Eiger Pioneer Heckmair Dies


Anderl Heckmair, who led the first ascent of the great North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland, died last week at age 98. Eight men already had been killed on the 6,000-foot face before Heckmair and Wiggerl Vörg started climbing in July 1938. Partway up, they joined forces with Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek, but it was Heckmair who led the most difficult pitches, climbing with then-novel front-point crampons. He fell several times, once puncturing Vörg’s hand with his crampons, but the German-Austrian team still managed to reach the top after three and a half days of climbing. Nazi leaders touted the Eiger ascent as proof of German superiority, but Heckmair never joined the Nazi party. He fought on the Eastern Front in World War II (where Vörg was killed on his first day of fighting in Russia). After the war Heckmair worked as a mountain guide and ran a hostel; he founded Germany’s guiding association in the late 1960s.