Eiger 1975

It is forbidden to walk on the tracks…

Joe and his climbing partner Dick Renshaw had previously climbed the North Face of the Eiger in the summer of 1973 and in 1974 “wondered about the Eiger in winter” (quote from Savage Arena). They spent 1974 earning money and making preparations. Working as temporary teachers they set to accumulating the equipment needed, including making salopettes and over-boots, and adapting fleecy pile undergarments by inserting zips for going to the toilet without undressing! Joe described it as the “greatest test we had yet faced” (Savage Arena). The skies were clear and the air was still as they set off but after the first day barely one-tenth of the distance they covered on the summer climb had been covered. The men settled into sleeping bags for the night as an icy wind started to blow and they were woken later with dense snow falling. They realised the importance of constructing shelter so put up a tent and gathered belongings that would soon be buried under the fall. The weather prevented further progress and after a second night of blizzards and tiny avalanches they decided to retreat. When, exhausted, they reached the railway station on the descent, they were told “it is forbidden to walk on the tracks” – several times!

When they returned for a second attempt, it took Joe and Dick six days and nights of exhausting conditions to climb the route. They were applauded back to the railway station this time, where they shocked a tourist by revealing they had not bought return tickets.

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