March 12 - "Because We Can..."?

Posted on March 12, 2018

I noticed that today is the anniversary of the first time that the North Face of the Eiger was climbed in the winter.

To give this context:

The Eiger is one the Alps in Switzerland.

The Matterhorn was the first of
the famous Six North Faces of the
Alps to be climbed.

The Matterhorn is the highest peak
in Western Europe and the most
famous mountain in Europe, which is why
its mini-replica is found in Disneyland.
It has the biggest north face in the Alps. A "face" is a vertical or sloping side of a mountain or cliff. There are six famous north faces in the Alps, and three of them are way, way more difficult to climb. The Matterhorn is one of the three super difficult north faces to climb, and the Eiger is another of them.

There was a lot of hubbub among climbers to be the first to climb one of these famous faces; the first ascent of Nordwand ("North Face" in German) or "Eigerwand" (short for "Eiger North Face" in German) was in July of 1938.

The first winter ascent of Nordwand was accomplished on this date in 1961. It took the climbers six days to make the climb - no data on how long it took to get down!

The thing is, at least 64 climbers have died trying to climb the North Face. It is sometimes called Mordwand instead of Nordwand - that translates to "Murderous Wall"! The dangers include avalanches, storms/blizzards, freezing temperatures, and rockfall / landslides.

So...if you, like me, want to ask "why-oh-why?" do some people insist on facing all these dangers...I think a common response is "because we can." (Even if, it turns out, a few people couldn't.)

The record books are full of first female climber to ascend Nordwand, first Czech climbers to do so, first Americans, first all-female group, first with primitive equipment, first solo ascent, first winter solo ascent, first female solo ascent, fastest ascent, first BASE jump from the top - and about a bajillion more "firsts." Some people just feel that lure to challenge themselves, some want to gain a bit of fame or get their name in the record book, some love climbing and do it all the time and just need a new mountain to conquer.

By the way, nowadays many climbers are choosing to climb Eigerwand in the winter because the crumbling rock wall is actually strengthened by ice!

Also on this date:

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