Eiger Nightmares

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Asuming you live in the UK and have access to iPlayer, you have until the end of Saturday to catch the recent BBC4 documentary, The Eiger: Wall of Death, an hour-long look at the history of one mountaineering's more notorious stars. If you know anything about The Eiger, the first half seems a little over-familiar, and several people have told me that the Joe Simpson show The Beckoning Silence was better. But the second half of the BBC effort has riveting archive footage of Brian Nally being interviewed after his ordeal, when climbing partner Barry Brewster died in front of him. Nally seems traumatised and the camera just a little too close to comfort, but it captures the grim madness the Eiger seemed to inspire, especially in the 1960s. That was also revealed by Ian McNaught-Davis hostile interview of Chris Bonington at the base of the peak. Mac tells Bonington what he thinks about plans for a direct route. I don't know whether Mac's intervention was part of the reason, but Bonington pulled out of John Harlin's plans, to be replaced by Dougal Haston. The notion that the media is a recent and unwelcome arrival in mountaineering is taken apart by this film. A stunning face, yes, but one most would rather have climbed, than be climbing, I'd wager, even now, when it's not technically considered too much of a challenge.

Posted by Ed Douglas at 10.11 AM