As one of the most iconic mountains in the world, the Eiger towers above small villages in Switzerland. This famous peak has been featured in many movies and is one of the most documented peaks around the world. The Eiger is a striking peak from all sides and a worthy climb by any of its many routes, none of which are particularly easy. The most notable feature of the Eiger is its 1,800-meter-high (5,900 ft.) north face, named “Eigerwand,” or “Nordwand,” which is the biggest north face in the Alps. The Mittellegi Route is a historic route in itself and is characterized by massive exposure and engaging climbing throughout the entire ascent. The Eiger is surround by massive glaciers and pristine rolling fields down low.
“The ineffable natural beauty of the Alps coupled with the camaraderie, knowledge and unbeatably encouraging nature of the guides, Jonathon and Eric, made both the climb and the entire trip the experience of a lifetime and nothing short of an epic adventure.”
While the summit was reached without much difficulty in 1858 by a complex route on the west flank, the battle to climb the north face has captivated the interest of climbers and nonclimbers alike. Before it was successfully climbed, most of the attempts on the face ended tragically and the Bernese authorities even banned climbing it and threatened to fine any party that should attempt it again. But the enthusiasm that animated the young, talented climbers from Austria and Germany finally vanquished its reputation of being insurmountable when a party of four climbers successfully reached the summit in 1938 by what is known as the “1938” or “Heckmair” route.
At the request of the Japanese Yuko Maki (who had visited Grindelwald some years ago), Grindelwald guides and porters first climbed the Mittellegi Ridge on September 10, 1921. Among them was Samuel Brawand, a school teacher of Grindelwald (who taught German to Yuko Maki), and a Swiss mountain guide.
Note from our Alps Director
For me, the Eiger represents a climb full of history, exposure, and breathtaking views — all in one package. It is on a climb like this when my mind is quiet and that I only need to harness the meditative focus necessary to put one foot in front of the other.
There are many things to love about climbing the Eiger. It all begins at the start of the climb, where a rappel out of the tunnel leads to the glacier. From there, views of massive glaciers, pristine rolling hills and the village of Grindelwald are visible throughout the entire climb. It is also nice to climb with a lightweight pack and have the benefit of staying in mountain huts with hearty meals prepared by the local Swiss hut keepers.
What I find most interesting about climbing the Eiger is being up high on the Mittellegi Ridge with the exposure and the scenery around me. When I find myself climbing the Mittellegi Ridge, my mind is clear and I just focus on climbing. The fascinating history of this mountain also draws me to the Eiger, and the surrounding village of Grindelwald is beautiful. Rappelling out of the tunnel is one of the most unique experiences a climber can have in their life. The other thing I love about the Eiger and Alps is the luxury of climbing with a lightweight pack and having the benefits of mountain huts with prepared meals for us.
We will make our ascent via the stunning and classic Mittellegi Ridge. This route makes up the long and sharp east ridge of the Eiger. The Mittellegi Hutte, which is perched right on the ridge crest, overhangs the massive north face of the Eiger. To get to the hut, we start by riding up the Jungfraubahn cogwheel railway up to the Eismeer station. This is the famous train that tunnels through the north face of the Eiger. Exiting the train, we walk down a tunnel and rappel onto the Kallifirn glacier. A short walk across the glacier and we start our climbing up to the hut. A mixture of pitched rock climbing up to 5.7 and easy scrambling leads us up to the Mittellegi Hut (3,355 m)
The following day, we will have an alpine start and make our way up to the summit. The ridge is very exposed and narrow with good sections of steep climbing. The final section to the summit is typically on a snow fin using crampons and an ice axe. Our route down is long and difficult, requiring concentration, and climbers need to maintain lots of energy. We descend down the south ridge doing a series of rappels, lowers, down-climbing, and traversing until we reach the Mönch saddle.
This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.
Even when things didn’t go as planned last year because of weather, Jonathon showed grace under fire. Jonathon and Lee lived up to their reputations again this year. As always, they were safe, professional, knowledgeable and patient.