Swissway to Heaven by Cédric Lachat, third stage
“It would be interesting to go back to that time — we’d be unbeatable,” jokes Cédric Lachat dryly, looking at some old photos of mountaineers from the past climbing on the north face of the Eiger with gear that today can be found only in the display cases of a mountain museum. The north face of the Eiger is one of the most famous north faces in the world. Here Ueli Steck set inconceivable records; here some of the best climbers of all time have outdone themselves. For several years it represented the last big problem in the Alps, resisting the onslaught of gifted mountaineers and climbers throughout most of the 1930s. The majority of those who attempted it never returned.
That is, until July 24, 1938, when a team made up of the German climbers Andreas Heckmair and Ludwig Vörg and the Austrians Fritz Kasparek and Heinrich Harrer finally managed to reach the highest point, establishing what we today know as Via Heckmair in four days. “They showed everyone that this face was possible,” says Cédric. “The most imposing face in Switzerland.” Imposing, cold, and inhospitable, the north face of the Eiger enthralls at first glance, offering the most ambitious climbers the ideal playground to test themselves mentally and physically.
To celebrate this immense face, Cédric Lachat chose to try his hand, together with Tobias Suter, on the difficult Odyssee route. Developed and freed in 2015 by Roger Schaeli, Robert Jasper, and Simon Gietl, it ascends for 30 pitches on the right side of the face. “The climb is not too difficult, but on the north face of the Eiger we’re not just talking about climbing,” explains Cédric. “It’s hazardous terrain where you test yourself against the elements.” When the weather isn’t perfect on the Eiger, you don’t climb. Cédric and Tobias know this well, and they weren’t able to go beyond halfway up the wall. “The conditions didn’t offer us the chance to complete the route. For us, it remains unconquered.”