The White Spider (1959; with chapters added in 1964; original title: Die Weisse Spinne) is a book written by Heinrich Harrer that describes the first successful ascent of the Eiger Nordwand (Eiger north face), a mountain in the Berner Oberland of the Swiss Alps with sections devoted to the history of mountaineering in the area.
The White Spider tells the story of the first attempts to ascend the Eiger's north face (called the Mordwand (death wall) as it is similar to Nordwand (north face) and tragedies happened there), beginning with Max Sedlmeyer's and Karl Mehringer's disastrous try in 1935 and continuing to the successful ascent by Kurt Diemberger and Wolfgang Stefan in July 1958.
After his successful summit of the mountain, Heinrich Harrer received many letters from mountain climbers, which he sifted through with climber and author Kurt Maix to become the contents of The White Spider. In particular, Harrer describes the tragedy of the 1936 attempt by Edi Rainer, Willy Angerer, Andreas Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz in which all died. Harrer's own climb, the strenuous climb of Hermann Buhl, Gaston Rébuffat and their seven partners (1952), and the catastrophe of 1957, when the two Italians Stefano Longhi and Claudio Corti joined the Germans Günther Nothdurft and Franz Mayer – which resulted in eight bivouac nights on the wall of the mountain for the Italians and the death of all but Corti. Harrer's account of the tragedy was the subject of considerable controversy and is no longer considered historically accurate.
In the book, Heinrich Harrer describes the media frenzy that ensued after all tragedies because the whole of the mountain's Nordwand can be watched by telescope from nearby Kleine Scheidegg.
The title of the book is derived from a spider-shaped ice field high on the north face of the mountain, towering above the town of Grindelwald. As Harrer describes, and the climbers discovered, the White Spider is the key to a successful ascent of the Nordwand. Although physically exhausted by the time they reach that point, climbers must navigate the steep ice-field to reach the peak's summit. The White Spider acts as a funnel, with rock and ice slides channelled through the ice field, putting the climbers in great danger while on the field.
Hermann Buhl was an Austrian mountaineer and is considered one of the best climbers of all time. He was particularly innovative in applying Alpine style to Himalayan climbing. His accomplishments include:
Heinrich Harrer was an Austrian mountaineer, sportsman, geographer, and author. He was a member of the four-man climbing team that made the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger, the "last problem" of the Alps. He wrote the books Seven Years in Tibet (1952) and The White Spider (1959).
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 nearly 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.
Joe Simpson is an English mountaineer, author, and motivational speaker. While climbing in Peru in 1985, he suffered severe injuries and was thought lost after falling into a crevasse, but he survived and managed to crawl back to his base camp. He described the ordeal in his best-selling 1988 book Touching the Void, which was adapted into a 2003 documentary film of the same name.
Andreas "Anderl" Heckmair was a German mountain climber and guide who led the first successful ascent of the Eiger north face in July 1938.
Toni Kurz was a German mountain climber active in the 1930s. He died during an attempt to climb the Eiger north face with his partner Andreas Hinterstoisser.
Claudio Corti was a mountain climber from Olginate, Italy. He is most famous for his 1957 effort to climb the 1938 route on the north face of the Eiger, during which his party was stranded and a massive rescue operation was organized. Corti was successfully rescued, but his partner, Stefano Longhi, was not.
Fritz Kasparek was an Austrian mountaineer who was on the team that made the first ascent of the Eiger north face.
Andreas Hinterstoisser was a German mountain climber active in the 1930s. He died during an attempt to climb the Eiger north face with his partner Toni Kurz. A section of the north face was later named the "Hinterstoisser Traverse" in his honor. The 2008 film North Face was based on his experience climbing the Eiger.
Karl Mehringer was a German mountaineer and climber. Notable for being part of the first team to attempt to climb the Eiger Nordwand or North Face in 1935. He and Max Sedlmeyer climbed as far as the top of the "Flat Iron" feature where they were overtaken by a storm and died. His body was found in 1962 on the second icefield by a German rope team.
Charles Barrington, an Irishman from Fassaroe, Bray County Wicklow, was a merchant with little or no mountaineering experience who, on 11 August 1858, led the first team to successfully climb the Eiger. Heinrich Harrer, in his book about the Eiger north face – The White Spider (1959) – noted that Barrington would have attempted the first ascent of the Matterhorn instead, but he did not have enough money to travel to Zermatt. With the support of two mountain guides, Christian Almer and Peter Bohren, he reached the summit of the Eiger via the west flank.
Ludwig 'Wiggerl' Vörg was a notable German mountaineer. With Heinrich Harrer, Fritz Kasparek, and Anderl Heckmair, he successfully climbed the north face of the Eiger in 1938, which was regarded as unclimbable at the time. He also made the first ascent of the West Face of Ushba in the Caucasus. Vörg was killed in action on the first day of Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.
North Face is a 2008 German historical fiction film directed by Philipp Stölzl and starring Benno Fürmann, Florian Lukas, Johanna Wokalek, and Ulrich Tukur. Based on the famous 1936 attempt to climb the Eiger north face, the film is about two German climbers involved in a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps.
Maki Yūkō, also known as Maki Aritsune, was a Japanese mountain climber.
The 1936 Eiger north face disaster, which began on 18 July 1936, resulted in the death of five climbers during the 1936 climbing season on the north face of the Eiger.
Willy Angerer was an Austrian mountaineer. He was one of four mountaineers who died in the 1936 Eiger north face climbing disaster, along with Toni Kurz, Andreas Hinterstoisser and Eduard Rainer. At twenty-seven Angerer was the oldest of the four climbers who died.
Eduard Rainer was an Austrian mountaineer. He was one of the four climbers who died in the 1936 Eiger north face climbing disaster, along with Toni Kurz, Andreas Hinterstoisser and Willy Angerer.