Dispatch by Delano Lavigne
Photos by Jimmy Martinello

Today I stood face-to-face with a giant. Not any old run-of-the-mill giant, you know ugly and brutish, but rather a beautifully intimidating sky scraping limestone colossus; an ogre by any other name. This giant, of course, is the north face of the Eiger. Fewer rock faces in this world are as famous, or as notorious, as that of the Eiger.

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Facing the Eiger

Located in the Bernese Alps the Eiger stands 3,970 metres above sea level and is home to an 1800 metre north facing wall that half ominously and half benevolently towers over the picturesque towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. The north face of the Eiger is no ordinary wall. It is a vertical mass of rock that is well over 2 kilometres wide, virtually never sees the sun and is almost always wet with snow melt. It is a formidable wall and because of its position (north facing) and verticalness, it has captured the attention of technical alpine climbers for almost a hundred years.

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Ueli Steck, Eiger speed climber

The history of the Eiger, much like that of the Matterhorn, is tragic yet far less controversial. Even though ropes have “broken” on the Eiger, the world of technical climbing has an expectation of risk that makes it slightly easier to accept the outcomes of ascents that have led to very tragic fatalities.

Over the course of the last 77 years a total of 45 routes have been established along the north face of the Eiger. Today I got to look up at that famous wall, a wall I read about almost 20 years ago, and imagine myself on it. I tried to see the line the original ascentionists followed to get to the top. I followed corners, cracks, ridges, traverses, snow patches and ledges as far as I could see while standing under it. Without even considering a climb I was nevertheless overwhelmed by its sheer mass and by a desire to follow in the pioneers of modern alpine climbing.  

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Toasting Eiger

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