First things first, this book is not what its title claims it to be. Its not about the Eiger alone. It comprises of historic as well as tragic stories of climbing from all across the world.
From the Alps to the Andes, from the Himalaya to the amazing boulder zone of Colorado Rockies.
And because this book is not about the Eiger, that’s probably one of the reasons, it took me almost three months to complete the book. The very first chapter is about the Eiger, while the remaining 11 chapters talk about different mountains from across the world.
The North Face of the Eiger (13024 feet) was the supreme Alpine problem and the last one too, during the early 1900s. Team Heinrich Harrer solved this problem in the year 1938. Eight people had already died when they started their expedition. And countless had failed previously.
That’s a compelling reason to pick any book which has the word Eiger in its title. The first chapter deals with the harrowing stories that come alive with the mere mention of the word Nordwand.
It also highlights the stories of human passion and grit that are associated with this mountain since 1858.
Subsequently, we talk about the Rockies of Colorado, Chamonix adventures, the prominence of Mt McKinley, and much more. Its not before the ninth chapter that we come to the Himalaya.
A Mountain Higher than Everest?
Chomolungma, Goddess Mother of the World, or Mt Everest as we popularly call it was accepted by the ‘Western World‘ as the Highest Mountain in 1865. However, a theory propagated in 1987 claimed that the highest mountain was not Mt. Everest but K2.
Then we dive deep into a long technical discussion that opens up the world of surveying, trigonometry, and measuring these insurmountable altitudes. If you are a Civil Engineer like me, I’m sure you’ll find this chapter pretty interesting, and even if you are not, you will at-least understand why measuring mountains is important.
A Bad Summer on K2
Chapter 11. A Bad Summer on K2. The Ultimate 8000er Challenge till date. The chapter takes us back to the summer of 1986. Thirteen people died during the 1986 K2 disaster. And that’s what the author tries to explain. Why people died? Why people chose to be on top of that dreadful mountain? What were they trying to achieve?
And that’s what people always ask. Why do you climb?
Jim Curran, who survived the summer of 1986, tries to answer this question in the book.
People got killed climbing with fixed ropes and without fixed ropes; people got killed at the top of the mountain and the bottom; old people got killed and young people got killed. If anything was common to most of the deaths it was that a lot of people were very ambitious and had a lot to gain by climbing.
Jon Krakauer, the bestselling author of Into Thin Air fame tried climbing the North Face of the Eiger but he couldn’t succeed. Through Eiger Dreams, he gives us unerring portraits of challenges that mountaineering legends faced atop the highest playgrounds of the world.
Also, how people, despite all odds, won against those challenges.