The White Spider
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The White Spider

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  1,284 ratings  ·  87 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, 384 pages
Published September 28th 1998 by Tarcher (first published 1959)
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The Mountains of My Life by Walter BonattiKilimanjaro and Beyond by Barry FinlayThe White Spider by Heinrich HarrerAnnapurna by Maurice HerzogAnnapurna by Arlene Blum
Mountaineering
3rd out of 10 books — 11 voters
Kilimanjaro and Beyond by Barry FinlayInto Thin Air by Jon KrakauerAnnapurna by Maurice HerzogNo Shortcuts to the Top by Ed ViestursTouching the Void by Joe Simpson
Climbing and Mountaineering
6th out of 100 books — 47 voters


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Community Reviews

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Raúl
May 20, 2014 Raúl rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: otros
'La araña blanca' es una crónica sobre las ascensiones clave a la temida Cara Norte del Eiger, escrita por el montañero y escritor Heinrich Harrer, pero para mi es mucho más que eso: considero este libro como un alegato acerca de la verdadera esencia del alpinismo. Y es que hacía falta que alguien escribiera estas reflexiones sobre el papel, basándose en experiencias de primera mano. Hay aquí pasión y también honestidad sin florituras; es éste un libro clave para todo aquel que sienta curiosidad...more
Raghu
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
Corrina
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
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.
Eric_W
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
Michael
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
Travis
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
Deepika Chalke
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
Matthew
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
Paul
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
Teresa
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
Nick
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
Roaldeuller
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
Forest
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
Rachel
It is clear that this book was written by a climber rather than a writer, but it is doubtless one of the most gripping books I have read. Each time that I had to put it away to go to work I felt that I was abandoning climbers on the precarious perches and ice faces of the Eiger.
Genevieve
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
Terry Kearns
If you watched the Eiger Sanction just for the mountain, read this book. The final rescue scene through the station window is from an actual event that unfortunately ended tragically. The author, Heinrich Harrer, was played by Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet.
Diana180
Aug 03, 2014 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
Allyson Shaw
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
Caroline
Harrer writes beautiful, almost poetic (I read it in swedish). As a reader and "non-climber" you feel like you're getting a sense of what mountaneering is about. with stories of both success, friendship, strong bonds and tragic endings
Mark Klink
While i'm really enjoying this book, I found the description of the 1957 ascent of the Germans Nothdurft and Mayer and Italians Corti and Longhi disturbing in how it suggested foul play. The book says the Germans were never found as of the time of writing, so i figured i'd search for more recent information and found the following...
In 1961, Nothdurft and Mayer bodies were finally found on the West Face - the normal Eiger route. They had summited, but had been killed by an avalanche during the d...more
Evan
This was a great novel! Harrer's description of his climb was relatively brief, but exciting and captivating! I couldn't put the book down until I finished his account of the ascent of the Eiger. Even the summit and descent contained interesting nuggets of information. His accounts of all the other climbers were fascinating as well. By the time I reached his story, his description of previous attempts had instilled me with an appropriate amount of apprhension. Much of the narrative contains topi...more
Russ Kennedy
Confession time; I didn't finish this. I know it's a classic and a masterpiece and I know that the accomplishments of the climbers featured are colossal and worthy of respect and admiration. I really wanted to like this book but just couldn't.

To me, the book read like a preemptive defence of climbing, as if written for a really critical judgmental audience. Not being such an audience I eventually found the tone jarring.

I couldn't get it into it and found it too easy to put down. Maybe hardcore c...more
Amy
A mountaineering book. Wow, climbing the north face of the Eiger (in the Alps) sounds completely insane. Really. I really liked some chapters of this book. It is by Heinrich Harrer, one of the four who made the first successful ascent. (He also wrote Seven Years in Tibet, which I haven't read.) I wasn't too impressed by his writing style, although surely part of that is the translation. He is very fond of ending paragraphs with ellipses...

On the other hand, I was totally impressed with the climb...more
Pippa Fox
the blurb on the jacket best describes it: The White Spider provides almost the classic statement of the weird and frequently misunderstood psychology of the modern rock climber. Despite the grimness of much of what he is describing, Herr Harrer communicates the irresistible joy of climbing as an antidote to the idea that climbers are masochistically trying to prove something to themselves' Sunday Times
As a longtime bushwalker and nature lover, these books are hard to resist because they take me...more
Travis
The north face of the Eiger is one deadly serious face! A prerequisite to any ascent should be to read this book.
Jessica
Rather old-timey attitudes; some exciting adventure sections. This climb is amazingly dangerous.
Pat Allen
I wanted to rate this four stars because the individual stories of the first heroic climbs were amazing, but the book gets bogged down by details and conjecture. One of Harrer's tendencies seems to be to give away what's going to happen before he arrives a that part in the story, maybe for the fact that when he wrote the book the public already knew the outcome of the parties and their names had been infamous at that time. For newcomers to the now-classic mountaineering stories, these climbs wou...more
Leigh
A different syle of writing (purhaps because its a translation from German) but notwithstanding contains gripping accounts of the often tragic attempts to climb one the most frightening and harrowing mountain faces of the age.

Unbelievable as it may seem to those climbers during the ages covered in Harrer's White Spider, the Swiss Machine, Ueli Steck, can solo the Eiger in a stunning 2 hours and 47 minutes, which was recently ecclipsed by Dani Arnold by another 20 minutes!!
Jim Fourfourfour
truly awe inspiring
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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
More about Heinrich Harrer...
Seven Years in Tibet Return to Tibet Beyond Seven Years in Tibet - My Life Before, During and After Mein Leben Lost Lhasa: Heinrich Harrer's Tibet

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