Eiger north face – the wall of walls

Bernes Oberland

In the 1930s, the north face of the Eiger (3970 m) was considered one of the most challenging mountain destinations in the Alps and was given the frightening nicknames “Murder Wall” or “Wall of Death”. Since the first ascent in 1938, more than 70 people have lost their lives while attempting to conquer the 1,800-metre-high north face of the Eiger.

Alongside the Matterhorn, the north face of the Eiger is one of the most dangerous and challenging mountains in the world.

Eiger north face

Eiger north face

The Ultimate Test: The Harrowing Trials of Climbing the Eiger’s North Wall

The Eiger North Face, also known as the Northwest Face, forms part of the Eiger massif with a height of 3967 meters and is located southwest of Grindelwald in the Bernese Oberland. The wall stretches over an altitude of 1650 meters, while the Heckmair route, one of the most famous routes, has a climbing distance of around 4000 meters. This makes it one of the longest and most challenging climbing routes in the Alps. In total, there are over 30 routes that lead through the north face of the Eiger.

The Eiger North Face can generally be climbed all year round, both in summer and winter. However, the months of June, July to mid-September are often characterized by extreme heat, which can lead to increased rockfall.

First ascent in 1938

On 24 July 1938, at half past three in the afternoon, Fritz Kasparek from Austria, his compatriot Heinrich Harrer and the two Germans Andreas Heckmair and Ludwig Vörg reached their long-awaited goal: they were the first people to have managed to climb the seemingly unconquerable “Mordwand”, the 1,650-metre-high north face of the Eiger.

Today it is generally recognized that the success would never have been possible if Andreas Heckmair had not invested the time to study the wall, especially the upper part. In the summer of 1937, he spent two to three weeks on the Eiger to examine the wall in detail. He observed the ice fields through binoculars and memorized their position. He realized that mastering ice climbing was just as important as rock climbing. Heckmair eventually found a route that became the normal route known today as the Heckmair Route.

Race on the north face of the Eiger

There are currently over 30 routes leading through the north face of the Eiger, some of which are interconnected.

In 1974, Reinhold Messner caused a sensation when he conquered the north face of the Eiger in just 10 hours. It took the first climbers another 3 days. Nowadays, top alpinists are able to climb the north face in just a few hours under favorable weather conditions.

In November 2015, the record for the Heckmair route was set by Ueli Steck, a Swiss extreme mountaineer, at 2 hours, 22 minutes and 50 seconds.

On July 27, 2018, Swiss extreme mountaineer Dani Arnold traversed the north face of the Eiger along the Cassin route in a time of 2 hours and 4 minutes. In doing so, he broke the previous record held by Ueli Steck, who tragically died in a mountain accident on Nuptse near Mount Everest on April 30, 2017.

Eiger north face ascent with a mountain guide

The Heckmair route is classified as extremely difficult as it has steep passages of up to 80°. In total, around 3,000 meters have to be climbed and 1,800 vertical meters overcome. The climbing time varies between 10 and 20 hours depending on the conditions and fitness level. The climbing the north face of the Eiger requires very high standards and should only be undertaken with an experienced mountain guide.

Climbing the north face of the Eiger therefore requires significantly higher standards than, for example, climbing the Matterhorn.

Video Eiger – Heckmair Route – Climbing the North face

Eiger - Heckmair Route - Climbing the Nordwand

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Video The Eiger Sanction Disaster: Clint Eastwood’s Deadliest Film Shoot

In the Summer of 1974, Spaghetti Western movie-star & director Clint Eastwood would travel to Switzerland to film a movie on the infamous North Face of the Eiger. This is the story of the true cost of completing this film.

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The Eiger Sanction Disaster: Clint Eastwood's Deadliest Film Shoot

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