/ Question about the Eiger Nordwand Heckmair Route
I'm very new to any form of climbing, having only had a couple of sessions on an indoor training wall, just enough to learn a bit about the basics.
I'd really appreciate some help from an alpinist about climbing the Eiger Nordwand. This isn't for me (you'll be relieved to hear) but for a story I'm writing in my guise of science fiction author http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Hocking/e/B002BM8SFE
As a writer, I'm keen to get some of the basics right for this story, which involves a bit of a scrap on the Nordwand. I've read Harrier's White Spider, watched Mordwand - heck, I even thought back to The Eiger Sanction, which I last saw in the nineties - but I'm not able to answer the following question:
- Roughly how long might it take a pair of reasonably experienced climbers to get from Alpiglen to the Eigerwand terrace? They're using 1908 mountaineering equipment (hobnail boots; nothing too specialised), it's May, and conditions are misty but otherwise good.
Any help would be appreciated. Payment would be free ebooks and karma..!
To get from Alpiglen to the start of the difficulties in normal conditions doesn't take long. Less than an hour, if you're fit.
Could he mean the Stollenloch, frequently confused with the Eigerwand Station gallery windows? And - to the OP - it's Harrer!
> To get from Alpiglen to the start of the difficulties in normal conditions doesn't take long. Less than an hour, if you're fit.
Many thanks for getting back to me, David. Sorry about the reference to the terrace - there *was* a terrace at the Eigerwand Station (unless I've slipped up in my research), but this has been replaced by windows and now called the gallery window. (Again, this is all second hand, so my terms may not be quite correct.) It's at 2865m (Alpiglen being 1,616m). Is this the 'start of the difficulties'?
The climb in my story isn't a climb to summit - only the Eigerwand terrace - and they're doing it because they really have to!
One anachronism potential anachronism has come up, though - my climbers are using simple pitons. Was this technology not known/widely used in 1908?
> Could he mean the Stollenloch, frequently confused with the Eigerwand Station gallery windows? And - to the OP - it's Harrer!
Thanks, Ian - Harrer is it! I did think about using the Stollenloch, but the Eigerwand gallery (not windowed at the time) is a bit more appropriate for the way the story ends.
But one climb from that era would be relevant - the astonishing and almost successful 1904 expedition by Amatter and Hasli with Gertrude Bell (later the colonial bureaucrat who drew the borders of Iraq from part of the Ottoman Empire q) on the Finsteraarhorn northeast rib, almost certainly the hardest climb attempted in the western Alps before WW1. An account can be found in Georgina Howell's 2007 biography of Bell, Daughter of the Desert, but check the source notes there and also, I imagine, the Alpine Club library. Anyway the gear would have been the same. NB the Finsteraarhorn, though enormously serious, is a technically much easier proposition than the Eigerwand.
Have just bought the Howell biography for Kindle. Wonders of modern tech.
Many thanks for your help. Can I interest you in one of my books? http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Hocking/e/B002BM8SFE
--is probably Bonington's most relevant publication concerning what it was like to climb hard stuff in the Alps in 1908 or before.
Bonington uses the Mummery on the Grépon picture too. It's on this page, if you scroll down far enough.
On this site, I dare say Gordon Stainforth could tell you a thing or two, he was climbing then :-)
Actually, I have held Whymper's alpenstock ... Yes, really. at some Boardman Tasker do, the curator of the Alpine Club showed it to me and handed it to me. I immediately said: 'There have been joys too great to be described in words, and griefs upon which I have not dared to dwell ...' She looked at me as if I was completely mad, even though the next sentence I said was: '... And with these in mind I say: Climb if you will!... ' I said it very loudly. I was probably a bit pissed.
However, even this involves pitches of UIAA grade IV - close to the limit of what would have been considered possible in 1908. And in May, there would effectively be winter conditions. Doing this stretch in such conditions today can easily take an experienced party two days.
The alternative - and maybe more logical route to pioneers, given that the first people to attempt the wall in the 30s used it - is the lower section of the Harlin Direct. But this is considerably harder, and would have been truly daunting in 1908, involving as it does pitches of 70 degree ice. The only way to get up that in 1908 would have been to cut steps. Hard, exposed and dangerous.
I hope your novel's characters are supermen of the era!
I was thinking of your thread title - specifically "Heckmair Route", which passes close to the Stollenloch but some distance away from the Eigerwand Station; as I'm sure you know.
> However, even this involves pitches of UIAA grade IV - close to the limit of what would have been considered possible in 1908. And in May, there would effectively be winter conditions. Doing this stretch in such conditions today can easily take an experienced party two days.
> The alternative - and maybe more logical route to pioneers, given that the first people to attempt the wall in the 30s used it - is the lower section of the Harlin Direct. But this is considerably harder, and would have been truly daunting in 1908, involving as it does pitches of 70 degree ice. The only way to get up that in 1908 would have been to cut steps. Hard, exposed and dangerous.
Blast - they need to get up much more quickly for the story to work... I had thought that May (it's the end of May) would be warmer - which of course it is (a bit) but there needs to be time for the mountain to thaw out a bit. Hmm. I can feel a bit of "It had been a bizarrely warm winter" writerly malarkey coming on; unless I just pretend there's no ice and apologise for it in the acknowledgements!
Well, one is a time traveler from 2033 with some biomechanical advancements to her body. The other chap is just a local. Maybe she can just carry him up on her back... :-)
Hi Ian, I've published a novel which covers a climb on the Eigerwand in 1897 ("The Only Genuine Jones", FeedAReadPublishing):
In my book history has taken a somewhat different turn, with relatively advanced climbing technology being available at an earlier date, and a corresponding leap in climbing standards leading up to the (failed) attempt at the Eigerwand.
I don't think any climb on the north face would have been feasible in 1908 given the equipment and knowledge actually available at that time.
Feel free to email me if you'd like to discuss it further. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
> I hope your novel's characters are supermen of the era!
This is why in my book the characters have access to front-pointing technology ... it would have been daunting using the older technique, although possible.
So-called 'picture hook' pegs (over which the lead rope is merely 'draped') were in use in the Alps in the latter part of the 1800s: they are described in Emil Zsigmondy's book 'Die Gefahren der Alpen', published in 1885.
Rings pegs, came later, as did karabiners. 1910 or so is reckoned to be about the time that pegs and karabiners began to be seriously developed as aids for artificial climbing.
In all of this, I am quoting from Doug Scott's book 'Big Wall Climbing' (Kaye & Ward, 1974). That book contains a good short history of the period.
As that same book points out, there were climbers (e.g. Preuss and Piaz) operating in the Eastern Alps at very high standards at around the same time.
Dülfer's 1913 route on the West Face of the Totenkirchl is probably the hardest pre-WW I alpine *rock* route. Gets VI+/VII- these days for a free ascent, although the hard pitches are traverses and Dülfer pendulumed at last one of them - using a piton. I recall reading the first ascent time was not at all shoddy by today's standards.
But: much smaller mountain than the Eiger, pure rock climbing, on decent quality rock with no snow & ice involved. And inspected on abseil prior to the FA, which was not really feasible on the Eiger.
you'll be surprised to learn, that the lower part of the Eigerwand had actually been climbed in September 1911. The guides Christen Almer (Grindelwald) and Joseph Schaler (Zermatt) and their guest Mr. P.H. Torp (England) stormed up to the Eigerwand windows in just 2 1/2 hours. They didn't intend to climb the entire wall and returned to the valley by taking the Jungfrau Railway from the Eigerwand station. So, the lower section of the Harlin direct had been climbed 55 years earlier - quite an impressive achievement! (Source: "Echo von Grindelwald", 1911).
No idea, obviously, whether the Jungfraujoch Railway will feature in your plot, but it might be worth highlighting that in 1908 it terminated at the Eismeer Station; the final section was still under construction at that time. The large explosion at the Eigerwand Station in 1908 didn't happen until November (I think), so presumably won't affect your story. Again, you may well already know this.
I doubt also that the mysterious windows/tunnels of the Adlerloch(sp?) dated as far back as that?
I thought Almer died in 1898. Are you sure it wasn't his son Ulrich?
Just chased up the source myself. I misread Christen as Christian! Looks like it was indeed a different Almer. An astonishing climb for 1911 and one I'm ashamed to say I was not aware of!
It could be Christian (= Christen) Almer, the second son of the famous Christian Almer sr., but I am not sure. Could be a different Almer as well, as there are many Almers in Grindelwald.
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