The Eiger was the K2 of its day. Eight of the first 10 climbers who attempted it died on its avalanche-riddled north face, and tales of desperation from the pioneering climbs of the mid-20th century still resonate with sadness and poignancy today. One thinks of Toni Kurz, the last survivor of the four men who were attempting the Nordwand in 1936, who hung from a rope, exhausted and spent, and died just out of reach of rescuers who’d climbed out the window of a railway tunnel to save him. Scoured with nasty weather, bombarded with rockfall, the north face of the Eiger is a mine field of objective dangers; retreat can be difficult if not impossible, compounding the hazard.
Time and the progression of alpinism have blunted the sharpest edges of the Eiger, but have in no way defanged it. The routes are well-known, and climbers can move fast when things go their way (the record stands at about two and a half hours), but gravity has not been repealed, the peak still creates its own weather and attracts storms like a magnet, and the myths remain as powerful as the days they were written.
As a climber and writer, David Roberts has a long relationship with the Eiger, including weeks in 1991 spent chronicling Jeff Lowe’s new line, Metanoia, when Roberts became a de fact member of Lowe’s support team. Few men could tell the story of the Alp’s most dangerous face with such depth, knowledge, and intimacy, and we’re proud to bring it to you. You can read David’s story of the Eiger here.