IN THE EARLY MOMENTS OF The Eiger Sanction, Clint Eastwood saunters into the dimly lit headquarters of C-2 to find out who he is supposed to assassinate next. Dragon, the evil albino who runs the CIA-like organization, tells Eastwood that although the agency does not yet have the target's name, they have discovered that "our man will be involved in a climb in the Alps this summer. And we know which mountain he will climb: the Eiger." Eastwood has no trouble guessing which route--"The North Face, of course"--and allows that he is familiar with that particular alpine wall: "I tried to climb it twice, it tried to kill me twice... Look, if the target's trying to climb the Eiger, chances are my work will be done for me."

The Eiger
The Eiger

The problem with climbing the North Face of the Eiger is that in addition to getting up 6,000 vertical feet of crumbling limestone and black ice, one must climb over some formidable mythology. The trickiest moves on any climb are the mental ones, the psychological gymnastics that keep terror in check, and the Eiger's grim aura is intimidating enough to rattle anyone's poise. The epics that have taken place on the Nordwand have been welded into the world's collective unconscious in grisly detail by more than two thousand newspaper and magazine articles. The dust jackets of books with titles such as Eiger: Wall of Death remind us that the Nordwand "has defeated hundreds and killed forty-four....Those who fell were found-sometimes years later-dessicated and dismembered. The body of one Italian mountaineer hung from its rope, unreachable but visible to the curious below, for three years, alternately sealed into the ice sheath of the wall and swaying in the winds of summer."


The history of the mountain resonates with the struggles of such larger-than-life figures as Buhl, Bonatti, Messner, Rebuffat, Terray, Haston, and Harlin, not to mention Eastwood. The names of the landmarks on the face-the Hinterstoisser Traverse, the Ice Hose, the Death Bivouac, the White Spider-are household words among both active and armchair alpinists from Tokyo to Buenos Aires; the very mention of these places is enough to make any climber's hands turn clammy. The rockfall and avalanches that rain continuously down the Nordwand are legendary. So is the heavy weather: Even when the skies over the rest of Europe are cloudless, violent storms brew over the Eiger, like those dark clouds that hover eternally above Transylvanian castles in vampire movies.

Needless to say, all this makes the Eiger North Face one of the most widely coveted climbs in the world.

--Jon Krakauer, Eiger Dreams.
Author of Into The Wild and Into Thin Air.

The Eiger
The pride of Switzerland


 Eiger Dreams
Eiger Dreams

Note: All Eiger pictures on this page were taken from Murren (a 30-minute hike from Gimmelwald).

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