The Eiger is one of the most dangerous mountains in the Alps; so deadly that its sheer north face is nicknamed Mordwand, meaning “Death Wall”.
Towering almost 4,000m above the picturesque village of Grindelwald, the Eiger is steep and imposing, its north face, or “Nordwand”, almost constantly in shadow.
The Nordwand is exposed to bad weather from the north, and its concave shape means it even creates its own microclimate.
Villagers at the foot of the Eiger can watch storms taking place on the mountain while they enjoy sunshine below.
The menacing Nordwand is so sheer and unstable thanks to a daily cycle of freezing and thawing.
Small slivers of water within the cracks in the rock expand and contract as they freeze and thaw due to daily temperature fluctuations from day to night.
These small but constant and regular expansions chip away at the
rocks which eventually completely shatter, often creating spectacular rock falls.
It is these rock falls along with the poor weather conditions that make the Eiger so dangerous.
It was first successfully climbed in 1938 by a party of four, including German mountaineer and author Henrich Harrer.
Harrer’s book “The White Spider” gives a powerful account of the perilous ascent, which took three days to reach the top of the Nordwand and saw him nearly lose his life.
The White Spider is a distinctive section of the climb, where snow-filled cracks in the rock-face resemble spiders’ legs.
To date, more than 60 people have died on the Eiger.
In spite of the dangers, many people climb the Eiger each year; its notoriety and the challenge of the climb drawing mountaineers to it.
Improving technology and modern techniques make it ever-easier to climb, and in 2008 the record solo attempt was made by Ueli Steck, who reached the top of the Nordwand in 2 hours and 47 minutes.