Exum guide Jeff Witt on the North Face of the Eiger
The following is Jeff’s account of his recent adventure.
Last month, a good friend, Matthias Richter, and I climbed the original 1938 route on the North Face of the Eiger. We had originally planned to stay in Saxony for rock climbing, but after discovering perfect weather in the Alps, we couldn’t help but have a look at the Eiger. After nine hours of driving, we arrived in the Bernese Oberland to find excellent conditions, and started right up, despite it being the late afternoon. We climbed up for a few hours to a nice bivy spot in a cave and settled in for the night. It was excellent to be back in the Alps, and the weather was perfect; better then we could have imagined.
With sunrise, we started on the Difficult Crack, and climbed up and over to the thin and mixed Hinterstoisser Traverse, thankful to find a fixed line hanging across it. Traversing it hand over hand took us to the next pitch, a 300 meter simul-climb through excellent neve and ice in the Ice Hose and first two Ice Fields. After a brief lunch on the perch of the Death Bivouac, we crossed the Third ice Field started up the ramp, which just happens to be where the climbing “ramps up.” Perhaps the most sustained section of the route, the ramp offered interesting mixed climbing for several pitches to perch before the Brittle Crack, where lies the last difficulty before the Traverse of the Gods. One pitch later we were sitting comfortably on the snow ledge of the Gods, feet hanging over some 4,000 vertical feet of air, and enjoying the last moments of the sun before it set.
After an uncomfortable night on the ‘God’s Ledge’, we started off early and got after the Traverse of the Gods. The reputation of the Traverse proceeds itself, and while not difficult, I can’t ever recall looking straight down to see my my own footprints in the snow more then 1,000 feet directly below me. Awesome isn’t quite the word. Into the White Spider, the last ice field on the face.
There was one last difficulty to surmount, the notorious Quartz Crack, a 5.8 squeeze/offwidth, which is completely smooth on one side. Careful chimney maneuvers while delicately edging the crampons, and a couple big moves through an overhang led us past that section. then we were in the exit cracks, and a couple easier mixed pitches and we made it to the summit snowfields.
To say that is was a climb of a lifetime would be an understatement, but at the same time, it was just really nice to do some quality alpine climbing with a buddy.