There are routes which every alpine climber want to do. One of them is Heckmair Route on North Face of Eiger, biggest wall in The Alps. Wall with history – before the first ascent in 1938, there died some climbers and wall has new nickname „Mordwand”. Today Heckmair Route is hard classic alpine route and usually teams needs 2 days of climbing. But speed record is below 3 hours…
We (Michał Dorocicz and Damian Granowski) climb North Face of Eiger in 2016 (22-23 March). Below you have description and topo of Heckmair Route. Original article (in polish) you will find here: drytooling.com.pl.
Grade: ED2, V+, WI4. On Heckmair Route are fixed lines (Hinterstoiser Traverse, etc.), but if You want to climb everything free then prepare for M7+ (in good conditions).
Length: 4 km and 1800 meters of denivelation
Time: 1-2 days. Usually two days.
Localization: North Face of Eiger / Grindelwald (Switzerland)
Character: snow/ice fields 50-70 degrees, chimneys, mixt,
First ascent: 1938, 20-24 July - Heinrich Harrer, Anderl Heckmair, Fritz Kasparek and Ludwig Vörg.
First one-day ascent: 1950 - Leo Forstenlechner and Erich Wascak (18 hours).
First winter ascent: 1961, 6-12 March - Walter Almberger, Toni Hiebeler, Toni Kinshofer and Anderl Mannhardt.
These days the most popular time for climbing on North Face of Eiger is late autumn, winter, and early spring. In summer – due to global warming – conditions are not good. A lot of loose rock (which in winter are frozen) and falling stones.
Here you have some tips:
Heckmair Route isn’t extreme alpine route but rather “hard alpine classic” but don’t disrespect difficulties.
- In general, the route is hard, rock is rotten with demanding protection. You will find old pitons, some bolts. On harder pitches protection is better.
- falling stones. In summer much more
- There are some fixed lines but be careful. Some of them are not in good shape ;)
- Do proper acclimatization. In higher parts of the route, you must be quick. Maybe tray something easy and quick (like Breithorn).
- Go when conditions are ok.
- Almost half of the route you do on simul-climbing. Take good partner...
To Grindenwald go by your own car (40 euros for a vignette on a highway). There you will find accommodation on campings (10-15 euro) or apartments (from 60 franks).
Grindelwald lay on 1000 m a.s.l.. The base of Eiger North Face on 2160 m a.s.l.. The best option is to go by small historic train. You go to Kleinescheidegg (2000 m) and after that to station Eigergletscher.
From there we go to base of the wall (short traverse).
Fototopo of Heckmair Route. Credits: Damian Granowski
The first part of the route (about 800 meters) is “easy” and in good conditions, you can go to Difficult Crack almost free solo.
We start on the right side of First Pillar (about 200 meters) and follow the easiest line. There are many variations, but all are quite easy (with some short rock sections).
After 150 meters (at the Shattered Pillar height) we go to the right and soon to the left. Traverse on snow ledges and when you will be on snowfield (with overhang wall above) then you go 50 meters to right.
There will be Difficult Crack (Belay pegs, old slings).
Difficult Crack is… well Difficult, even if has V- (M5+). One pitch and we are on Belay. From there you go to the left to small rock Dihedral. After that, you have easy snow terrain which leads you to Hinterstoisser Traverse.
Travers is very hard for mixed climbing. Almost without steps and holds. After 30 seconds I decided to aid this :-). There are 60 meters of fixed lines (traverse and small chimney). Pitch end on belay on beginning First Icefield.
We go 100 meters (snow/ice to 55 degrees) to the upper right, where is Ice Hose. 20 meters of Icefall (if you have good conditions something about WI3-4). 30 m above Icefall you will find “good” belay on the big boulder.
Now we are on Second Ice Field. We go straight ahead to rocks. After that run to the left, across the icefield to the upper left corner. There climb chimney, groove and easy terrain to the Death Bivvy.
On the Death Bivvy, you will find a place (snow ledge) for 4 persons. Clean rock and lot of old pegs and bolts. At the 18.00 pm, there will be sun ;-).
The Death Bivvy is probably the best place to spend a night, but if you are here very early (14-15.00) then try to push The Ramp and spend a night on Traverse of Gods.
From the Death Bivvy, we traverse to a big ramp. There are 4-5 pitches (circa 150 m) of climbing. Including Ice Chimney (M7 in good conditions, a lot of pitons). In the middle of The Ramp is Spanish Bivvy, but is weak…
Above the Ice chimney is one small wall – hard and demanding. After that is easy climbing in snow and ice. We go to the start of Brittle Ledges (possibly bivy). Traverse them to start of the Brittle Crack – one V+ pitch with quite good rock (especially after The Brittle Ledges).
After the Brittle Crack, you will find a flat place for a bivy (one team). I'm not sure, but place probably is windy. And then you have The Traverse of the Gods. 150 meters to The White Spider. Quite exposed but easy (max IV).
You reach The White Spider, Snow/Ice field in the upper part of the wall. From there retreat was difficult. Climb 150 m to the right (big Gully). Be careful not to go to left, big corner with ice – but hard.
Once more 150 meters of climbing in a gully and you will be at the base of The Quartz Crack. Difficult (IV+. SIC!?) chimney.
After that you traverse to the left and climb a small crack to the big pulpit. Here you will find fixed lines which lead you to the Exit Chimneys.
The Exit Chimneys can be pretty hard (but only IV) in weak conditions. Climb them 3-4 pitches (circa 150 m) to the easier terrain which leads you to snow / ice field. Above them will be a ridge.
Ridge is easy and in good conditions you won’t need rope. To summit, you need 15-20 minutes of climbing.
If you want more mountaineering topo articles in future, then click to like funpage WinterClimb.com :)
Below movie from Heckmair Route (2014 - Tomasz Klimczak and Maciej Janczar)
and master Ueli Steck...
Climbing Gear for Heckmair Route
We had double 60 m rope, but I think that better will be single 60 m rope (for climbers who have enough experience).
- 10 quickdraws (5 alpine quickdraws)
- set C3 Camalots
- set DMM Dragons (to yellow)
- 7 Wallnuts DMM
- 3 ice screws (blue one size)
No pitons were taken and we didn't feel we needed any.
My personal rack:
- 2 Raptors (Elite climb Ice tool)
- BD Cyborg Crampons (monopoint)
- light Mammut helmet
- CT Ascent Harness
- Fixe Frog Belay Device
- 3 CT hms
- TNF Verto S6k Extreme, double boots
- El Cap Montano Softshell
- adidas Terrex ndosphere jacket (primaloft)
- adidas terrex GTX Active Shell
- adidas Terrex icefeather pant
- Cortina Montano
- under wear clothing (Bruebeck and Odlo)
- Monkeys Grip Gloves (model DT and PowerLoad)
- Smartwool soocks
- Jetboil + gas
- sleeping bag
- bivvy bag
- food (sweets, 2-3 freeze-dried meals)
Descent from Eiger