14 January, 2021 | Reccy Guide
You’re on a quest to climb iconic summits around the world or you are an experienced mountaineer intrigued by the legends of the most iconic north face in the Alps; climbing the Eiger should definitely be next on your list. The 3,967m peak is one of the most well-known and challenging peaks in the Alps, notably due to its impressive 1800m high North Face – the biggest north face in all the European Alps. So, is the Eiger your next expedition?
Who can climb the Eiger?
As mentioned, the Eiger is known for the incredible exposure of its North Face. However, safer routes to the top are used nowadays and make reaching the summit a bit more accessible. Despite this, the expedition remains a very technical alpine rock and snow/ice climb and is, therefore, only suitable for experienced climbers with previous AD alpine climbing experience and a high current level of fitness.
View of Eiger Summit Ridge
What route should I take?
There are two main routes to the summit, and the choice will be dependent on the group’s climbing experience as well as on mountain conditions. The South Ridge, graded AD, is a longer summiting day but more accessible during snowier conditions. The climb will mostly be on rock with a few icy passages. The Mittellegi Ridge, rated AD+/D, will be a shorter climbing day to the summit but has greater exposure and needs dry conditions to ensure a safe ascent. These routes should be climbed during the summer season (June – September) for best condition. The North Wall is also an option and would be considered by many as the highlight of a climbing career, but has proven to be extremely dangerous since its first ascent in 1938 – it has in fact been nicknamed the Mordwand, the ‘death wall’, a pun on the German word Nordwand for North Wall. If you decide to attempt it, first climb the Eiger itself via easier routes. Contrarily to the South Ridge and Mittellegi Ridge routes, the North Face needs to be climbed in Autumn and Spring season, when the snow has had time to turn into ice. Even then, however, the conditions might not be perfect – so always consult with your guide and knowledgeable locals before the attempt.
Negotiating a Rocky Section
The climb’s itinerary
Your climbing expedition will last around 4 days and start in the city of Chamonix, in the French Alps. The day before you start, you will likely meet with your guide in order to go over safety/security checks as well as current weather conditions, in order to make sure that you are prepared fully and adequately.
The first day of the expedition will be quite effortless. You will be traveling from Chamonix to Grindelwald in Switzerland, then will take the Jungfraubahn railway – the famous train traversing the Eiger itself. Once arrived at Eismeer Station, you will head towards Mittellegi Hut or Monchjoch Hut depending on which route you have decided to take. Ascending Mittellegi Hut from the Station is already a technical challenge of its own, leading you to walk down a tunnel and rappel the Kallifirn glacier.
The second day is already summit day! If you are leaving from Mittellegi Hut, you will leave at dawn and start climbing on rocky ridge terrain. You will need to put on your crampons for the last section of the ridge as it will likely be snowier. If taking the South Ridge Route, you will leave the Monchjoch Hut before dawn and head towards the South Eigerjoch where the climb truly begins. After crossing the 1km long ridge between South and North Eigerjoch, you will make your way up to the summit. After all your effort during this strenuous ascent, you’ve made it! Admire the victorious scenery from the top, then head back down via the South Ridge route – even if you climbed via the Mittellegi Ridge.
If you have taken up the challenge of climbing the Eiger via the North Wall, your second day will begin with a hike to the start of the climb through a tunnel. Once you emerge, you will start ascending the 1800-meter-high wall using your skills in rock, ice and crack climbing; and want to reach the two-third mark by mid-afternoon. The next day is summit day, and you will cover the last third of the route to reach the well-deserved top. Congrats, you have climbed the Eiger via one of the most difficult routes in the Alps! Your expedition is not over yet, as descending will take you just as much effort. The descent is far from easy, and a GPS will be of little help; so you need to recognize the terrain and create your own track.
On the final day, you will be traveling back to Chamonix with memories of your expeditions to last you a lifetime. And if the Eiger has left you wanting more, Chamonix offers many climbing expeditions – so go check out our Mont Blanc and Matterhorn articles and keep on reaching higher heights!
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