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White Spider [Paperback]

Heinrich Harrer
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 17 2005

A classic of mountaineering literature, The White Spider tells the story of the harrowing first ascent of the Eiger's North Wall, one of the most legendary and terrifying climbs in recorded history.

Heinrich Herrer, author of Seven Years in Tibet, was a member of the four-man party that scaled the previously untouchable North Wall of the Eiger in 1938. In The White Spider, Herrer tells the story of this harrowing first ascent, a gripping first-hand account of daring and resilience in the high Swiss Alps.

Moving from his own amazing experiences to the numerous later attempts to replicate his team's achievements (some tragic failures, others spectacular successes), Herrer writes as well as he climbs, drawing the reader into a beguiling story of courage, strength and a confidence always on the edge of hubris.

A new introduction by Joe Simpson, author of the acclaimed mountaineering epic Touching the Void, reminds us of the enduring relevance of this absolute classic.

 

 


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

At 13,025 feet, the Swiss Eiger doesn't approach the height of Everest or Denali, but the sheer rise and difficulty of its 5900-foot north face keeps it in the company of the world's most celebrated peaks. At the time Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet, originally the sequel to this volume) became part of the first successful summit climb in 1938, the north face of the Eiger was considered the "last and greatest of Alpine problems" left in the world. Originally published in 1959 (with chapters added in 1964 and an index covering subsequent Eiger climbs), this riveting account of his ascent and the history of confronting the EigerAbeginning with the first fatal attempts to conquer the north face in 1935Ais a crisply written paean to the mountain where Harrer first earned recognition as a world-class climber. A simple narrative style brings to life the many obstacles faced by Eiger climbersAsnowstorms, avalanches and a continuous shower of falling rocks among them. Harrer has a Hemingwayesque appreciation of the codes, bravery and rules of conduct governing the closed world of "true mountaineers." And he reserves special contempt for the sensation-seekers who gather to watch deadly feats of climbing from the ground below. Sections that document the evolution of climbing gear (Harrer wore no crampons on his 1938 ascent) and national rivalries in the WWII-era climbing community help make this volume an important contribution to the emerging canon of mountaineering literature.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

'An outstanding book in the mountaineering library.' Guardian 'Even to look at the photographs of the terrible slopes of the Eiger chills the blood. Heinrich Harrer enables the reader to vicariously experience the cold and the terror of the climb.' Irish Press '"The White Spider" provides almost the classic statement of the weird and frequently misunderstood psychology of the modern rock-climber. Despite the grimness of much of what he is doing, Harrer communicates the irresistible joy of climbing as an antidote to the idea that climbers are masochistically trying to prove something to themselves.' Sunday Times 'A true classic from the early days of mountaineering...The terror and respect that the Eiger inspires is evoked superbly in Harrer's narrative.' Maxim

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
In the 1930s the Eiger Nordwand (North Wall) was considered the last and greatest of Alpine problems left in the world. The White Spider is a portion of the upper face where snow-filled cracks radiate from an ice-field resembling the legs of a spider.

The book begins by describing the early attempts to climb the Nordwand, including the harrowing stories of Max Sedlmayer and Karl Mehringer who froze to death in 1935, and Toni Kurz, Andreas Hinterstoisser, Edi Rainer and Willy Angerer who died in 1936.

Harrer then tells his first-hand story of the first ascent. Harrer and Fritz Kasparek started their climb on July 21, 1938. A day later, Anderl Heckmair and Ludwig Vörg started their attempt and quickly caught up to them. They combined into one team of four, led by Heckmair. The four men were caught in an avalanche as they climbed the Spider, but all had enough strength to resist being swept off the face.

"We were all on a single rope. ... One hundred feet above me stood Vorg, safeguarding Heckmair, as he grappled with icy rock, treacherous ice gullies, and snowslides high above us in the mists and driving snow." Heckmair fell as he led the difficult Exit Cracks, but was caught by Vorg, his crampons piercing Vorg's hand in the process. On July 24, 1938 Heckmair, Vörg, Kasparek, and Harrar completed the first ascent of the Eiger Nordwand.

Harrer then continues the Eiger story, including the dramatic rescue of Claudio Corti trapped high on the face near the Exit Cracks in 1957. Harrer added a few more chapters in 1964, including the story of Adolf Mayr who fell to his death in 1961 trying for the first solo ascent. After reaching the Second Icefield in 1962 Barry Brewster was struck by a falling rock.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good but could have been better! April 20 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book, but I kept feeling something was missing. For one thing, I expected long treatment of the famous Lachenal-Terray second ascent in the immediate post-war era, and this was most disappointingly lacking.
Second, there was just .... something missing, somehow. The book seemed like a sterile recounting of history, not like something lived in the passion of the moment. Where were the great blow-by-blow descriptions of entire climbs, complete with pitches from hell, near-falls and miraculous saves, desperate bivouacs, all the great stuff ... ?
I have to agree with the earlier reviewer who said that climbing literature just ain't what it used to be. Sure, it's good to see this classic in English translation. Likewise, it's great to see Gaston Rebuffat's Starlight and Storm in bookstores. But there is so much better out there. Why isn't Lionel Terray's "Conquistadors of the Useless" (for my money the best climbing book of them all) still in print in the US? And why haven't Louis Lachenal's "Vertigo Notebooks" ever been translated into English? And what about Heckmair's own memoirs? Like the other reviewer said: kids today don't know what they're missing. Too bad for them.
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Format:Paperback
A book which I found fascinating and gripping, but which I also found disappointing in several ways. The author researched the Eiger exhaustively, and his accounts are filled with details which bring them alive.
But I have three complaints about the book. First, the author at times spent too long writing about the philosophical aspect of climbing, and climbing the Eiger in particular. Thus the books starts off slowly, but once he gets to the actual climb stories, it picks up nicely. Second, I think the translation from German is wretched. Numerous times I had to reread tortured convoluted sentences. (I blame this on the translator since "Seven Years in Tibet" doesn't have this problem.)
The biggest flaw, however, is that the accounts end in 1964. Much of interest has happened since then such as the diretissima attempts. The only mention of these are brief descriptions given in a time-line in an appendix.
Its flaws notwithstanding, I did enjoy the book and do recommend it, but would love another book describing in equal detail the history from 1964 to present.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Risk and rescue on the Eiger North Face July 3 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Heinrich Harrer's words of caution or chastising to those who made the climbing attempt unprepared in equipment, clothing, or experience sound a prophetic note. The disasters on Mount Everest in recent years were partly the result of attempts by climbers without sufficient experience and skill and taking a gamble on decent weather. I commend the author for his ability to relate the travails of the climb. He also recounts failed and successful rescue attempts and the advances made possible by better climbing and rescue equipment. I think few readers will be unmoved by the drawn out death of Toni Kurz in one incident or of an Italian climber in another.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I've had to wrestle it away from other readers... March 17 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
even non-climbers. Once people get going on this book, they won't want to let it go. I've passed it around to friends - climbers and non-climbers alike - and always get the same reaction: riveting reading. Harrer does a great job of describing the early attempts on the Eiger Nordwand, and he does it with great insight, skill and compassion; and that's all well and good. What really made this book stand out in my mind was the way he tied the subject matter into the historical context of the times. I was able to understand that climbing, for these people, was a very different kind of activity than it is for me and my generation. Fascinating stuff.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Was a good book. interesting even though it was written years ago an in an older style of prose. Still enjoyed and would recommend it to all adventure and mountain climbing... Read more
Published 5 months ago by author4
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Climbing Enthousiasts
Great book and great writing style. It makes you feel like you were there with him. You won't be disappointed!
Published 11 months ago by Davoies
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome read
White Spider I became curious about this book while reading Joe Simpson's "The Beckoning Silence" (great book). Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2010 by R. Wood
3.0 out of 5 stars Facing down the North Face of the Eiger
This book details Heinrich Harrer's participation in the first successful ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in the Alps. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2002 by M. Ragen
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST BOOK ON CLIMBING EVER
This is simply the best
Published on May 17 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiration
Harrers classic tale of the famous mountain face inspired me, last spring, to successfully climb the north face of that mountain. Read more
Published on Jan. 20 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story telling and fascinating historical accounts.
If you want to get drawn in by an incredible story, and at the same time get a history lesson about the world's most infamous North Face, this is the book for you. Read more
Published on Sept. 5 1998 by Robert Hayes
5.0 out of 5 stars A true documentary "thriller"!
I have spent every free second the last few days to read this magnificent book on the Eiger ascents, and is truly a big fan of those climbers both those who who tried and failed... Read more
Published on Sept. 3 1998
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