EIGER, MONCH, AND JUNGFRAU

Posted on: December 1, 2004


The north faces of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland, showing the enchainment made in twenty-five hours by Stefan Siegrist and Ueli Steck at the end of July. [Photo] Thomas Ulrich

The steep north faces of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau form a true masterpiece of nature. Stephan Siegrist and I know these mountains like the backs of our hands. We had spent almost five weeks nonstop on the north face of the Eiger last year establishing and then redpointing La Vida es Silbar. During the long bivouacs on the face, we schemed out a new plan: Eiger north face, Monch north face plus the Jungfrau north face, all in one...

Due to last summer's heat wave, nothing came of the idea straight away, but we kept it prominently in our minds. This summer we trained seriously and prepared for our adventure, while waiting for the perfect weather front to arrive.

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At midnight on July 29 we stood full of apprehension at the base of the Eiger. Despite far-from-perfect conditions, we climbed the Original Route in a comfortable pace to the top, avoiding the wet Waterfall Chimney via the Rebuffat Variation and shaking hands on the first of the three peaks at 9 a.m.

The second peak proved to be the easiest: we made it down via the Eigerjoch in two hours and were delighted to find perfect snow conditions on the Monch, which allowed us to have our second-peak handshake only three hours later. A broad boulevard brought us to the Jungfraujoch, where Thomas Kohler and Rob Frost were waiting for us with soup and noodles. We took our first break since our start from the guesthouse at Eigergletscher, ate and drank as much as possible and after one and a half hours made our way to the base of the route. Unfortunately, traversing from the Jungfraujoch to the base of the route cost us much more time than planned. We arrived at the last face at 7:30 p.m. It was starting to get dark. This was the only route both of us didn't know at all. Our legs felt heavy; we concentrated on every step and tried hard to enjoy the beautiful evening light surrounding the peaks. This, theoretically, should have been the easiest face to climb, but the Jungfrau proved quite stubborn: the thin ice was as brittle as ever, and the rocks were nothing but loose choss. It took us three hours to climb the final 150 meters. After twenty-five hours of climbing, we topped out at 1 a.m. and hugged one another (relief or joy?). Rob and Thomas had prepared our bivy for us; all we had left to do was sink into our bags. Almost immediately deep sleep overcame us, along with the first tweak of new dreams of conquests yet to come.

— Ueli Steck, Interlaken, Switzerland



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