The Eiger is another iconic mountain, it's sheer walls rising straight up out of the Swiss town of Grindelwald. Perhaps most famous for the North Face, The Eiger is perhaps centre stage in recent alpine climbing history.
The Eiger lies in the Bernese Alps with the summit at 3970m. Falling just under the magical 4000m contour, The Eiger is proof that hard and commiting face climbing exists below 4000m! The Eiger (translated as Ogre) is the most easterly of a ridgeline which also includes The Mönch and Jungfrau.
Climbing the Eiger
The easiest route to the summit is via the West Flank and West Ridge, but is rarely climbed these days due to the slightly disposable nature of the terrain and other objective hazards. The South Ridge is also regularly ascended but perhaps the most saught after line is an ascent via the Mittellegi Ridge, descending by the former line. With a complicated and technical approach to the Mittellegi Hut the right conditions are essential combined with a sure footed and steady climbing style. With equal difficulties on rock, and a sometimes narrow snow arete, traversing The Eiger makes for a classic and well respected itinary. Scroll down to the base of the page to find some selected images of the North Face and the final section of the Mittellegi Ridge.
In most cases the peak season for climbing The Eiger is from mid July to mid August. Normally the Mittellegi needs to be largely clear of snow on the lower section. The most commiting part of the enterprise is reaching the Mittellegi Hut and it's wise to speak to the hut guardian regarding conditions in the first instance.
The first ascent of The Eiger was made by Christian Almer and Peter Bohren via the West Flank/West Ridge in August 1858. But the defining history comes from attempts to climb the North Face (Nordwand), which resulted in numerous deaths until it's first ascent in 1938 by Anderl Heckmair, Ludwig Vörg, Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek. This ascent was recorded, along with many other accounts in Heinrich Harrer's text The White Spider, which documents much of the first ascent. Now in the 2000's the North Face is still centre stage as Dani Arnold soled the face in 2 hours 28 minutes, beating the previous record by Ueli Steck by 19 minutes...!
West Flank and West Ridge AD: Allegedly the easiest way to the summit the West Flank and West Ridge is largely avoided apart from those base jumping off the North Face! Under good snow conditions it makes for a pleasant climb and can be descended rapidly, particularly by parties coming down from the North Face.
North Face (1938 Route) ED2: The classic line of many on the North Face sees regular ascents in the right conditions but involves fairly hefty climbing up to V-, A0 and 60 degree ice. That's up to about Scottish IV, with mixed sections up to VI,7 (or it felt like that anyway!).
Mittellegi Ridge D: The classic method of attempting the Mittellegi is via the Eismeer Station of the Jungfraujoch Railway. This involves climbing to the Mittellegi Hut before climbing the ridge on snow and rock sometimes utilising fixed ropes. Details and photos on CamptoCamp.
Mittellegi Ridge Integrale (Traversée des Hörnli de l'Eiger) D: It is also possible to climb the ridge from Alpiglen first visiting the Eiger-Ostegghütte, before continuing to the Mittellegi Hut. This much more sustained variation has gained popularity in recent years but is a lengthy enterprise, details and photos on CamptoCamp.
South Ridge AD: This is the usual line of descent for many parties, particularly those climbing the Mittellegi Ridge. With rock sections to grade III, the ridge feels quite long especially after a lengthy ascent.
Manky fixed lines close to the Corti Bivouac - site of the famous rescue in 1957 enlarge