In mountaineering, sport, and life in general, it’s pretty satisfying when the training all comes together and delivers that gold medal winning performance. Thanks to several years in the making of an alpinist, all the mountain training trips to Snowdonia, Lake District, Scottish Highlands and Alps, today, Andy climbed the Eiger…
We’re really pleased for him and proud of his dedication to training to deliver not only a successful, but also a stylish alpinist ascent of one of the worlds great iconic mountains…Chapeau Andy🎩👏
As we had brought the ascent forward to avoid inbound stormy weather, and the Mittellegi Hut was full, we opted to climb via the Mönchsjoch Hut and explore the ascent of the more rarely climbed South Ridge of the Eiger. This gives a more relaxing first day with the ascent to the hut involving a 40 minute stroll up a pisted snowy track to the hut. But the 2nd day is a little longer as the South Ridge aller retour involves a double negotiation of the Eigerjoch with it’s intricate but enjoyable scrambling and climbing.
Whilst glacier recession and low snow volume is a big problem in the Alps in general, and particularly this summer (see our other recent post) it is still great to see the magnificent and massive glaciers of the Bernese Oberland. Snow and glacier conditions were actually very good for our approach to the Eigerjoch South and the lovely snow ridge that leads from the glacier to the start of the rocky scrambling on the traverse of the Eigerjoch.
There was no visible moon and a pretty dark pre-dawn start to the day, but the scrambling on the red gneiss of the Eigerjoch was still very enjoyable and the headtorches illuminated the white crampon scratched line of the route like cats eyes on a motorway! There is one deviation to the route however, due to a rockfall on the NW side of the South ridge, and this is now negotiated via an easy but loose terrace – then a rocky ramp with a few bolts, on the East side, followed by a fine thin move on smooth rock on the West side, perhaps now giving the actual crux of the route on the classic traverse from Mittellegi.
There is still one short section of snow ridge on this traverse of the Eigerjoch (visible upper centre in the photo above) but this is easily avoidable on the East side of the ridge meaning that we did not use axe or crampons between the end of the glacier – snow ridge on the approach and the summit of the Eiger. On reaching the Eigerjoch north there is an impressively abrupt geological shift from the red gneiss on the Eigerjoch to the famous grey limestone on the Eiger itself.
The style of climbing changes accordingly and, after a rare break from the sustained technical interest on this route, smooth crampon scratched limestone scrambling flows over a series of slabs leading to the culminating tower and steepest section of the South Ridge.
There was a bit of a question mark over this section of this route as there is little information available and even several Grindlewald Guides we spoke to were unsure of the passage in ascent as it’s usually an abseil route! Our arrival at the base of the tower coincided with near perfect timing with the arrival of the Grindlewald Guides leading the charge over the Mittellegi, summit and down the South Ridge. As they were all coming down the steep wall (and as it looked rather fierce! If anyone has climbed up this way, please let us know what it’s like?) we headed out left in to some pretty intimidating slabby limestone couloir country….
Whilst this is by no means the hardest climbing on the route technically it is perhaps the key passage overall as both pitches required both a steady hand & head over somewhat friable rock and with sparse protection. It is certainly a passage less travelled although there is the odd crampon scratch and a couple of in-situ anchors on rusty pegs and an odd big metal sticky out thing! After rejoining the South Ridge we were happy to be back on more travelled country and easy scrambling led to the summit of the Eiger, 5 hours after leaving the hut.
Note in both photos above the excellent new Mammut Taiss Light boots both Andy & I were wearing. Very light, very neat, highly recommended.
We briefly enjoyed the summit views and good chat with 8000m peak climber and Fort William based mountaineering instructor Adele, before heading off back down the South Ridge. Compared with previous descents made via the Eiger traverse, the return over the Eigerjoch felt easier this time as we had all the recent beta!
The last leg of the descent, via the glacier, gave a moment to reflect on both a memorable day in the mountains and the longer training journey to get there. It was precisely that tough but rewarding process which provided Andy the ticket of entry to the exclusive Eiger club.
As we like to say….
Summits are nice, but really, it’s all about the training!
Thanks to Andy for his great efforts and commitment to getting out climbing and training in 🏴🏴🏴🇫🇷🇨🇭🇮🇹.
If you’d like help with your journey to the Eiger…or any other mountain, please check out our Alps and UK training courses or get in touch to discuss your own progression and training journey.
Also note that we have a couple of places still available on our Becoming An Alpinist course, 19-23 September in Chamonix.
Good training, safe climbing, bonne route, Rob.