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Historical First Winter Ascent on Eiger North Face’s Harlin Route

The first ascent was over 50 years ago, and took place after one of the team members fell to his death

One of the  steepest routes in the Alps, the John Harlin Direct on the north face of the Eiger had its first winter ascent from Jan. 12 to 16. Members of the military climbing group Chamonix GMHM, including Cpl Billon, Sébastien Ratel and Benjamin Védrines climbed it in alpine style, finding good conditions.

The 1,800-metre long line was first climbed by John Harlin, Layton Kor and Scotsman Dougal Haston in 1966. After Harlin’s death, when a rope he was jumarring broke, Haston completed the line Germans Siegfried Hupfauer, Jörg Lehne, Günter Strobel and Roland Votteler. The reached the top on March 25, five days after the first day of spring.

Swiss guide Robert Jasper, accompanied by Robert Schaeli, managed to free-climb the route in October 2010 with mixed climbing up to M8, rock at the UK grade of E5 7a (5.13b/c). “As I lead-climbed the very pitch where John Harlin had his fatal fall in 1966,” said Jasper, “thoughts of my family and the risks of the mountain flitted through my mind.”

Read Sir Chris Bonington’s epic story about the first ascent of the climb in the 1967 American Alpine Journal here.