Germany’s ascent of the Eiger North Face

The fearsome north wall of the Eiger which rears above the Swiss resort of Grindelwald has one of the most daunting reputations in the climbing world and many a drama has been played out on its face.

The first to get really high on the face were German mountaineers Max Sedlmayer and Karl Mehringer who in 1935 were halted by bad weather. Their bodies were spotted weeks later. The following year saw one of the most traumatic episodes in the Eiger’s history.

Four young Austrian and German climbers – Andreas Hinterstoisser, Edi Ranier, Willy Angerer and Toni Kurz – made a renewed attempt on the north wall in 1936. Hinterstoisser opened up a route to the summit with a brilliant traverse but it could not be reversed without a rope in place.

After being caught up in a huge storm they were unable to retreat the way they had come and all four were killed. Toni Kurz perished hanging from his abseil rope only feet from a rescue team.  The would-be rescuers tried to reach the stricken climber from a window which emerges onto the face from the railway tunnel running right through the mountain. But a knot prevented him sliding any further towards the outstretched arms and his own fingers were so badly frozen he could not free himself. The rescuers had to withdraw for the night despite the stricken climber’s pleas not to be left alone.

When they returned the next morning he was much weaker and with the words “Ich kann nicht mehr” (I cannot go on) he died almost within reach of safety.

After more failed and fatal attempts to climb the mountain by its most difficult face, a group composed of Austrians and Germans finally managed to put up a route.

Two Germans, Anderl Heckmair and Ludwig (Wiggerl) Vorg, and the Austrians Fritz Kasparek and Heinrich Harrer, joined forces in 1938 to make the first ascent. The dramatic tale was recounted in Harrer’s book The White Spider which is named after the distinctive ice field near the summit and has become a mountaineering classic.

The climbers were paraded by Adolf Hitler in a propaganda exercise. Harrer later spoke of his discomfort about the chapter and Vorg was killed on the Russian front only a few years later.

The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm were German academics who were best known for publishing collections of fairy tales and for their work in linguistics, relating to how the sounds in words shift over time.

They are among the best known story tellers of stories from Europe, allowing the widespread knowledge of such tales as Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel.

The stories collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 1800s serve up life as generations of central Europeans knew it—capricious and often cruel. The two brothers, patriots determined to preserve Germanan folktales, were only accidental entertainers.

Once they saw how the tales bewitched young readers, the Grimms, and editors aplenty after them, started “fixing” things. Tales gradually got softer, sweeter, and primly moral. Yet all the polishing never rubbed away the solid heart of the stories, now read and loved in more than 160 languages.

Eltz Castle

Sat high above the Mosel, Eltz castle is one of the most beautiful in Germany.  Built between the 12th and 16th centuaries it has survived throught to the present day with very few alterations.

The sheer scale and majesty of this place is what takes your breath away.  Sat within it’s wooded landscape this is a castle that would fit nicely into any fairy tale or Disney movie.

The castle itself is as far as I know still in the hands of the same family who have been it’s custodians for the last 800 years, representing some 33 generations of the house of ‘Eltz’.

The current owner of the castle, Dr. Karl Graf von und zu Eltz, known as Faust von Stromberg , lives in Eltville/Rhine. The family has had its main German residence there since the beginning of the 19th century.

A truly amazing place and well worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in the Mosel valley.

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