John Harlin

Last updated
John Harlin II, Tom Frost, Gary Hemming, and Stewart Fulton at the L'Envers des Aiguille Hut in 1963. 1963 aiguille du fou.jpg
John Harlin II, Tom Frost, Gary Hemming, and Stewart Fulton at the L’Envers des Aiguille Hut in 1963.

John Elvis Harlin II (June 30, 1935 – March 22, 1966) was an American mountaineer and US Air Force pilot who was killed while making an ascent of the north face of the Eiger.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Eiger Mountain in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland

The Eiger is a 3,967-metre (13,015 ft) mountain of the Bernese Alps, overlooking Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland, just north of the main watershed and border with Valais. It is the easternmost peak of a ridge crest that extends across the Mönch to the Jungfrau at 4,158 m (13,642 ft), constituting one of the most emblematic sights of the Swiss Alps. While the northern side of the mountain rises more than 3,000 m (10,000 ft) above the two valleys of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, the southern side faces the large glaciers of the Jungfrau-Aletsch area, the most glaciated region in the Alps. The most notable feature of the Eiger is its 1,800-metre-high (5,900 ft) north face of rock and ice, named Eiger-Nordwand, Eigerwand or just Nordwand, which is the biggest north face in the Alps. This huge face towers over the resort of Kleine Scheidegg at its base, on the homonymous pass connecting the two valleys.



Harlin graduated from Sequoia High School and Stanford University.[ citation needed ]

Sequoia High School (Redwood City, California) School in Redwood City, California, USA

Sequoia High School was established in 1895 and is a high school in downtown Redwood City, California, United States. Today, it is one of the few schools to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme within the San Francisco Bay Area.

Stanford University Private research university in Stanford, California

Leland Stanford Junior University is a private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford is known for its academic achievements, wealth, close proximity to Silicon Valley, and selectivity; it ranks as one of the world's top universities.

Having established himself as a top-rank mountaineer with the first American ascent of the Eiger North Face's Original Route in 1962 and the American Direct on the Dru, he conceived of climbing the Eiger by the direttissima (Italian for "most direct") route. Two thousand feet from the summit his rope broke and he fell to his death. The Scottish mountaineer Dougal Haston, who had been climbing with Harlin, reached the summit with a German party which joined forces to follow the same route, afterwards named the "Harlin route" in his honor. The story of the climb was recounted in the book Direttissima: The Eiger Assault by British author (and ground team member) Peter Gillman and Dougal Haston. In 1965 Harlin had founded the "International School of Modern Mountaineering" in Leysin, Switzerland (the word "Modern" was later dropped from the title.) Harlin had previously worked as sports director at the Leysin American School.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Scotland Country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Dougal Haston British mountain climber (1940 to 1977)

Dougal Haston, was a Scottish mountaineer famed for his exploits in the British Isles, Alps, and Himalayas. Later focusing on guiding and instruction, he became director of the International School of Mountaineering at Leysin, Switzerland, in 1967, a role which he held till his death in an avalanche while skiing above Leysin ten years later.

Harlin's son, John Harlin III, who was nine at the time of his father's death, is also a mountaineer and was the editor-in-chief of the American Alpine Club's American Alpine Journal. Harlin III, himself an accomplished climber and author of five books, recently climbed the Eiger by the "original" route. He has written a book about his experience entitled The Eiger Obsession. A film of the son's climb to exorcise the ghosts left by his father's death came out in May 2007: The Alps by Steve Judson and his Academy Award-nominated film team, is an Imax movie containing footage of the north face of the Eiger as well as other Alpine peaks. Harlin III returned to the Leysin American School where his father was sports director, as the director of the Alpine Institute. [1]

The American Alpine Club (AAC) is a non-profit member organization whose goal is "a united community of competent climbers and healthy climbing landscapes." The Club is housed in the American Mountaineering Center (AMC) in Golden, Colorado.

<i>The Alps</i> (film) 2007 American documentary film

The Alps is a 2007 American documentary film about the climbing of the north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps by John Harlin III, son of John Harlin who died on the same ascent 40 years earlier. It was shot in 70mm IMAX.

First ascents

Royal Robbins American rock climber

Royal Robbins was one of the pioneers of American rock climbing. After learning to climb at Tahquitz he went on to make first ascents of many big wall routes in Yosemite. As an early proponent of boltless, pitonless clean climbing, he, along with Yvon Chouinard, was instrumental in changing the climbing culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s by encouraging the use and preservation of the natural features of the rock. He went on to become a well-known kayaker.


Related Research Articles

Reinhold Messner Italian mountaineer, adventurer and explorer

Reinhold Andreas Messner is a German-speaking Italian mountaineer, explorer, and author. In 1978, he made the first solo ascent of Mount Everest, the first ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen, along with Peter Habeler, and was the first climber to ascend all fourteen peaks over 8,000 metres (26,000 ft) above sea level. He was also the first person to cross Antarctica and Greenland with neither snowmobiles nor dog sleds. Furthermore, he crossed the Gobi Desert alone. Messner also published more than 80 books about his experiences as a climber and explorer. In 2018 he received jointly with Krzysztof Wielicki the Princess of Asturias Award in the category of Sports.

Chris Bonington British mountaineer

Sir Christian John Storey Bonington, CVO, CBE, DL is a British mountaineer.

Peter Boardman was a British mountaineer and author. He is best known for a series of bold and lightweight expeditions to the Himalayas, often in partnership with Joe Tasker, and for his contribution to mountain literature. Boardman and Tasker died on the North East Ridge of Mount Everest in 1982. The Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature was established in their memory.

Gaston Rébuffat French mountaineer

Gaston Rébuffat was a French alpinist, mountain guide, and author. He is well known as a member of the first expedition to summit Annapurna 1 in 1950 and the first man to climb all six of the great north faces of the Alps. In 1984, he was made an officer in the French Legion of Honour for his service as a mountaineering instructor for the French military. At the age of 64, Gaston Rébuffat died of cancer in Paris, France. The climbing technique Gaston was named after him. A photo of Rébuffat atop the Aiguille du Roc in the French Alps can be found on the Voyager Golden Records.

Don Whillans English mountain climber

Donald Desbrow "Don" Whillans was an English rock climber and mountaineer. He climbed with Joe Brown and Chris Bonington on many new routes, and was considered the technical equal of both.

Great north faces of the Alps

In mountaineering, the six great north faces of the Alps are known for their difficulty and great height. A face is "a vertical or sloping side of a mountain or cliff."

Gary Hemming American mountain climber

Gary Hemming was a noted American mountaineer. Together with Royal Robbins he made the first ascent of the American Direct route on the Aiguille du Dru in Chamonix in 1962, and was widely known in France for his role as a rescuer of a party on the same mountain in 1966, earning him the moniker "le Beatnik".

Wojciech Kurtyka is a Polish mountaineer and rock climber, one of the pioneers of the alpine style of climbing the biggest walls in the Greater Ranges. He lived in Wrocław up to 1974 when he moved to Kraków. He graduated as engineer in electronics. In 1985 he conquered the "Shining Wall" Gasherbrum IV, which Climbing magazine declared to be the greatest achievement of mountaineering in the twentieth century. In 2016, he received the Piolet d'Or for lifetime achievement in mountaineering.

Aiguille du Dru mountain

The Aiguille du Dru is a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif in the French Alps. It is situated to the east of the village of Les Praz in the Chamonix valley. "Aiguille" means "needle" in French.

Robin Smith was a Scottish climber of the 1950s and early 1960s. He died together with Wilfrid Noyce in 1962 on a snow slope in the Pamirs, during an Anglo-Soviet expedition, at the age of 23.

Andy Cave is a British mountaineer. He was nominated for the Piolet d'Or for his ascent of the North Face of Changabang.

Mark Wilford is an American rock climber and alpinist known for his bold, traditional style.

Stewart Fulton British mountain climber

Stewart Fulton was a mountaineer from Scotland who climbed in the heyday of the "wild ones" in the sixties. This group was credited with putting up many new routes in the Alps during that time, most significantly the first ascent of the south face of the Aiguille Du Fou a smooth wall of sheer rock long deemed to be unclimbable.

Jean-Marc Boivin French multiple extreme sports participant

Jean-Marc Boivin was a French mountaineer, extreme skier, hang glider and paraglider pilot, speleologist, BASE jumper, award-winning film maker, and author. The holder of several altitude records for hang gliding and paragliding, the creator of numerous first ascents and first ski descents in the Alps, a member of the team that broke the record for a sub-glacial dive and the first person to paraglide from the summit of Mount Everest, Boivin was a pioneer of extreme sports. He died from injuries incurred after BASE jumping off Angel Falls in Venezuela, the highest waterfall in the world.

Peter Gillman is a British writer and journalist specializing in mountaineering topics. His book, Direttissima; the Eiger Assault (1967), also published under the title Direttissima, co-authored with Dougal Haston, told the story of the ascent of the Eiger North Face in which John Harlin II lost his life.

A direttissima is a climbing term meaning a direct climb to the summit of a mountain up the fall line from the valley base to the top. Whilst the normal route aims to find the way with the least difficulty, the climber attempting a direttissima faces the challenge of ascending the mountain in a more "direct" way.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-09-21. Retrieved 2016-07-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. Harlin, John (1966). "Petit Dru, West Face Direttissima" (PDF). American Alpine Journal. New York City, New York, USA: The American Alpine Club. 1966: 81–89. ISSN   0065-6925. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 19, 2008.