09 July 2012

The North Face of the Ogre

It's difficult to explain in a single picture the sheer respect imposed by this wall. You'll have to be there... nearby, at least. Since only a few in the world have the courage to tackle her.
You have to arrive at evening time to the town of Grindelwald, located in the valley beneath. And have a frightening first vision of the monster. A Swiss mountain guide to whom I've talked one day after my arrival told me that the mountain already lost most of her sinister fame. That, thanks to the efforts of the Swiss mountain rescue, nobody dies there for more than twenty years.
However it's hardly forgettable that more than sixty persons lost their lives in the "Wall of Death", since she was first climbed, in a four-days battle, by an Austrian and German team, in 1938.
Together with the Walker Spur, in the Grands Jorasses, and the North face of the Matterhorn, also in Switzerland, she belonged to an elite team of three called "the last great problems of the Alps". And she was the last to be vanquished.
There are higher mountains in the Alps. However, due to the combined forces of stormy weather, sheer verticality and objective dangers, the Eiger North Face is unique. A massive vertical monolith almost two kilometres high (1800 metres to be exact) rises above the Kleine Scheidegg grassy plateau, the typical point of view for the tourists. But the most dramatic vista is achieved while you are travelling on the mountain train that connects the town below to the hotels on the Kleinne Scheidegg.
The rack railway passes right beneath the wall, showing us the most dramatic mountain landscape in Europe. I was thinking to myself "how can it be possible to climb this?". And I, surely, wasn't the only one.
With my limited mountaineering knowledge I can assure you, however, that there are many eight thousand meter peaks "modern conquerors" that simply don't have what it takes to face this mountain. Because, before conquering her, they have first to vanquish their fear.
Because that's all that she is. Fear.
Self-portrait and the North Face of The Eiger, as seen from the Kleine Scheidegg grassy plateau, taken during my solo-Interrail through Europe. Winter of 1998.
Picture taken with beaten second-hand Pentax MX and cheap Cosina 50mm f/2, both bought for the voyage.
The camera was bought in an antique shop in Restauradores, Lisboa, and received a slight overhaul, prior to the voyage, in the professional and capable hands of the camera mechanics at Fresnel, a Lisbon-based repair shop.
Shot on Kodak Ektachrome 100VS Professional film and scanned on Nikon Coolscan V ED.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.