harrer's book The White Spider which is named after the distinctive ice field near the summit and has become a mountaineering classic.
Posted by Michael Kunze at 6:00 AM