The Eiger

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View of the East (Mittellegi) Ridge of the Eiger from the Hornli Hut

After a long day of traveling, I somehow navigated myself and my hundred plus pounds of luggage to the small village of Interlaken in the Bernase Alps in Switzerland. As I was getting out of my cab, who do I run into but Jonathon.  This was not unplanned but it was ironic to have shown up from different destinations at the same time.  I was so psyched to see him after four long weeks apart!

The next day we woke and met up with our friend Lee and then proceeded to get on a series of different trains to take us to the start of the Mittellegi Route.

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Eventually we rode through a tunnel that goes through the Eiger and exited the train and proceeded to walk through another tunnel.

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After walking downhill for a ways while using our cell phones to see, we exited onto a small platform that lead to a glacier.  The infrastructure within the mountains in Western Europe is truly impressive!  We proceeded to get our crampons and harnesses on and roped up for a walk across the glacier.

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Jonathon checking out the view of the Swiss Alps after exiting the tunnel
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Hiking up the glacier. The tunnel we just exited comes out of the rock buttress to the right.

After a short glacier walk, Lee led us up the actual crux of the route.  We then traveresed and scrambled across loose limestone ledges that eventually brought us to the Hornli Hut.

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Lee leading up the 5.7/5.8 slab crux with big bolts for pro.
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First belay station with all of our new friends.
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Jonathon really wanted to work on his short-roping and I obliged.
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View of the Hornli Hut
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View of the Mittellegi Ridge

The next morning, we woke early and began our climb around 4 am.  I had actually been awake most of the night  since I was still jet-lagged from all the travel the previous day.  In true European style, we began the climb with about 40 of our new friends.  Even though the mountains are big, with their incredible access they are accessible to anyone who can fork over the funds to climb them.  Side note, it is incredibly expensive to climb the Eiger due to the costs of the trains and it is unfortunate that this weeds out a fair bit of the climbing population.  The only reason we were able to climb it was related to Jonathon’s work.

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Checking out the lower portion of the route with a beautiful sunrise in the background

Essentially, we traversed a huge ridge to the summit. It was a mix of easy scrambling, some low 5th class climbing, exposed walking, a little snow climbing, a couple rappels and hand-over-hand climbing up steeper rock with huge fixed ropes.  Its pretty impressive that this route was climbed in 1921 considering that their gear at the time would likely feel inadequate for the average modern climber.  It was an absolutely stunning day with warm temperatures and little wind.  The views from the exposed ridge line were inspring and the amount of big mountains in this little country are impressive.

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Exposed ridge walking in the early morning light
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Utilizing the big fixed ropes on the upper portions of the Eiger
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Jonathon negotiating the large fixed ropes on the upper portion of the Eiger. Notice the large iron peg in the lower left corner.
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Looking back at other climbers on the ridge.
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The final part of the climb involves walking along some exposed snow slopes that lead you to the summit.

We made it to the summit in good time and without any major events.  The clouds had engulfed us but we were still stoked to ascend such an iconic peak.

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Obligatory summit shot!

In climbing, we often say the ascent is only half the battle and this statement really rang true on this peak.  The descent off the Eiger literally involved climbing another mountain in addition to much more ridge traversing and some rappelling.  Eventually we ended up on the glacier that would take us to the Jungfrau train.  Our arrival to the Jungfrau train station was a rather overwhelming experience given that it is almost like Switzerland’s version of Disney World on the side of the mountain complete with a zip line, tubing parks, museums and an excessive amount of tourists.  It was quite the contrast to go from this beautiful mountain to a very busy tourist attraction.  On the plus side, it is nice that everyone gets to experience these mountains.

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Checking out our descent route which traversed the ridge until the saddle below the big snowy peak.
Lee traversing out on the descent.
Lee traversing out on the descent.
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Finishing up the descent traverse and heading back onto the glacier below Monch Peak

All told, it was a great albeit tiring way to start off my two month trip. More importantly, it was special to share this experience with Jonathon as the Eiger has been on his tick list for seveal years now.  Even better was the fact that I literally just showed up and the boys had figured out all the logistics concerning climbing the peak. After doing so much planning over the last year for my trip to India it was super nice to not have to think about logistics and whatnot.  Thanks guys!

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