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The White Spider

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,922 Ratings  ·  139 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, 364 pages
Published September 28th 1998 by TarcherPerigee (first published 1959)
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Mar 20, 2011 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
May 19, 2014 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
Nick Davies
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
As far as an objective assessment of this book is concerned, I'd recommend it heartily - Harrer speaks from a position of great expertise, having been involved in the first successful conquest of the North Face of the Eiger.. and here he examines numerous other attempts (successful and unsuccessful) to scale this massively challenging alpine feat. Well researched, beautifully described (though a number of slightly strange choices of phrase, due probably to the Austrian author not writing in his ...more
Nov 14, 2008 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
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I really did want to enjoy this, I gave this a go after reading Joe Simpson's "Beckoning Silence" since he had been so inspired by this book in his childhood. But I came away from it with far less appreciation that I had anticipated; the first few chapters are undeniably very compelling as Harrer outlines the early history of the Eiger attempts, the tragedies of climbers like Toni Kurz for example, and not to mention his own successful ascent which was the first ever.

But much of the rest of the
Apr 10, 2013 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
Nigel Kotani
Apr 27, 2016 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
Aug 01, 2013 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
Aug 17, 2010 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
Apr 02, 2012 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
Hywel Owen
Aug 31, 2009 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.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
It is believed that Harrer’s ‘The White Spider’ is to mountaineering what Robert Pirsig’s ‘Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ is to motorcycling. Although these are completely different kind of books, both accomplish the task of getting a novice motivated (at least excited) about the new-found hobby. While The Zen is a philosophical master piece, the White Spider at first glance looks like a collection of News Articles concerning the various attempts to the summit of the 13000 ft high Mount ...more
Kevin Weir
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This is the second time I've read this book, but I still find Harrer's arrogant and didactic style irritating. In fairness, I must admit that, reading a translation, one might not fully grasp the nuances of the original author's style.

Also, the fact that he did not recant his condemnation of Claudio Corti in the revised edition (1965), even though Corti had been vindicated, seems at odds with his supposed emphasis upon sportsmanship, honesty, and fair play. Perhaps it is a product of his anti-It
Kate Dunn
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The bedrock of mountaineering lit, a Shelob for adventurers. Undeterred, I still want to climb a mountain. The Eiger is out of reach beyond these pages. Thank you Harrer, for articulating why and getting all Hemingway with your reverence for the bravery & codes of conduct governing "true mountaineers." I really dig the special contempt he has for the outsiders & rubberneckers who gawk at the climbers. The idea of people peering through telescopes to watch these guys push through blood-ch ...more
Carol Masciola
Feb 20, 2017 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
Rob Wesson
Feb 03, 2017 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
Sep 28, 2012 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
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read

As a mountaineering enthusiast, I'm a huge fan of Harrer. This book is a great telling of the tragedy & the victory in climbing that Great face in mountaineering.
The writing is extremely descriptive and captures the essence. You also get introduced to the great climbers of our times, which then become your future wish list of books to read.
Must read if you love the mountains!
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dieses Buch gehört nicht in eine Reihe schriftstellerischer Höhenflüge. Es gibt auch altertümlich anmutende Passagen zum Thema Geschlecht und langatmige Passagen, die sich zum Teil sehr ziehen.

Allerdings bieten die Eigernordwand und ihre Besteigungen so viel Dramatik und Spannung, dass das Buch trotzdem fesselt und zum Weiterlesen zwingt. Tragödien und Erfolge von 1936 bis 1964 werden erzählt und lassen einen (vor allem beim Bericht der Ereignisse 1936) schaudern.
Silviu Reuț
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.
Ken Peters
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The north face of the Eiger. Only about 13,000 feet in height, but one of the most feared climbs in the world. There have even been accomplished Himalayan climbers who have declined to attempt it due to the level of risk involved. It offers just about every hazard a mountain can throw at a climber, and only the most experienced and patient climbers have reached the summit. This book is filled with the stories of all those who have attempted it until 1964, written by a member of the first team to ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
What can I say... just read it if you are curious about the history of the eiger and its climbers. It's quite heavy stuff sometimes and incomprehensible also for me as layperson. What I liked is that he wrote it as objectively as possible I think, with very much respect for his fellow climbers.
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is absolutely everything it's billed to be. A complete Eiger classic, possibly the definitive book to read about the North Face. I savoured every second of it and had to stop myself completely devouring it. It's literally like a murder mystery but the mountain is the murderer.
Jesse Callaghan
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
First half was excellent. It was starting to drag a little when he began to recount the 20th ascent....
Jim Ewing
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly recommend this book.
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
While I found this book interesting, it was very very dry. A lot of research and information but presented in a very clinical way.
Mar 12, 2017 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, owned
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.
The descriptions of the climbs and rescues were compelling, though things got a bit "listy" when the author was describing some of the later climbs. The tone is of a memoir and the high praise for all mountain climbers (except that one guy) gets a bit old as well as the complaints that people generally don't think as highly of mountain climbers as the ought to.

I bought this after seeing the movie "North Face," which is based on one of the earlier attempts to climb the north face of the Eiger. T
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not light or easy reading - but hidden in there is an epic story of mountaineering.
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currently reading 2 15 Jun 15, 2011 02:15AM  
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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
“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)” 3 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.” 2 likes
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