North Face in Winter by Toni Hiebeier. Translated from the German Im Banne der Spinne by Hugh Merrick. New York: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1963. 121 pages, 21 photographs. Price $3.95.
Hiebeler’s account of the first winter ascent of the Eigerwand is a straightforward tale of the planning and execution of this important event in Alpine climbing. Hiebeler and his companions tackled the planning of the ascent in a thoughtful way and carried enough gear, clothing and food so that they would rest warmly and comfortably and have enough to eat to weather serious delays. They split the climb into two segments — a fact not revealed until after the celebrations acknowledging their success. Merrick devotes nearly a third of his long introduction to their defense against some of the obviously bitter attacks directed at them.
The book is, for the most part, soberly and clearly written and the quality of the photographs is high. Less than half of the text is devoted to the climb itself, the remainder dealing with the history and background of this and other great walls and with many details of their planning. The author lists all their equipment, food and clothing and gives some detailed route descriptions, all of which are of interest to climbers. They spent six days on the last part of the route and did not get into any serious difficulties. The tale is thereby free of disaster and unparalleled suffering, which, although it may hurt sales, is the way this reviewer believes all such tales should go.
Henry W. Kendall