Posted on: March 1, 2003

The Eiger Nordwand. Routes shown are as follows. 1 Mittellegi Ridge (AD, 600m, Amatter-Brawand-Maki-Steuri, 1921) 2 Lauper Route (TD+, 1800m, Graven-Knubel-Lauper-Zürcher, 1932) 3 Northeast Pillar, Messner Route (a.k.a. Austrian Route, TD, 1800m, Hiebeler-Messner-Messner-Maschka, 1968) 4 Griff ins Licht (7c M5, 1800m, Odermatt-Keller, 2002) 5 Northeast Pillar, Scottish Route (ED 3, 1800m, MacEacheran-McKeith-Spence, 1970) 6 North Pillar, Polish Route (5.7, one pitch of aid, 1800m, 700m to junction with Messner Route, Cielecki-Laukajtys-Szafirski-Zysak, 1968) 7 Slovenian Route (5.10c, Knez-Freser-Tic, 1985) 8 Harlin Direttissima (ED3/4, 1800m, Bonington-Golikow-Haag-Harlin-Haston-Hupfauer-Kor-Lehne-Rosenzopf Schnaidt-Strobel-Votteler-Whillans, 1966) 9 Czech Route (5.10a A3 80° ice, 1800m, Smíd-Rybicka-Smíd-Flejberk, 1978) 10 The Young Spider (7a A2 WI6 M7, 1100m, Steck-Siegrist, 2001) 11 Ideal Direttissima (ED, 1800m, Pochyl, 1983) 12 Japanese Direttissima (5.9 A3, 1800m, Imai-Kato-Kato-Negishi-Hirofumi-Kubo, 1969) 13 Toni Hiebeler Memorial Route (ED+: V+ A3 80°, 1400m, Luke-Pitelka-Smid, 1985) 14 Métanoïa (ED4, 1800m, Lowe, 1991) 15 Original Route (ED2, 1800m, Harrer-Heckmair-Kasparek-Vörg, 1938) 16 La Vida es Silbar (project; awaits one-day redpoint) (7c, 900m, Anker-Siegrist, 1999) 17 Czech Pillar (5.10a A4, 1300m, Smíd-Kysilková-Placheck-Rybicka, 1976) 18 Geneva Pillar (ED2, 900m, Hopfgartner-Piola, 1979) 19 Piola-Ghilini Direttissima (ED3/4, 1400m, Ghilini-Piola, 1983) 20 Gelber-Engel (5.11a, 1100m, Coubal-Coubal, 1988) 21 North Corner (ED3, 1200m, Howald-Howald-Ruedi, 1981) 22 Yeti (not shown) (5.10a A1, 1000m, Forlini-Faggiani, 1998) 23 Eigersanction (ED3, 1000m, Anker-Piola, 1988) 24 Le Chant du Cygne (ED3: 7a, 6b+ oblig., 900m, Anker-Piola, 1992) 25 Spit Verdonesque Édenté (IV 7a A1, 300m, Maillefer-Steiner, 1983) 26 Deep Blue Sea (7b+, 300m, Rathmaier-Ruhstaller, 2001) 27 Knez Route (5.7, 650m, Knez, 1982) 28 Ochsner-Brunner Route (5.9, 600m, Ochsner-Brunner, 1982) 29 Löcherspiel (5.10d, 350m, Anker-Gruber, 1988) 30 Direct West Ridge (not shown) (5.12a, 350m, Piola-Sprungli, 1980) 31 Via Ferrata Rotstock (not shown) (F, 260m, unknown, 1899 and 2000) 32 West Flank and West Ridge (AD, Almer-Barrington-Bohren, 1858) [Photo] Jost von Allmen

Peter Keller and I had known each other for a long time, and we had been preoccupied with the Eiger for over a year. On the left (east) side of the 1800-meter north face is an overhanging pillar. It seemed a logical way to go. "Yeah, climbing a grade 7 route, at icebox temperatures and with brittle rock—I get it, totally logical," was Peter's thought. And after the pillar? After the pillar we were planning to continue straight up, but no one had ever been on that part of the face. We were expecting difficulties of 7c (5.12c), and we wanted to fix as few ropes as possible, and only drill where we absolutely had to. We would see if it was doable.

On September 12 we went for it. The forecast called for the best week of the year, five days of sunshine, albeit with bitingly cold northeasterly winds. The sinking mercury was good for the ice, but not so good for the rock climbing. That evening was a bit of a letdown: eighteen hours and ninety meters was all we had to show for our first day on the Nordwand. Our progress on the rock had been slowed by the constant scraping of snow off holds, numb fingers and drilling belays. We were completely drained, but we knew if we got the pillar behind us, we could manage the rest. On our third day, I took the lead. We still had two-thirds of the face above us. Instead of climbing along the ridge—which would have cost us two more days—we chose to connect with the Lauper Route. By doing this we saved time, food and physical reserves. Climbing on the ice became a test of our nerves. For the final two days we took only what we needed; the haulbag stayed behind. Bolts, ice screws, sleeping bags, camera and food went in the pack. I placed an ice screw every sixty meters as we simulclimbed toward the summit. We bivied three pitches from the top (we slept in the tunnel shaft of the Jungfrau cog railway the other nights). On September 16 we stood on top, having climbed Griff ins Licht (Reach for the Light, 7c M5, 1800m). We had had two granola bars for the whole day! I could hear my wife's words: "I'm not worried about you freezing or falling; climbing is part of you, and important to you. But if you are going to climb the Nordwand, then you should at least take along enough food."


—Urs Odermatt, Switzerland

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