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Eigier 4

Eiger ascent by Mountain Madness guide Alan Rousseau

John and I spent a week climb­ing in the alps last year and climbed Mont Blanc and the Mat­ter­horn togeth­er. This year he came back with a plan for us to do a warm-up” route with his son, and then head to Grindel­wald to try the Eiger.

Few moun­tains have as sto­ried a his­to­ry as the eiger. Hear­ing the peaks name imme­di­ate­ly con­jurs images of the first ascen­sion­ists on the north face in 1938. Look­ing up at the peaks here it’s hard to believe how far peo­ple were push­ing the lim­its of alpin­ism in Europe from the mid 1800 – 1900’s. From the train tun­nel blast­ed into the Eiger to the mas­sive faces and ridges of the peak, its hard to find some­thing that’s not just plain cool about the place! 

John’s son Eric and I met a day ear­ly to do some cram­pon and rock climb­ing work to get him up to speed before the three of us began climb­ing together. 

The next day we all head­ed up the midi and spent the morn­ing walk­ing across the val­lée blanche to the Tori­no hut. 

After get­ting set­tled into the hut we climbed the aigu­ille mar­brées tra­verse (3540m). It’s a nice rock tra­verse that takes about three hours hut to hut. 

The fol­low­ing day we head­ed to the Aigu­ille de Rochefort (4001 m). This peak has no short­age of clas­sic alpine ter­rain. From rock climb­ing to a long knife edge snow ridge there is rarely a dull moment. 

After the climb we head­ed down the tram into Italy and bussed back thru the Mont Blanc tun­nel to Cha­monix. Mak­ing for about 9.5 hours of mov­ing thru the mountains. 

John and I said good­bye to Eric the next morn­ing and uti­lized a need­ed rest day on the trains to Grindel­wald. We arrived in the after­noon And were greet­ed by the impos­ing north face of the Eiger, which looms almost 10,000’ above town.

The Mit­tel­le­gi ridge has one of the more unique approach­es. One takes a cog rail­way from town to a lit­tle over 10,000’. From here you walk thru anoth­er tun­nel to a small wood­en door.

After open­ing the door you have some down climb­ing to a rap­pel onto the glacier. 

A short con­tour of the glac­i­er gets you to two pitch­es of 5.75.8 rock climb­ing which is where the hard­est indi­vid­ual moves of rock climb­ing fall on the route. After the pitch­es climb­ing about an hour of tra­vers­ing ledge sys­tems gets you to the Mit­tel­le­gi hut. The ridge is so nar­row here that the hut over­hangs on both sides! 

With a good weath­er fore­cast we opt­ed for the lat­er break­fast (4:40), this had us climb­ing at first light. The Mit­tel­le­gi is a stun­ning line as it stays on the ridge crest for the major­i­ty of the route. 

The route will have some steep climb­ing fol­lowed by wild, low­er angle sort of side­walks in the sky. 

The weath­er has been so warm and dry late­ly that we reached the sum­mit with­out putting cram­pons on. 

As with most sharp moun­tains the work is far from over when you reach the top. This is espe­cial­ly true on the eiger as the nor­mal descent is the south ridge. This fea­ture is longer than the Mit­tel­le­gi, but more straight­for­ward to descent. After drop­ping down to 3600 meters you need to climb back up to 3770 meters, where the ridge joins in with the glac­i­er below the Monch. It’s a sting in the tail exit but at least it’s good rock and fun terrain. 

John climbed the route fast enough we caught one of the last trains down from the Jungfrau­joch sta­tion and we made back in grindel­wald that evening. Always crazy to go from a rugged high sum­mit to a civ­i­lized din­ner in town in the same day. 

- by Alan Rousseau