❤ Sharing Folkworthy Stuffs ❤
3 Comments Vintage
[BBC: *The North Face of the Eiger; Wall of Death*](https://youtu.be/IqzhnTu41AA?t=838) (starting at the excerpt of the tragic 1936 attempt)
[Toni Kurz](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toni_Kurz) was only 23.
[Heinrich Harrer’s](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Harrer) account of the first successful ascent of the north face: [*The White Spider*](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Spider) is a great read.
Did he die from a fall?
Two years later, in 1938, the Eiger North Face would be successfully climbed by four men: Ludwig Vörg and Anderl Heckmair (the Germans), Fritz Kasparek and Henrich Harrer (the Austrians), the two groups incidentally meeting each other on the way up mountain. They were climbing illegally – the fatalities from the years before had caused a climbing ban on the north face.
The fame from the success was used for propaganda purposes by Nazi Germany and allowed Harrer (who had joined the SA and then SS and had become a propaganda tool for the Nazis) to become a member of a German four man Himalaja expedition, searching for routes to summit [Nanga Parbat](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanga_Parbat#Aufschnaiter_expedition) under the leadership of Peter Aufschnaiter, they explored the mountain in mid 1939 and then found themself stuck in Karachi, their ship back being long overdue.
That was because WW2 had started, an attempt of the expedition team to reach Persia failed and they ended up in a British internment camp. In 1941 Vörg – of the original group of 4 which first climbed the Eiger North Face (and hadn’t become part of the Nanga Parbat expedition) – died in Operation Barbossa, the German attack on Soviet Russia.
After several attempts Harrer, Aufschnaiter and some others escaped their internment camp near Bombay in stolen British officer uniforms in 1944. Two other escapees headed for Japanese occupied Burma as the target, where they successfully found the Japanese Army and could end their odyssey. The other four escapees,including Harrer and Aufschnaiter, had the vague goal being to cross neutral and isolated Tibet, China to reach the Japanese front… round about 3,800km bee line when entering Tibet from India. Having trouble getting Tibetian visas (the country was actively isolating itself and people were forbidden to sell food to foreigners without visas) and or being exhausted two of the remaining four travelers gave up, only Harrer and Aufschnaiter remaining.
Eventually the two illegally entered Tibet proper (not just border villages), with the capital of Lhasa as their goal. They would walk more than 2,000km and cross over 50 mountain passes higher than 5,000m, finding that the further they got from the border, the less they had to be worried about security. On the 15th January of 1946 they entered Lhasa.
In Lhasa Aufschnaiter and Harrer eventually started working for the Tibetian government, Aufschnaiter as adviser for agricultural and urban design (working in irrigation systems, reafforesting the Lhasa Valley etc) and Harrer as photographer and teacher (in English, Geography and Math). Eventually Harrer would become friends with the then 13+ year old 14th Dalai Lama, teaching him English and building a small movie theater in the [Potala Palace](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potala_Palace).
Together with the Dalai Lama and his caravan they then had to flee Tibet from the advancing Chinese People’s Liberation Army which, after the collaps of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 which had made Tibet de facto independent, would again put Tibet under Chinese control. The Dalai Lama would go into Exile in India, Aufschnaiter and Harrer would eventually return to Austria, they died in 1973 and 2005 respectively, staying friends with the Dalai Lama, who claims to still speak English with a slight Austrian accent.
…If you liked this story you might enjoy Harrer’s book *Seven Years in Tibet* or the movie with Brad Pitt (although I haven’t seen it in a long while). The book is a great read, driving home the scale of it all but also having many neat details, like there being so much gold dust in the rivers in the Lhasa valley that you could see it shimmer when diving.