Toni Kurz

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Toni Kurz
Toni Kurz 1936.jpg
Toni Kurz, 1936
Personal information
NationalityGerman
Born(1913-01-13)13 January 1913
Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany
Died22 July 1936(1936-07-22) (aged 23)
Eiger
Climbing career
Known forEiger north face

Toni Kurz (13 January 1913 – 22 July 1936) 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.

Contents

Biography

Toni Kurz was born on 13 January 1913 in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany, where he was raised. He completed a brief apprenticeship as a pipefitter before joining the German Wehrmacht in 1934 as a professional soldier. Together with his childhood friend Andreas Hinterstoisser, he made numerous first ascents of peaks in the Berchtesgaden Alps, including some of the most difficult climbs of that time. The two young men climbed the southwest wall of the Berchtesgadener Hochthron in 1934, and the south wall of the straight pillar in 1936. They also made first ascents in the Reiter Alpe on the German–Austrian border, and of the direct southern route up the Watzmannkinder in the Watzmann in 1935. [1]

In July 1936, Kurz and Hinterstoisser left Berchtesgaden, where they were serving in the military, and travelled by bicycle to Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland to attempt to climb the Eiger north face. While on the mountain, they met up with two Austrian climbers—Edi Rainer and Willy Angerer—and the four decided to continue their attempt together. [2]

During the ascent, Angerer was injured by falling rocks loosened by the warmth of the rising sun as they crossed the first ice field. As a result of Angerer's worsening condition and their slow progress across the second ice field, they abandoned the attempt on the Eiger and decided to descend. A further challenge arose when Kurz and his comrades failed to retrace their route across the area now known as the Hinterstoisser Traverse and had to climb downwards. As the result of another avalanche, Hinterstoisser himself became disconnected, plummeted down the mountain, and perished. Later, Willy Angerer, now climbing below Kurz, was smashed against the wall, dying instantly. Edi Rainer, the climber who had been securing the other two, was pulled against the wall and died minutes later of asphyxiation. Kurz, alone now, remained uninjured. [3]

Later that day, amid worsening weather, a rescue team attempted to reach Kurz from below, ascending by means of the railway tunnel that ran through the mountain, the Jungfraubahn. They could not reach Kurz due to the severity of the storm and were forced to leave him dangling unprotected and exposed to the elements for the entire night. The next day, the team again attempted to effect a rescue; Kurz himself made the effort, despite a frozen hand due to losing a glove, to abseil down the face of the mountain and reach the team. To accomplish this, he first had to cut loose the dead body of his comrade hanging below him, then climb up and cut loose his other dead comrade. To increase the length of his rope, he unravelled it and tied it together again. This entire process took five gruelling hours. He then lowered the rope to the waiting rescuers, who attached their own rope. [3]

Kurz' grave in Berchtesgaden, Germany Toni Kurz Grave.jpg
Kurz' grave in Berchtesgaden, Germany

The mountain guides only had one long rope – 60 metres – with them. Hans Schlunegger just put it between his back and his rucksack (not into his rucksack) to save some time. This was not an unusual practice for them. Unfortunately when he made a sudden movement the rope dropped and fell down to the foot of the wall. As a result the team combined two shorter ropes to reach the required length; however the combined ropes still fell short. Kurz pulled up their rope, fixed it, and began his abseiling descent. He was stopped a mere couple of metres above his rescuers by the knot. To abseil any further he would have had to raise himself enough to release the tension on the knot and let it pass through his gear. Desperately, Kurz tried to move himself past the knot, but in vain. [3] Facing the futility of his situation, he said only "Ich kann nicht mehr" ("I can't [go on] anymore") and died. [4] His body was later recovered by a German team.

Legacy

The tragic story became well known after publication of Heinrich Harrer's classic 1960 book The White Spider and was more recently covered by Joe Simpson's book (and Emmy-winning TV documentary), The Beckoning Silence , as well as the 2008 German dramatic movie North Face . [3]

Related Research Articles

Heinrich Harrer

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).

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 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.

Abseiling Rope-controlled descent of a vertical surface

Abseiling, also known as rappelling from French rappeler, 'to recall' or 'to pull through'), is a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope.

Joe Simpson (mountaineer)

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<i>The White Spider</i>

The White Spider is a book written by Heinrich Harrer that describes the first successful ascent of the Eiger Nordwand, a mountain in the Berner Oberland of the Swiss Alps with sections devoted to the history of mountaineering in the area.

Jean-Christophe Lafaille

Jean-Christophe Lafaille was a French mountaineer noted for a number of difficult ascents in the Alps and Himalaya, and for what has been described as "perhaps the finest self-rescue ever performed in the Himalaya", when he was forced to descend the mile-high south face of Annapurna alone with a broken arm, after his climbing partner had been killed in a fall. He climbed eleven of the fourteen eight-thousand-metre peaks, many of them alone or by previously unclimbed routes, but disappeared during a solo attempt to make the first winter ascent of Makalu, the world's fifth highest mountain.

Lionel Terray

Lionel Terray was a French climber who made many first ascents, including Makalu in the Himalaya and Cerro Fitz Roy in the Patagonian Andes.

<i>The Eiger Sanction</i> (film) 1975 film by Clint Eastwood

The Eiger Sanction is a 1975 American action thriller film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Trevanian, the film is about an art history professor, mountain climber and former assassin once employed by a secret United States government agency who is blackmailed into returning to his deadly profession and do one more "sanction," a euphemism for killing. He agrees to join an international climbing team in Switzerland planning an ascent of the Eiger north face in order to complete a second sanction to avenge the murder of an old friend. The film was produced by Robert Daley for Eastwood's Malpaso Company, with Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown as executive producers, and co-starred George Kennedy, Vonetta McGee and Jack Cassidy.

Andreas "Anderl" Heckmair was a German mountain climber and guide who led the first successful ascent of the Eiger north face in July 1938.

Thomas Huber

Thomas Huber is a German climber and mountaineer. He lives in Berchtesgaden with his family. His brother and climbing partner is Alexander Huber and the two are called "Huberbuam" (Huberboys) in Bavarian dialect. They were the subject of the 2007 film To the Limit.

Fritz Kasparek was an Austrian mountaineer who was on the team that made the first ascent of the Eiger north face.

Andreas Hinterstoisser

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.

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.

<i>North Face</i> (film)

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.

1936 Eiger north face climbing disaster

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

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

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.

References

Citations

  1. Auffermann 2010, p. 91.
  2. Harrer 1998, pp. 31–32.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Cooper, Kate (May 2008). "The Eiger Nordwand Revealed: Rainer Rettner Interview". UK Climbing. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  4. Gilbert, Dave (3 September 2001). "Eiger's grim reputation". BBC News . Retrieved 28 October 2019.

Sources