The Eiger is one of the most enormous mountains in the Oberland region in Switzerland, which is 3970 m high and is considered the most difficult to climb. Its steep north face is a classic challenge, known as the most dangerous route in Europe.

The Eiger was first climbed over the western flank in 1858 by Charles Barrington, Christian Almer and their companions. However, the Eiger is not a four-thousand like the nearby Jungfrau and Mönch.


The first successful ascent on the north face of the mountain was performed by Hans Lauper and Alfred Zürcher with their Valais mountain guides on August 20, 1932. This is the most easterly route on/before the rim of the eastern ridge of the Eiger. This route is known as the Lauper route.
On June 24, 1938, Anderl Heckmair was the first with Heinrich Harrer, Fritz Kasparek and Ludwig Vörg to successfully climb this infamous Eiger north face, which was considered one of the last problems in the Alps. Two of them had crampons with spikes on the front, a novelty in climbing equipment for the time.

The ascent, portrayed as very heroic, by an occasional coalition of a German and an Austrian duo concluded along the way shortly after the Anschluss of Austria from Germany, was exploited by the Nazis for propaganda. This also made it a politically charged sporting achievement. Incidentally, one would die later in World War II as an armed Militant with the Gebirgsjäger, also used for special assignments on the Eastern Front. The Heickmair route starts and runs mainly along the centre of the north face. The top approx. 10% of this route is equivalent to the Lauper route.

The nickname of the north face became the Mordwand because of the many climbers killed. Failed and repeatedly aborted after dramatic and fatal accidents in the 1930s, the wall acquired a sinister reputation, seen by some daring climbers as challenging rather than daunting. At the time of that first successful ascent in 1938, further attempts had even been banned by the authorities due to accidents in the previous summer.

In the 1960s, much more auxiliary equipment was used so that climbing with the help of rock hooks, for example, over more difficult routes became possible and faster. In March 1961, The first winter ascent was made. The first man to reach the summit alone was Swiss mountain guide Michel Darbellay on August 3. He had already left the day before. They use the Heickmair route.

The first route to the top on the north face is the John-Harlin-Direttissima. On March 23, 1966, two teams independently, but close to each other, climbed the north face in the shortest possible way (Direttissima is Italian for most temporary connection). It is still winter to ‘avoid’ the expected crushing stone during thaw. Due to a faulty safety line, the American John Harlin, who had a lot of auxiliary material with him, fell to his death. The German and English/American teams reached the summit on March 25.

The climb is challenging due to falling rocks and icing. The three ice fields the climbers have to cross are dangerous because of falling rocks.


In 1971, Vincent Dewaele and Renaat Van Malderen were the first Belgians to climb the north face. In 1969, the latter and Tony Peeters were the first Belgian team to climb the Walker pillar on the Grandes Jorasses. In 1977, Ronald Naar and Bas Gresnigt were the first Dutch people to climb the north face. Since then, the mountainside has been risen by more Dutch people, including Gertjan van Leersum, Johan Taks, Gerard van Sprang, Cas van der Gevel, Wilco van Rooijen, Thierry Schmitter and Jan-Willem Jenneskens.

Modern rock climbing routes have also been opened over the dizzyingly steep piers. Michel Piola and Gerard Hopfgartner climbed The Geneva Route in 1979. This route was rated ED-A3 by Piola. In 1988 this route was repeated for the third time by the Dutch climbing duo van der Werff and Zikel.

On July 13, 2006, around eight o’clock in the evening, 500,000 cubic meters of boulders crashed down on the Untere Grindelwald Glacier, causing a large cloud of dust to hang over the municipality of Grindelwald for hours. The cause may lie in the intrusion of meltwater into the rocks and the increased instability due to the shrinking of the existing glacier caused by global warming.

On February 13, 2008, Ueli Steck set the speed record on the ascent of the Eiger north face, climbing the Heckmair route in 2:47:33 hours. This record was broken by Daniel (“Dani”) Arnold on April 20, 2011. Also, via the Heckmair route, he climbed the Eiger north face in 2:28. However, the performance could be more comparable, as Arnold climbed later in the season and used the fixed ropes on the Hinterstoisser Traverse.
On November 16, 2015, Ueli Steck recaptured the speed record by climbing the wall solo in 2:23 hours via the Heckmair route, five minutes faster than Arnold.


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