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The White Spider

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  2,461 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
The White Spider dramatically recreates not only the harrowing, successful ascent made by Harrer and his comrades in 1938, but also the previous, tragic attempts at a wall of rock that was recently enshrined in mountaineer Jon Krakauer's first work, Eiger Dreams. For a generation of American climbers, The White Spider has been a formative book--yet it has long been out-of- ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published September 28th 1998 by TarcherPerigee (first published 1959)
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Raghu
Mar 20, 2011 Raghu rated it liked it
I have admired Heinrich Harrer ever since I came across his book 'Seven Years in Tibet' many years ago. In 2010, I even visited his home village of Huettenberg in Austria and visited the Harrer Museum there. In the Museum, I found old newspaper clippings from 1938 showing that he was also one of the party of four which made the first successful ascent of the Eiger North face. Having seen the immense vertical wall of the Eiger North Face when I had hiked the Bernese Alps some years before, I want ...more
Raúl
May 19, 2014 Raúl rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
La historia del alpinismo nos ofrece muchos relatos dramáticos, testimonios de accidentes mortales en torno a la consecución de rutas y de cimas, marcas que no significan nada para las personas ajenas al mundo de la montaña. Los dramas humanos conforman una crónica negra, no exenta en ocasiones de épica y sacrificio, aunque también de errores más o menos evitables. Frente a ello, es natural la indignación de tantas voces que hablan en nombre de esa cosa llamada ''sentido común'': ¿Merece la pena ...more
Eric_W
Nov 14, 2008 Eric_W rated it really liked it
While I have never understood the motivation of people who willingly place themselves in harm's way by doing all sorts of bizarre things like hanging from ropes above precipices
with rocks falling on their heads and winter blizzards forcing snow down their necks, I must admit they make fascinating reading.

The Eiger, a particularly nasty rock face, was not successfully climbed from the north until the author and his team succeeded (where many others had failed) in 1938. This astonishing book is th
...more
Nigel Kotani
Apr 27, 2016 Nigel Kotani rated it it was ok
Harrer had a remarkable life. Aside from spending 'Seven Years in Tibet' (which I read about 30 years ago) and becoming close friends with the Dalai Lama, he was a member of the first party to climb the North Face of the Eiger, was selected to represent Austria in the 1936 Winter Olympics (only to be withdrawn because being a ski instructor deemed him to be professional) and was twice Austrian golf champion.

This book had some masterful sections, such as the story of the Sedlmayer/Mehringer disas
...more
Deepika
Aug 01, 2013 Deepika rated it it was amazing
Great and comprehensive chronicle of mountaineering on Eiger. Tragedy, death, storm, avalanches, triumphs, mishaps all add to the poignancy of this book. I loved the first few chapters that dealt with the first ever attempt by Mehringer and Sedlmeyer, the gruesome account of Toni Kurz and his fellow climbers, and the breathtaking first successful ascent. Forever entrenched in my memory will be the Hinterstoisser episode.

The mountaineering parts are suspenseful, dark, chilling, profound, mysterio
...more
Corrina
Aug 17, 2010 Corrina rated it it was amazing
Wow! Just re-read this. The last time I read it was probably 10 years ago, and I loved it then, but now that I've read much more on mountaineering and the Nordwand of the Eiger in particular, I loved it even more!! Harrer not only tells his own story of his group's first successful ascent of the Nordwand (or Mordwand, depending on your point of view), he traces the history of the mountain, recreating in careful detail the other successful attempts as well as the myriad disasters. Harrer of cours ...more
Hywel Owen
Aug 31, 2009 Hywel Owen rated it it was amazing
The best book on the realities of climbing that I have read. You will finish it maybe convinced of the insanity of mountaineering, but certainly with a better understanding of what it is to climb. Harrer is indisputably one of the all-time greats of mountaineering.
Carol Masciola
Feb 20, 2017 Carol Masciola rated it really liked it
Heinrich Harrer talks about how he and a team of four were the first to ascend the notorious north face of the Eiger (in the Bernese Alps) in 1938, of the failed attempts before that, and attempts and successful climbs after that, all the way up to the early 1980s.

I think this book would be very interesting to people involved in mountain climbing and rock climbing because it delves a lot into the practicalities and methods of what went on in these climbs. I got a little tired of the author's co
...more
Rob Wesson
Feb 03, 2017 Rob Wesson rated it it was amazing
I first read this book as a high school kid a very long time ago, and have reread it once or twice since. It is a classic of mountaineering literature. Harrer also captures the atmosphere that motivated some German and Austrian climbers in the period just before World War II. This book is a must read for aficionados of mountaineering literature. But it should also be read by anyone contemplating a trip to Grindelwald in Switzerland, especially if you are planning to take the train from Kleine Sc ...more
Mihai Giurgiulescu
Sep 28, 2012 Mihai Giurgiulescu rated it really liked it
Shelves: mountaineering
Heinrich Harrer is one of the few whose place in the history of adventure is firmly defined by more than one life-changing experience. The majority of readers are familiar with his name from the international bestseller Seven Years in Tibet , in which he describes with much gusto his escape to and long refuge in the Forbidden Kingdom - actions that forever altered the course of events for both the Austrian ex-POW and the Dalai Lama. However, prior to World War II, Harrer also gained notoriety b ...more
Supertramp Silviu
Una dintre cărțile obligatorii pentru iubitorii de munte și alpinism. Heinrich Harrer, celebrul protagonist al evenimentul din "Șapte ani în Tibet", povestește istoria feței nordice a Eiger-ului, cea mai periculoasă ascensiune din lume. Harrer a făcut parte din echipa care a reușit, pentru prima dată, escaladarea feței nordice a Eiger-ului. Înainte de asta, dar și după, numeroși alpiniști și-au pierdut viața pe Eiger. Aici intră și dramatica moarte a tânărului german Toni Kurz.
Megan
Mar 12, 2017 Megan rated it really liked it
some chapters were waaay more interesting than others but still a solid book from start to finish. one of those rare mountaineering books that can be enjoyed by enthusiasts and novices alike.
Carl Rayer
Mar 09, 2017 Carl Rayer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
A superb book, not just because of the mountaineering anecdotes - which range from the tragic to the triumphant - but also because of its recreation of a Europe before and after the war. Its metaphor of a rope linking different nations in a common endeavour is a moving one, more topical now than ever.
Matthew
Apr 10, 2013 Matthew rated it liked it
I started reading this book before making a skiing trip to Wengen/Grindelwald, in the shadow of the Eiger's north face. I enjoyed the early chapters immensely and the stories of the Kurtz tragedy and Harrer's own ascent gave me a real sense of the history of the famous peak. The writing style is antiquated and the translation needs tightening a little, but this actually helps give you a good picture of the time. I had read no other material on the Eiger, which is an important factor; as a starti ...more
Andrew
Dec 04, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspiring insight into the route and trials of the Eiger Nordwand (Mordwand), as well as the story of "professionalisation" of alpine climbing from the 1930s to 1960s.

Harrer is not slow to offer his opinion on others. These valuations of climbers and their choices under pressure is what adds colour and fascination to what is essentially the description of successes and tragedies on the classic Heckmaier route that Harrer helped to pioneer in the first ascent.

Where the book drifts is by valuing l
...more
Michael
Apr 02, 2012 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There seems to be a lot of cronyism among Harrer and his fellow German climbers: Every climber who dies was the brightest young German mind to have ever graced the valley from which he came, only to fall at the face of the great Eiger, while every success is a testament to certain indefatigable greatness in the eyes of mankind immemorial. He waits until the end of the novel to finally accuse an Italian of being the first to mistake his ambitions and strength are adequate for the climbing, though ...more
Raven
Feb 12, 2016 Raven rated it really liked it
Grandly heroic, generously forgiving of the mountaineers who made unsuccessful attempts, celebratory of the strengths of everyone who gave it a good try, this historical account of ascents of the Eiger's North Face is as inspiring as it is thorough. Fans of modern mountaineering literature may be surprised and pleased by the absence (and indeed, quashing) of the jockeying for honors -- it is Harrer's position that there's plenty of honor to go around in making earnest attempts at a challenging g ...more
Nam Le
Dec 02, 2015 Nam Le rated it really liked it
I had a chance to hike along the Eiger trail and see the Heckmair route in real life. Facing the sheer scale of the North Face brought tears to my eyes thinking about all human endeavour in conquering this face. Therefore I was particularly interested in how Harrer, one of the first team to ascent the Eiger, retold the story.
This first part of the book was about the previous tragic but epic attempts, especially Kurz and Hinterstoisser team. The second part followed the iconic ascent by Harrer's
...more
Travis
Feb 05, 2008 Travis rated it liked it
This book was very well written for the topic. If you can imagine, the story is about the piles of people that have tried to climb the 6,000 foot vertical face of rock and ice. Unfortunately some of them ended up at the bottom in a pile. It was riveting at times, and bit redundant at others. It was over 300 pages of reading the same routes up the face, and while it was incredible to imagine some of the attempts done without crampons or gore-tex, it also has a lot of "after these messages" effort ...more
Teresa
Jun 05, 2010 Teresa rated it really liked it
After seeing the movie "North Face" last year (based on the failed and tragic attempt of Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser to be the first to summit the North Face of the Eiger in 1936), I wanted to read more about the mountain and its punishing history. This book was recommended and it did not let me down. Heinrich Harrer was in the first party to successfully summit Eiger (you may also recognize his name as man who spent Seven Years in Tibet after an interment in India-that book is next on ...more
Paul
Jan 12, 2012 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A very good mountaineering book by one of the men who made the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in 1938. Most of the book was written in 1958-1959, at a time when only a few additional successful ascents had been made (less than 10, I think), and it includes a detailed recounting of all attempts between 1934 and 1957, many of which were infamously unsuccessful.

Many of these young men were German and Austrian, but Hitler and World War II do not intrude much on Harrer's narrative -- he
...more
Nick
May 08, 2011 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mountaineering
One of the classics in mountain literature, this book recounts in great detail the first ascent of the Eiger, and places it in context with the infamous failures prior to that successful climb on 1938, as well as the successes and failures that were to follow in the years up to 1964. Harrer was one of the members of the successful party in '38 and tasked with compiling this history goes to great pains to research each of the stories. The book mainly suffers from a stylistic point of view - the w ...more
Simon
Dec 28, 2016 Simon rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Forest
Feb 06, 2008 Forest rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing account of the first 13 ascents of the Eiger Nordwand. Further amazement at Harrer's experiences offers the most inspiration a climber's life could offer in text. The first successful completion of the Nordwand by Harrer, Fritz Kasperek, Ludwig Vörg, and Andreas Heckmair is documented excitingly in the book accompanied by many other exciting tales. I read the first translation and have several favorite quotes: "Yes, we had made and excursion into another world and we had come ...more
Roaldeuller
Mar 24, 2008 Roaldeuller rated it it was amazing
I spent the summer of 1977 as an American college student hosteling my way across Europe. I bought this book in a small bookstore in Grindelwald, Switzerland and then proceeded to enjoy a blissful couple of days sitting on the front balcony of the youth hostel, reading The White Spider, with the north face of the Eiger towering overhead. I would read from the book, and then gaze up to identify the exact routes and landmarks described in the text, which were clearly visible on the massive wall of ...more
Allyson Shaw
Aug 03, 2009 Allyson Shaw rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A quick read, though unsatisfying either due to Harrer's wooden and often hackneyed prose or the translation, maybe both. (What's with all the ellipses?) The book is weighted down with a bizarre defensiveness. What would be most interesting-- the texture of life on the mountain face-- is left out completely, replaced with logistic discussions which become repetitive. Though, I suppose in wanting the vicariousness of a sensory narrative I'm one of the "rubberneckers" he seems to have such disdain ...more
Diana180
Aug 25, 2013 Diana180 added it
Shelves: read2013
More armchair mountaineering, with a similar theme to Krakauer's best work: Don't overestimate your skills. Unfolds chronologically and paratactically (Hemingwayan "... and ... and") rather than in Krakauer's literary form. The core of the book is the story of Harrer's first ascent of the north face of the Eiger, as well as other early successes and failures. This edition contains epilogues bringing the history of ascents into the '60s, amounting to almost as many pages as the original book. App ...more
chucklesthescot
Seriously, WHERE are my review notes??? There are about 50 books that I know I took notes on when I was reading them and I can't find them! That includes all these mountain disaster books which I no longer have copies of to refer to! GAH!

The first half of the book covers the history of attempts on the north face of the Eiger, which I already know about, having read several books on the subject. So none of it was really new to me and I skimmed through it to get to the main point of the book.

While
...more
Genevieve
Apr 11, 2009 Genevieve rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Hmmmm, how would one describe Heinrich's style? Perhaps chivalric, or cavalier (in the sincerest sense, not meant cruelly), not exactly florid, perhaps a bit archaic? At times it is a bit tiresome to read, if only because he often seems to be justifying the facts and information he has included so as not to offend anyone. A very interesting read, nonetheless, and amazing when you truly consider the acts he is describing (I'll admit it, the pictures in the book and google searches helped my naive ...more
Diana
Oct 20, 2015 Diana rated it it was amazing
Such an incredible book about the mountain climbers on the North Face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps - the successful climbs and unsuccessful attempts. The White Spider being a treacherous ice field above three others on the Eiger. I found the book so interesting in that so many people are drawn to demonstrate their athletic abilities, perseverance and endurance to climb a difficult mountain.

The author, Heinrich Harrer, was himself on the first successful team in 1938 to ascent the North Face.
...more
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Heinrich Harrer (6 de Julho de 1912 – 7 de Janeiro de 2006) foi um montanhista, investigador, geógrafo e escritor austríaco.
Heinrich Harrer nasceu em Hüttenberg na região de Caríntia. Entre 1933 e 1938 Harrer estudou geografia e desporto na Universidade Karl-Franzens em Graz.
Harrer fez parte da primeira equipe que escalou a face norte do Eiger na Suíça, junto com Anderl Heckmair, Fritz Kasparek e
...more
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“Yes, we had made and excursion into another world and we had come back, but we had brought the joy of life and of humanity back with us. In the rush and whirl of everyday things, we so often live alongside one another without making any mutual contact. We had learned on the North Fae of the Eiger that men are good, and the earth on which we were born is good."(p.126)” 1 likes
“Let us grant courage and the love of pure adventure their own justification, even if we cannot produce any material support for them. Mankind has developed an ugly habit of only allowing true courage to the killers. Great credits accrue to the one who bests another; little is given to the man who recognises in his comrade on the rope a part of himself, who for long hours of extreme peril faces no opponent to be shot or struck down, but whose battle is solely against his own weakness and insufficiency. Is the man who, at moments when his own life is in the balance, has not only to safeguard it but, at the same time, his friend's- even to the extent of mutual self-sacrifice- to receive less recognition than a boxer n the ring, simply because the nature of what he is doing is not properly understood? In his book about the Dachstein, Kurt Maix writes: "Climbing is th emost royl irrationality out of which Man, in his creative imagination, has been able to fashion the highest personal values." Those personal values, which we gain from our approach to the mountains, are great enough to enrich our life. Is not the irrationality of its very lack of purpose the deepest argument for climbing? But we had better leave philosophical niceties and unsuitable psychoanalisis out of this.” 1 likes
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