The White Spider Paperback – 17 Jan 2005
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‘An outstanding book in the mountaineering library.’ Guardian
‘Even to look at the photographs of the terrible slopes of the Eiger chills the blood. Heinrich Harrer enables the reader to vicariously experience the cold and the terror of the climb.’ Irish Press
‘”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 doing, 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
‘A true classic from the early days of mountaineering…The terror and respect that the Eiger inspires is evoked superbly in Harrer’s narrative.’ Maxim
A classic of mountaineering literature, The White Spider tells the story of the harrowing first ascent of the Eiger's North Wall, one of the most legendary and terrifying climbs in recorded history. Heinrich Herrer, author of Seven Years in Tibet, was a member of the four-man party that scaled the previously untouchable North Wall of the Eiger in 1938. In The White Spider, Herrer tells the story of this harrowing first ascent, a gripping first-hand account of daring and resilience in the high Swiss Alps. Moving from his own amazing experiences to the numerous later attempts to replicate his team's achievements (some tragic failures, others spectacular successes), Herrer writes as well as he climbs, drawing the reader into a beguiling story of courage, strength and a confidence always on the edge of hubris. A new introduction by Joe Simpson, author of the acclaimed mountaineering epic Touching the Void, reminds us of the enduring relevance of this absolute classic.See all Product description
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Chris Allen is a Technical Author and writer with the following books available through Amazon:
Reality Shaper: The Quantum Detective -- his latest novel
The Beam of Interest: Taken by Storm
Hypnotic Tales 2013: Some Light Some Dark
Call of the Void: The Strange Life and Times of a Confused Person: 1
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My diet of adventure and mountaineering narrative prior to this had been composed of mainly of Joe Simpson, Jon Krakauer, Edmund Hillary and Chris Bonnington.
I had heard of Harrer in passing mainly because of the 1997 film adaption of his Seven Years in Tibet (starring Brad Pit as Harrer) and of reading of his obituaries back in 2006 which dwelt considerably on the range of controversies that surrounded him for most of his life.
One of the interesting things about this book is that it was written a whole 21 years after he was part of the first team to successfully climb the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland. Accordingly, Harrer not only deals with his own experience of climbing what until then was considered an unattainable feat, but also offers in-depth narratives of the other attempts that both preceded and followed his.
What comes across most forcibly in the book, apart from the technical, psychological and physical commitment required to achieve what he and others did is the supreme confidence bordering on arrogance that pervades throughout the book, especially in Harrer's observations and criticisms of other attempts. There is also a degree of racism bordering on Xenophobia where he lauds the heroics of climbers like the tragic Germans Anderl Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurtz but demonizes what he regards as the inferior efforts of Italians such as Claudio Corti, so that it is necessary to indulge in further background reading to dispel and get a more accurate perspective than that projected by Harrier which, right up to his death in 2006 he apparently steadfastly refused to revise, despite high ranking appeals from other respected climbers.
Ultimately, taken with some reservations, this is a brilliant book about mountaineering and what drives people to climb and often to give their lives on conquering the world's most dangerous peaks. Whilst Harrer may not have been without his flaws as a human being, his creditental as a narrator on mountaineering experiences are impeccable and this book is one of the pinnacles of achivement in the genre.