Heinrich Harrer

The first time I came to know about Heinrich Harrer was when I saw the movie Seven Years in Tibet. The movie was kind of boring, but Harrer’s life was fascinating. In the movie he escapes from a POW camp in Darjeeling in 1944 and crosses the mountainson foot to reach Tibet, thus being one of few westerners to reach there. He spends 7 years there, tutoring a young Dalai Lama, who many years later would take the reverse route to India

He was an accomplished mountaineer as well, climbing the Eiger, regarded as a major test of climbing ability.

After the Eiger’s hazardous east ridge was scaled in 1921, only the north face remained unconquered. The first nine climbers who attempted it in the 1930s all died.

In August 1935 two Germans, Max Sedlmayer and Karl Mehringer, made their assault on the wall. The men were abruptly halted 3,000 feet up by a terrible storm, accompanied by freezing temperatures and frequent avalanches.

They survived on the face for five agonising days, bivouacking there for four nights before freezing to death. Four more climbers died the next year while trying to retreat.

Then, in July 1938, an Austro-German team of four, Anderl Heckmair, Ludwig Vörg, Fritz Kasparek and Heinrich Harrer, made it to the top. It took the men, who had only decided to team up at the base of the wall, more than three days to reach the summit.[The ultimate alpine challenge]

They met Hitler and Goebbels who praised them for their achievement. Harrer died this week. In such an eventful life his only regret must have been that he was portrayed by Brad Pitt on screen.