The Eiger Obsession by John Harlin


Title: The Eiger Obsession - facing the mountain that killed my father
Author: John Harlin III
Publisher: Random House - August 08
Price: 18.99

This book follows John Harlin III on his journey to step from his father shadow, culminating with his climb of the North Face of the Eiger.


John Harlin III was nine years old when his father made his fated attempt on a direct ascent of the Eiger. Harlin had put together a terrific team and, despite unending storms, he was poised for the moment he had long waited for - the summit dash. However, Harlin’s rope broke at 2,000 feet from the summit, and he plummeted 4,000 feet to his death.

In the shadow of tragedy, young John Harlin III came of age possessed with the very same passion for risk that drove his father. But he had also promised his mother, a beautiful and brilliant young widow, that he would not be an Alpine climber. Harlin moved from Europe to America, and, with an insatiable sense of wanderlust, he revelled in downhill skiing and rock-climbing. For years he successfully denied the siren call of the mountain that killed his father. But in 2005, he could resist no longer. And so it was, that with his nine-year-old daughter, Siena – his very age at the time of his father’s death – and with an IMAX Theatre filmmaking crew watching, John Harlin III set off towards the Eiger…

The book starts with the authors father still alive and culminates with the author facing his fears and climbing the Eiger by the classic route.  The Eiger climb itself forms a small part of the book and if you are looking for an in-depth technical account of ascending one of the most famous north faces on the planet then you should look else where. 

That said the book does give a wonderful insight into the authors journey as he struggles to step out of the shadow of his father and is a worthwhile addition to anybodies bookshelf.  I really look forward to seeing the IMAX film that was made of his ascent and hopefully John Harlin III can now gain some element of closure on what is one of the most famous stories associated with the Eiger.

John Harlin III is editor of the American Alpine Journal and contributing editor for Backpacker. A former cohost of PBS’s Anyplace Wild, Harlin is a frequent contributor to numerous publications, including Outside magazine. He lives in Hood River, Oregon, and Oaxaca, Mexico, with his wife, Adele Hammond and their daughter, Siena.

The Eiger Obsession can be purchased directly from Random House for £18.99.

Review written by Giles Thurston on August 18, 2008


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