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The White Spider Paperback – 17 Jan 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (17 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007197845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007197842
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Heinrich Harrer was born in 1912 in Carinthia. His skiing prowess won him a place in the 1936 Austrian Olympic team. He was in the party which first ascended the notorious North Wall of the Eiger in 1938, and he is the author of the classic climbing book The White Spider - a full history of the attempts to make that terrible climb.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Sep 1999
Format: Paperback
Heinrick Harrer, along with his companions Fritz Kasparek, Andreas Heckmair and Ludwig Vorg, made the first successful ascent of the North face of the Eiger, arriving on the summit at around 3:00pm on 24th July 1938. The book describes the endless battles faught on the face, sometimes to save others, sometimes to save themselves and sometimes in vain. It also tries to resolve some of the mysteries which shroud the face (It even has a route guide for anyone considering the climb). Despite the fact that the book was first published 40years ago and that the translation slips up from time to time does not alter the fact that this is a brilliant read. Unfortunately it didn't inspire to climb big faces as much as Joe Simpson's books did but alas it did inspire Joe Simpson and undoubtably many others to go out to the far flung reaches of the globe and climb.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Sep 1999
Format: Paperback
No mountaineering bookshelf is complete without a copy of this compelling volume. It details every significant attempt on the North face of the Eiger from the first disastrous climb in 1932 to the many successes and failures of the 1960s. By the time you reach the end you'll feel as if you've climbed every agonising or inspiring step with the men and women that Harrer portrays.
The horror of the failed climbs and the ecstasy of the successes are vividly painted by Harrer's straightforward, unadorned style, which makes this such a gripping read. The only part of the book that jars is his rather old-fashioned and patronising description of the first attempts on the face by women. But this is a minor flaw in an otherwise influential and well-written book.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 May 2002
Format: Paperback
An absolute must for the true mountaineer or aspiring hopeful. Not to be read however immediatly before a bid to climb the face, but required reading whilst contemplating At times Harrer confronts you with the terrible bleakness of the stricken parties on the face, whilst remaining factual in a Tutonic way. Excellent. PS Another good account of the Eigerwand can be found in The Boardman Tasker Omnibus. The first book gives an account of the first succesful British Winter Ascent by Joe Tasker.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By urban fox on 4 Aug 2008
Format: Paperback
Harrer has researched the history of the seminal attempts on this vertical mile of rock in meticulous detail and as a result this book gives a rich picture of the physical and spiritual strength required to achieve this most famous of summits. His account of their own first ascent is gripping yet prosaic; I found this style perfectly conveyed the necessary drama without tipping into self-indulgence, which is also mostly absent from his descriptions of later attempts. What struck me very much was the capriciousness of fate when attempting the North Face; the difference between the heroic first successful summit and the many failed attempts surrounding it is a stone falling here, or a snow slide there. Perhaps to say luck plays a part is not correct, but the catalogue of experienced, respected names to have perished there, often without making any obvious errors, highlights the fine line between getting up and down alive or not.

On the negative side, and the reason for four stars instead of five, is Harrer's over-egging the difference between climbers and non-climbers; something I find Joe Simpson guilty of too. It becomes grating to read every few pages that all climbers are salt-of-the-earth good eggs, uninterested in fame, and how every non-climber cannot possibly understand what drives climbers to do what they do. I don't believe that humility and kindness are the preserve of climbers alone and I do believe that non-climbers are perfectly capable of appreciating outstanding feats of human endeavour. (Luckily I was forewarned about the condescension with which Harrer describes the first women climbers attempting the North Face.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pamvire on 28 Jun 2007
Format: Paperback
As an armchair (couch potato!) reader of real-life high adventure, I've recently read various books of thrilling climbs, daring treks etc. This was certainly one of the best - it combined mountain climbing information with the human angle and never left me too far behind with technical jargon.

As I read of the desperate conditions endured by the bold (mad!) climbers, I was truly gripped by the account of the eventual conquest of the Eiger.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Oct 1999
Format: Paperback
Definitely a classic, and at times moving and fascinating, but I would say this is more a book for the climber or the obsessed armchair mountaineer than for your average reader who's just read a couple of mountaineering books. Harrer is a bit of an old romantic, and you can't help sensing a touch of homo-eroticism in his accounts of fine men doing fine things in the perfect harmony of the rope. It's all very old-fashioned (particularly the almost comical attitude to women). After a while it becomes a bit of a catalogue of ascents, but you certainly feel like you know the mountain by the end. It certainly inspired me to look for other accounts of climbing the North Face of the Eiger (a good one can be found in Dougal Haston's "In High Places".)
A plea to whoever is putting the next edition together: please get someone good to re-translate it: some of the phrases really grate.
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