White Spider Paperback – Feb 17 2005
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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.
'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.' MaximSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished 23 months ago by Laura D
Great book and great writing style. It makes you feel like you were there with him. You won't be disappointed!Published on Sept. 24 2013 by Davoies
This book details Heinrich Harrer's participation in the first successful ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in the Alps. Read morePublished on Dec 2 2002 by M. Ragen
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... Read morePublished on March 17 1999
Harrers classic tale of the famous mountain face inspired me, last spring, to successfully climb the north face of that mountain. Read morePublished on Jan. 20 1999