The Alpine Trinity: Eiger
The smallest, yet the most vicious mountain of the three is Eiger. It is a sheer rock with the most dramatic face. It has a sharp ridge with lots of exposure, unlike Mönch that offers a moderate climb in snow and rock, and the Jungfrau with a classic glacier climb.
All the three mountains are in the northeastern part of the Bernese Alps, Eiger is located 2.2 km northeast of Mönch and 5.6 km northeast of Jungfrau. The nearest villages are Grindelwald (5 km), Lauterbrunnen and Wengen (both 7km). Eiger’s temper is notorious, since 1938, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the north face, earning it the German nickname Mordwand, literally "murder(ous) wall"—a pun on its correct title of Nordwand (North Wall).
Yet, it can be gentle as a lamb as well. In July 2006, a piece of the Eiger amounting to approximately 700,000 cubic metres of rock fell from the east face. As it had been noticeably cleaving for several weeks and fell into an uninhabited area, there were no injuries and no buildings were hit. For general reference: 1 m3 of cement weighs about 1.76 tons, just imagine 1 232 000 tons of rock falling. It is as if 3.5 Empire State Buildings without furniture and other interior tidbits fell down. The official stat for the bare Empire State Building is 365 000 tons or 37mln. cubic feet.
Height: 3,970 m (13,020 ft)
Prominence: 356 m (1,168 ft)
Isolation: 2.0 km (1.2 mi)
Parent Peak: Mönch
Location: the Bernese Alps
Coordinates: 46°34′39″N 8°0′19″E
First ascent: August 11, 1858 by Christian Almer, Peter Bohren (Swiss), and Charles Barrington (Irish)
Danger rank: the 5th according to the ranks of the Matador network
Eiger Name Origin
Eiger has several interpretations of the name origin. The most frequent citation belongs to the name Ogre (Eiger) as a standard German word for ogre. Second most common is again a German word eigen meaning “own”, but to my common sense it is a bit far too evident, Cap. More local sources claim the name comes from the Middle High German Hej-Gêr, meaning “high peak”, and its etymology can still be found in the Swiss vernacular word “Hoger”. There is also a Latin interpretation of the name, linked to the term acer meaning "sharp" or "pointed", as the shape of the mountain is rather pointed. Here the scholars are again divided into ‘Latin-origin’ followers and ‘Swiss German’ adepts, who claim that the name comes from a Swiss German word ‘Ger’ meaning a javelin. By the way, the latter was also used for all three mountains, and today's Eiger was distinguished as the Ausser (or Outer) Eiger or Gross (Great) Eiger. You are welcome to choose which you like best.
Eiger has three faces: north, west and southeast. The East Ridge from the summit to the Ostegg (2,709 m) is the longest on Eiger, it is named Mittellegi. The north face is called Nord Wand and nicknamed Mordwand for the death toll stats. It overlooks the pass and resort of Kleine Scheidegg (3km), or more precisely the region east of it. The north face lies entirely in the municipality of Grindelwald. The latter mountain pass lies between the valleys of Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald and connects the lower Männlichen-Tschuggen range to Eiger. All the aforementioned localities are connected to Interlaken via mountain railways.
Even though Eiger is considered one of the three from the massive wall of Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger, it in itself constitutes an emblematic sight of the Swiss Alps. But not all mountains are that outstanding. To figure out what forms the skyline you observe, take the PeakVisor app and you will never miss any rock again.
Eiger Geology and Formation
A propos, Eiger is not actually a part of the main chain of the Bernese Alps, it constitutes a huge limestone buttress, projecting from the crystalline basement of Mönch across the Eigerjoch. Consequently, all sides of the mountain feed the same river, the Lütschine, through the Weisse Lütschine on the west side (west face of the Eiger) and through the Schwarze Lütschine on the east, (north and east faces of Eiger). Therefore, all the water running down Eiger converges at the foot of Männlichen, 10 km northwest of the summit, where the Lütschine proper begins its course to Lake Brienz and the Aare.
Eiger can boast of significant glaciers covering its west and east faces. The Eiger Glacier lies on the west, from the crest connecting it to the Mönch down to 2,400 m, south of Eigergletscher railway station. It feeds the Weisse Lütschine. The Eismeer Glacier envelopes the east side, it flows from the Mönch down to 1,300 m through the Lower Grindelwald Glacier system and feeds the Schwarze Lütschine. Both glaciers extend for over 20km. The whole area, the Jungfrau-Aletsch, of which Eiger is a part, having the highest summits and largest glaciers of the Bernese Alps, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Anyway, Eiger is a mecca for rock climbers who must have considerable bravado to even attempt this. “If that rock face can be climbed, then we are going to do it – or die doing it” were the immortal words of Edi Rainer and Willy Angerer in 1936 about the north face of Eiger. Unfortunately, they did not conquer the face and died in their attempt. Many more died attempting this feat until it was finally conquered in 1938.
The first ascent was made by the western flank on August 11, 1858 by Charles Barrington (Irish) with two Swiss guides Christian Almer and Peter Bohren. Having started off at 3am, they reached the summit at about noon, stayed there for about 10 minutes and descended in four hours. Barrington described the reaching of the top, saying, "the two guides kindly gave me the place of first man up." Their ascent was confirmed by observation of a flag left on the summit. According to Harrer's book The White Spider, Barrington was originally planning to make the first ascent of Matterhorn, but his finances did not allow him to travel there as he was already staying in the Eiger region.
In August 2008, Ueli Steck burst all imaginable boundaries with his solo Speed Record attempt on the North Face in no more than 2 hours and 47 minutes. He beat that record on November 16, 2015. Taking advantage of good weather and climbing conditions and pushed for the summit of the classic Heckmair Route (ED2, 1800m, 1938) in a mere 2 hours 22 minutes.
Eiger first hosted high-altitude runner competition on July 20, 2013 with over 1000 participants on the 1st Eiger Ultra Trail in Grindelwald. Three trails with a total of 168 kilometres and over 10'500 meters in height awaited a year later already 1'700 trail runners from 41 countries. In 2015, over 2'000 runners from 49 nations travelled to the Eiger.
Eiger Climbing route
The most popular Eiger route passes from the Mittellegi Hut to the NE-Ridge (Mittellegi Ridge). Descending via the Eigerjöcher to the Mönchsjoch Hut allows combining additional tours to the Mönch and Jungfrau.
Other options for going high
Although only experienced climbers can reach the summit of Eiger, a railway tunnel runs inside the mountain, and two internal stations provide easy access to viewing-windows carved into the rock face. They are both part of the Jungfrau Railway line, running from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch between Mönch and Jungfrau, at the highest railway station in Europe. The two stations inside Eiger are Eigerwand (behind the north face) and Eismeer (behind the south face), at around 3,000 metres.
Yes, it is possible to paraglide down Eiger, just like the four daredevils did in 2015. It is an extreme adrenaline challenge, so don’t expect too many offers available on the mountain. You can take PeakVisor app to locate yourself and the mountains that you’ll be flying over.
Eiger is one of the most forbidding mountains in the world. The locals call it the Ogre, and for more than a century, this monster of a mountain has attracted thrill seekers eager to risk their lives on its nearly vertical slopes. Now a new breed of daredevils is taking on Eiger, not by climbing up the mountain, but by plunging down it. At 3,970m, the icy summit of Eiger is too steep and rocky to simply ski down. So, welcome to speed riding, or ski-gliding. To speed ride the sportsmen use skis, but also there is a glider-like parachute called a speed wing. It allows soaring over rocks and ledges impossible to ski.
The northern flank of Eiger, with its vertical drop of more than 1600 metres, has always attracted the world's best climbers. However, if you are no climber and still want to experience that awe at the might of the mountain, walk or run at its ‘base’.
As for walking, there is a trail starting at the Eigergletscher station. Shortly after embarking on this route, you'll find yourself right in front of the famous rock face itself, and above you to the right you'll notice the metal ladders that climbers to the Eiger-Rotstock Via Ferrata use to gain access. From here on, the trail runs for an hour along the foot of the Eiger North Face, sparkling with a beautiful view over the Wetterhorn and the Grosse Scheidegg. Difficult sections are secured with ropes. If you have brought your binoculars, you'll be able to see the climbers up against the rock face. The train station sells postcards that show all the routes up this mountain. Towards the end of the tour, the trail zigzags boldly down to Alpiglen train station.
If you are a good runner and have the courage and the desire to get just that little bit closer to the breathtaking Eiger North Face and tackle a superlative high alpine adventure, take one of the Eiger Ultra Trails.
Trail E101 is Ultra Trail of 101 kilometers and 6700 meters in height
Trail E51 is the Panorama Trail of 51 kilometers and 3100 meters in height
Trail E35 is the North Face Trail of 35 kilometers and 2500 meters in height, and
Trail E16 is The Pleasure Trail 16 kilometers and 960 meters in height)
Ueli Steck, speed alpinist and event ambassador, is convinced "It's going to be a personal challenge for everybody, no matter how fast, how steep or how high. Important is that that you keep on the move!"
Eiger in Literature and Movies
Being an ultimate challenge, Eiger has always attracted the men who wanted to know their true worth. There is a fascinating book by Trevanian, called The Eiger Sanction (1972) about an art professor, a mountain climber, and a mercenary, performing assassinations (i.e., sanctions) for money to augment his black-market art collection. The book was filmed into a good movie with Clint Eastwood, whose character is being tricked into a hazardous assignment that involves an attempt to scale one of the most treacherous mountain peaks in the Swiss Alps, Eiger. The story is full of suspense; it is partly a thriller and partly a satire that keeps readers and viewers on the edge of their seats until the last absorbing page / scene.
Routes near Eiger
If you wish to have a look at Eiger from afar, there are numerous walking opportunities near the mountain. This route through Schynige Platte in the Bernese Oberland offers one of the best panoramic viewpoints on Eiger. The place can boast of the highest ratio of epic views per the amount of time spent on the route.
The same applies to Grösse Scheidegg and Faulhorn area. The trail from Schwarzwaldalp to Faulhorn peak is a demanding challenge, taking you up 1,200m, you will pass many waterfalls and meadows with slow cows chewing melancholy on the green grass. The route features panoramic views of the UNESCO enlisted mountain Jungfrau (4,158m above sea level) as well as its picturesque neighbours Mönch and Eiger. You can admire the Grindelwald area from the First Cliff Walk by Tissot, it is an approximately 40-metre long one-rope suspension bridge with climbing stairs and a 45-metre long observation platform.
Walks at the Northern foot of Eiger through Kleine Scheidegg and Männlichen mountain allows you to experience the mightiness of Eiger (and the whole Alpine Trinity).
Finally, a great way to see the southern face of Eiger if you take an Aletschgletcher glacier walk. You don't need to step onto the glacier, you could hike on a ridge from Bettmerhorn to Eggishorn, or down to the very edge of the glacier and see how it melts into rivers and lakes.