My Life

Eiger North Face, Grandes Jorasses and Other Adventures

Author: Anderl Heckmair Tim Carruthers Reinhold Messner

Series title:

Hardback publication date: 04 Jul 2002

Hardback ISBN: 9781898573555

In 1938 Anderl Heckmair made the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger, a monumental climb that cemented his place in history. In My Life he tells the story of how he turned from a fragile child wrapped 'quite literally, in cotton bindings,' into one of the most important mountaineers in the world.

In 1938 Anderl Heckmair made the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger, a monumental climb that cemented his place in history. In My Life he tells the story of how he turned from a fragile child wrapped 'quite literally, in cotton bindings,' into one of the most important mountaineers in the world. Leaving school in 1920, Heckmair dedicated himself to climbing, becoming a full-time 'mountain vagabond'. Penniless, he lived in Alpine huts and cycled from climb to climb, even riding from Germany to the High Atlas mountains of Morocco. He rapidly developed as a mountaineer, making an ascent of the Walker Spur in awful weather, and a solo ascent of the Matterhorn in walking shoes, a feat that nobody believed. But his crowning achievement, climbed in full media glare, would always be his Eiger ascent. Events did not always run smoothly - arrested after a quarrel with a farmer, he escaped through a window ('never imprison mountain climbers in towers'). When arrested again, his ice axes mistaken for deadly weapons while he slept on a park bench, Heckmair chose to stay put, preferring the cell bunk to his bench. At times, the book ventures into darker territory. As one of the great German climbers of the 1930s, Heckmair inevitably attracted the attention of the Nazi party, he found his Eiger triumph twisted to suit their ends, and he himself seated next to Hitler at a party. At its heart this climbing tale is a celebration of adventure. Told in joyful, engaging and relaxed style, it is as full of life and passion for the mountains as Anderl Heckmair himself.

In 1938 Anderl Heckmair made the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger, a climb marked him as one of the greatest Alpine climbers of all time. Climbing with Ludwig Vörg and teaming up with Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek mid-climb, Heckmair led the group to the top. It was one of the most important ascents ever made. Leaving school in 1920, Heckmair dedicated himself to climbing, becoming a full-time ‘mountain vagabond’. Penniless, he lived in Alpine huts and cycled from climb to climb, even riding from the Alps to climb in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco. He rapidly developed as a mountaineer, making an ascent of the Walker Spur in awful weather, and a solo ascent of the Matterhorn in walking shoes, a feat which nobody believed. But his crowning achievement, climbed in full media glare, would always be his Eiger ascent. During this period he had his first brush with the Nazi party, guiding the film-maker Leni Riefenstahl in the Dolomites. Riefenstahl invited Heckmair to Nuremberg, where he found himself face to face with Hitler. Heckamir had a difficult relationship with the Nazis, who seized upon his Eiger success, promoting it for their own ends. But Heckmair was no Nazi and was sent, due he said to ‘political unreliability’, to the Eastern Front in World War II. Luckily, he was soon posted to a mountain training unit near Innsbruck. After the war Heckmair returned to the mountains and guided a number of long trips with the wealthy industrialist Otto Flick – to Africa, the Himalaya and North and South America. Heckmair died in 2005 in his home town of Oberstdorf in the Bavarian Alps, aged 98.

Reinhold Messner is one of the world’s greatest mountaineers. He was the first person to climb the world’s fourteen 8,000-metre peaks, made the first ascent of Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen and has made over 3,000 climbs on the world’s mountains. He has crossed the Antarctic, Greenland and Tibet, as well as the Gobi and Takla Makan deserts. Born in 1944, Messner grew up in the Italian Dolomites. He climbed his first mountain at the age of five, with his father, and rapidly became one of Europe’s top mountaineers. A great proponent of Alpine-style climbing, Messner has always chosen to climb ‘by fair means’, preferring small teams and limiting his use of artificial tools so as to experience nature as he finds it. A writer and photographer as well as a mountaineer, Messner has written over fifty books on climbing and the mountains, which have been translated across the globe and won numerous awards. He was a Member of the European Parliament for the Italian Green Party from 1999 to 2004 and now lives in a castle in northern Italy, dedicating his time to his Messner Mountain Museum – five interrelated museums in the South Tyrol dedicated to the art, culture, and peculiarities of mountain regions. He has founded the Messner Mountain Foundation (MMF) in order to support mountain people worldwide.

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