Conquering the Notorious Eiger

This blog is an extended excerpt from the article “Conquering the Murder Wall” – published on the Ski Club of Great Britain website.

INTRO

…The Bernese Oberland Trinity [Jungfrau, Mönch, and the Eiger] is truly a cut above the rest. Towering rock walls and glaciated peaks form one of the most iconic and captivating views in the Alps, and they’re a love-conquest only for the hardiest mountaineers. Their sheer faces rise sharply from the earth like the frosted teeth of primitive beasts, and when you feel the cool air slide slowly from their lungs, you know you’re at their mercy.

The Eiger in particular seems to dominate the landscape and its notorious North Wall [Norwand in German] has a reputation for claiming the lives of climbers on an annual basis. Norwand has been given the nickname Morwand locally, which literally translates to ‘murder wall’, and this is not entirely surprising, when you consider it has claimed the lives of over sixty climbers since 1935… _DSC0063_DSC0054grindelwald 1 After striking up a conversation with my ski instructor one day over lunch at Grindewald, we get talking about climbing, outdoor sports, and her life living locally throughout the summer months. A hub for adventure sports and a mecca for adrenaline enthusiasts, the summer in Grindewald is a constant pulsating beehive of endorphins – even more so than the winter months. Being born and bred here must be a high honour, and the quest to prove oneself amongst the Swiss elite is a given.

After stating that she liked to climb, in a joking manner I questioned if she’d climbed the Eiger. And in the most nonchalant and humble way – only the Swiss could manage – she answers, “yes” into her bowl of goulash soup. Gobsmacked I can’t believe my ears. This woman with the tiny frame, who moves as quietly as a cat in the night-time, has bivvied on the Eiger North Face and climbed the three ridges in three days. Again humbly she adds “but most people do it in two”.

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This is the type of adventurer that dreams are made of. She also skied like a demon and could hold her own among the exclusive club of Swiss athletes. And again, it seems the Eiger breeds them. The power of this mountain impassions extreme sports junkies both locally and globally, and as you dig a little deeper you hear the stories of legends.

Let me introduce you to Ueli Steck, another humble Swiss. Instead of succumbing to the limitations of the North Face, and taking the conventional climbing route up, Ueli decided he’d just climb on up there without any ropes at all. Free from the confines of his equipment and the processes that accompany it, he managed to FREE CLIMB the Eiger in under three hours. A new World Record by a very very long way…

Or perhaps if climbing the Eiger isn’t for you, you could wingsuit off it instead. My favourite example is when the Royal British Legion “Extreme Human Flight” Team destroyed their dream line along the north ridge in celebration of the British Armed Forces.

See the extended wingsuit adventure here: https://vimeo.com/65127486

Whatever your preference, the Eiger is not for the faint hearted.

For a tamer option you could also try night-sledging, zip lining, and pony riding, and you’ll never be struggling for choices in the Adrenaline capital. Its’ a dangerous place to be introduced to if you like similar thrills, and if you’re like me you’ll be busting to return!


 

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