The Eiger, the Ogre of the Alps
The Eiger, a sharp, knife-like peak of the Bernese Alps is guaranteed to take your breath away, whether you’re an experienced mountaineer ready to commit to the challenge of climbing it or a simple tourist who wants to take the unique railway route in the very rocky heart of the mountain and marvel at the alpine landscape through one of the “windows” carved into its face.
The Eiger is part of the so-called Jungfrau trilogy but it is not the tallest peak in the group. It rises up to 3970 m, behind Jungfrau(4158 m) and Monch (4107 m). The Eiger is part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch protected area, a UNESCO world heritage site. A true landmark of the Swiss Alps, the Eiger rises above the mountain resort of Kleine Scheidegg, situated exactly at its base, in the canton of Bern.
There are three faces of the mountain: the north- west face, the west face and south-east face. The eastern ridge is called Mittellegi ridge, and is also the longest and the most famous.
To get to the Eiger you can either drive from the Geneva Airport, train or bus station to Kleine Scheidegg. There is also the possibility of taking a train from Geneva to Kleine Scheidegg. Once you arrive to Kleine Scheidegg you can take a car to the Mittellegi ridge. All the routes on the Eiger can be reached via railway from Interlaken, and you have the option of going either through Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald.
If you don’t want to climb up the extremely challenging peak, there are two railway stations (Eismeer, behind the south face and Eigerwand, behind the north face) situated at about 3000 m, inside the very mountain, and there are viewing windows carved into the rock, which offer a breathtaking view over the alpine valley dominated by glaciers.
The railway stations are part of the Jungfrau railway line, which starts in Kleine Scheidegg. The railway goes further than Eiger, reaching both Mönch and the summit of Jungfrau. The one at Jungfrau is the railway station located at the highest altitude in Europe.
Near the Eiger
The area as a whole offers you a lot more than just climbing. You can take one of the many tours, day trips and excursions available to tourists courtesy of the local companies. In wintertime, the Grundelwald Ski Area offers you the opportunity to ski in the shadow of the mighty, impenetrable peak of Eiger. The Jungfrau region as a whole, is your perfect postcard-like alpine holiday destination, with the beautiful and picturesque green landscape dotted by massive glaciers and rustic Swiss huts.
Climbing the Eiger
The easiest climbing route is the one from the west face and west ridge, although one must keep into account that when it comes to Eiger, “easy” does not mean a non-demanding afternoon trek. This route is also the one you should use for your descent as, again, it is the easiest one.
The second easiest one would be the route tackling the south ridge and the Mittellegi ridge is also a less dangerous one.
Extreme caution is advised for climbing the north face, it is regarded as a challenge reserved only to the best prepared climbers, because it is not only exceedingly difficult, it is also very dangerous. There were many failed attempts to climbing it and over sixty resulted in fatalities.
The Normal Route
The Eiger has three access routes. The North Face is the most dangerous and advanced route while the South Ridge and Mittellegi Ridge are the moderate ones. The Mittellegi route being the famous one, you will need to have good visibility as you approach it to avoid going off-route. Accessing this glacier shouldn’t be difficult if there is good snow cover.
For starters, you should equip yourself with technical clothing and remember to carry some personal items like a torch and crampons.
You will have to first get to Chamonix which is the world’s most famous Alpine Centers. The best way to reach Chamonix is to catch a flight to Geneva. You will then acclimatize at the Chamonix Valley.
You will start the ascent of The Eiger with a drive to Grindlewald or use the train that runs through the Jungfraujoch railway. You can transfer to Mountain railway at the Kleine Scheidegg and opt to get off at ‘Eismeer. You will then get to Mittellegi Hut which is quite essential for your rest.
After a rest, you will take a climb to Mittellegi Ridge. From here you can pause to take in the beautiful scenery that will engulf you. When you have conquered this task, you will then descend to the South Ridge. After which you will advance to the Monchsjoch Hut. This climb with roughly take 10 hours. You can then rest for celebration and reflection.
Based on a true story, about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps. In 1936, Nazi propaganda urges German Alpinists to conquer the unclimbed north face of the Swiss massif, the Eiger, bringing two reluctant climbers, Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser, to begin their daring ascent and attempt to scale the infamous rock face, often called the Murder Wall. All goes well at first as both rope teams make good headway but then the climbers lose their advantage over the mountain and the race against time and the forces of nature begins.
Accommodations around the Mount Eiger
If you want to stay in a hotel you have the options of Hotel Bellevue and Bahnhof Restaurant in Kleine Scheidegg. Another beautiful hotel in the area is Eiger Guesthouse Hotel. For accommodation in Alpiglen you will find rooms at Berghaus Alpiglen. Swiss hotels can be quite expensive so, if you are travelling on a budget you should consider camping or staying in a hut.
There are options both for staying in a hut/cabin and for independent camping. If you are considering independent camping it is recommended to do so in a sheltered area such as the bowl below the West Flank or on the glacier, in an area where you would be protected in case of deteriorating weather conditions.
On the mountain there are several huts where you can find available rooms: on the south ridge there is Mönchsjoch Hut (the highest occupied hut in Switzerland), on Mittellegi Ridge you will find Mittellegi Hut and Ostegg Hut. The huts offer spectacular views of the area and they also have a food and beverages menu so you will be able to drink your morning coffee admiring the majestic alpine glaciers. Keep in mind that huts offer a limited amount of sleeping beds and they are often booked months in advance. You should always make sure to check for available spots and to make your reservations in time, if you are looking for fine hotel, these are worth checking out:
Hotel Spinne, located in the heart of the glacier village of Grindelwald at the foot of the Eiger North Wall. The Spinne is an ice field in the North Wall which, because of its permanent snow formation, resembles a spider.
Sunstar Alpine Hotel Wengen, located in the center of the car-free Wengen, directly opposite the Männlichen Railway, which transports you to 2224 m in just 8 minutes for a greenness-free mountain experience in the middle of the breathtaking mountain scenery of Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau.
Central Hotel Wolter, located in the centre of the chalet village of Grindelwald – surrounded by the glorious glacier and Alpine world of the Jungfrau Region.The 39 rooms and 10 apartments in the Chalet Central (directly behind the hotel) have all been furnished in attractive Alpine design. Most rooms have their own balcony with views of the surrounding snow-capped summits.Jungfraujoch: Top of Europe
The Mönchsjoch hut is one of the highest mountain huts owned by the Swiss Alpine club. It is located at an elevation of 3658 meters, and is often used for ascents of Jungfrau and Mönch. However, despite the altitude, the mountain hut is easily reachable due to the Jungfrau railway. From the highest station, a secured piste over the crevassed glacier makes it possible for hikers to reach. From the hut, one can view the Aletsch glacier, the largest in the Alps.
Experience the breathtaking views of the north side green pastoral landscapes with the village Grindelwald far below, and to the south side massive glaciers and mountains. The Mittellegi hut is located at the edge sharp Mittellegigrat below the summit of the Eiger, the well-known Bernese Oberland mountain.
The Ostegg Hut situated on a lush shoulder at the north-east rigde of the Eiger is also owned by the Mountain Guides Association of Grindelwald. It can accommodate up to 12 people.The hut is not attended and for reservation you need to process a request. It is the starting point for the ascent of the Eiger by the north-east rigde.
Make sure you always check the weather forecast, alpine weather can be tricky and climbing conditions can deteriorate quickly. Also, if you plan on doing technical climbing, bear in mind that rockfall and ice fall are not uncommon on Eiger. If you plan on tackling the difficult North Face, rockfall and ice fall are less common in winter, so, provided that the weather is stable, winter conditions are more recommended. If you plan on climbing on the other routes, these are less recommend in winter, because they can be the icy slopes can be very tricky and dangerous. The “normal’ season for climbing Eiger usually stretches from mid-July to the end of August, but weather fluctuations are a major contributing factor.
Once again, keep in mind that Eiger is a mountain that should only be climbed by experienced climbers with a good level of health and fitness. A day of climbing can take up to 9-12 hours and a lot of technical, ice and mixed climbing are involved. You should always be equipped with an ice axe and crampons. There is a risk of dehydration and the climbing steeps are extremely expose so you could experience altitude sickness. Beginners are strongly advised to avoid Eiger, there is a serious chance of a fatality if you climb this mountain unprepared.
At the end of the day, for the experienced climbers, Eiger is a challenge worth taking and for those who are on the beginners’ spectrum of mountaineering, the Jungfrau region is an alpine fairyland whose valleys are worth a trek.