One of the best known peaks in the Alps, known mainly for the much publicised North Face exploits in the 1930’s & the eventual ascent by Harrer, Heckmair, Kasparek & Vorg.
Looking up at the North Face from Grindlewald, you can’t help but try and pick out the 1938 Route and imagine Harrer, Heckmair, Kasparek & Vorg scaling this huge unclimbed North Face for the first time.
The North Face certainly caught our imagination, but we were standing at the Jungfraujoch station for other reasons. We had a great 3 day weather forecast and were off to climb the Mittelegi Integral.
We boarded & the train slowly ground its way up to below the Eiger’s north face & stopped at Alpiglen. Under the spotlight of the North Face & the hundred or so eyes watching our every move, we got off & watched the hoards disappear on up to Kl Scheidegg.
Beautiful pastures and old hay lofts lead the way East on & up to the base of a huge broken limestone buttress. We followed old ropes, steel rungs & ladders up onto the top of the buttress & the Mittelegi ridge proper.
The views were amazing, middle of July and no one around, the place was ours.
We had a combination number for a locked box, which was in the outside loo to get the hut key!
Well I think the crux of the route was right there.
I fiddled for ages, Adrian Walter my climbing partner fiddled for ages, it looked like he was cracking a safe, ear up to the combination movement, two to the left then six to the right & so on.
The perseverance paid off & also the phone call to the hut keeper down in Grindlewald from my mobile! Anyway we were in and could kick back and enjoy the views & fading light.
The Ostegg hut doesn’t have a guardian but is run on honesty, you make a note of what you’ve eaten & drunk, leave the place clean & tidy for the next climbers & pay down in Grindlewald – Brilliant & one of the best huts I’ve ever stayed in.
That evening we recci’d the initial part of the route, then back at the hut Adrian cooked up another one of his gourmet meals and we sat outside looking over the lights of Grindlewald.
Just as the sun was rising we climbed up the initial rocks then up onto steeper ground climbing over walls, cracks and beautiful limestone towers which we had to carefully route find and pick our way through.
Then the ridge seemed to just terminate, it was too steep leftwards with a sheer drop down to the glacier & even steeper to the right down to Grindlewald. But by our feet was a way on, a small hole that you had to thread your way through to get to the other side. Amazing what nature creates - a hold when you desperately need it, on a tough move on a hard route, or a hole in a ridge when there’s no other way on!
The views now of the North East face & across to the classic Lauper Route were stunning & we could just make out the Mittellegi Hut perched up on the top of our ridge.
We’d booked ahead and new they’d be watching out for us. Hot tea was waiting for us when we arrived, as they’d had their binoculars out spying us as, we picked our way up the final part of the ridge to the hut.
It wasn’t often climbers came this way and it showed with their welcome & the mountains of food they served up!
A narrow and steep rocky ridge lead up from the hut with fixed ropes on the difficult, more exposed sections. We were so overwhelmed by the place that it didn’t matter, we were climbing the Eiger and the North Face is down there under my feet!
Old snow capped the final slopes and a beautiful snow ridge lead us onto the summit.
An amazing 360degree view of the Bernese Oberland greeted us.
Looking south, down the Eiger’s south ridge, we could see our steep & long descent with the Monch terminating the ridge in the distance.
Once down at the Monchjoch hut we would have traversed the Eiger up & down it’s two major ridges over 3 days & something which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
The train eased its way out of Jungfraujoch, back into the tunnel & back down through the heart of the Eiger which we’d climbed over, the day before.
It was a great feeling and a fantastic route.