Thursday, May 5, 2011

North Face and Toni Kurz

There have been numerous documentaries and movies on Toni Kurz. I am posting two of the prominent ones here. I am giving some background on Toni and his friend Andreas Hinterstoisser following which I will give you links to videos and the movie itself.
Toni Kurz (January 13, 1913 in Berchtesgaden, Germany – July 22, 1936) was a German mountain climber of the early 20th century who had many first ascents with his childhood friend Andreas Hinterstoisser. Both died in tragic circumstances in 1936 as one of the four-man team making a second attempt to scale the North Face of the Eiger.

During the ascent, his companion, Willy Angerer, was injured by falling rocks loosened by the warmth of the rising sun as they crossed the first ice field. As a result of Willy Angerer's worsening condition and their slow progress across the second ice field, they abandoned the attempt on the Eiger and decided to descend. A further challenge arose when Kurz and his comrades failed to retrace their route across the area now known as the Hinterstoisser Traverse and had to climb downwards. As the result of another avalanche, Hinterstoisser himself became disconnected, plummeted down the mountain, and perished. Later, Willy Angerer, now climbing below Kurz, was smashed against the wall, dying instantly. Edi Rainer, the climber who had been securing the other two, was pulled against the wall and died minutes later of asphyxiation. Kurz alone now remained, uninjured.

Later that day, amid worsening weather, a rescue team attempted to reach Kurz from below, ascending by means of the railway tunnel that ran through the mountain, the Jungfraybahn. They could not reach Kurz due to the severity of the storm and were forced to leave him dangling unprotected and exposed to the elements for the entire night. The next day, the team again attempted to effect a rescue; Kurz himself made the effort, despite a frozen hand due to losing a glove, to abseil down the face of the mountain and reach the team. To accomplish this, he first had to cut loose the dead body of his comrade hanging below him, then climb up and cut loose his other dead comrade. To increase the length of his rope, he unraveled it and tied it together again. This entire process took five grueling hours. He then lowered the rope to the waiting rescuers, who attached their own rope.

The mountain guides only had one long rope – 60 meters – with them. Hans Schlunegger just put it between his back and his rucksack (not into his rucksack) to save some time. This was not an unusual practice for them. Unfortunately when he made a sudden movement the rope dropped and fell down to the foot of the wall. As a result the team combined two shorter ropes to reach the required length; however the combined ropes still fell short. Kurz pulled up their rope, fixed it, and began his abseiling descent. He was stopped a mere couple of meters above his rescuers by the knot. To abseil any further he would have had to raise himself enough to release the pressure on the knot and let it pass though his gear. Desperately, Kurz tried to move himself past the knot, but in vain. Facing the futility of his situation, he said only "Ich kann nicht mehr" ("I can't [go on] anymore") and died.

His body was later recovered by a German team.

The movie North Face (2010) is one of the most wonderful movies about climbing I have seen. I would rate it to be better than movies like K2- the ultimate dream and Vertical limit. Toni and Hinterstoisser are really likable characters and I love the way the movie has been filmed.


Philipp Stölzl

The Beckoning Silence

Its a documentary which was made for TV. It is a documentary comparing one extraordinary escape by Joe Simpson after falling into a crevasse while descending Siula Grande(Peru) and the tragedy on the North Face of Eiger which involved Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser.

Joe Simpson who talks about the whole incident and about his own fight for survival has himself made 6 unsuccessful attempts on the North Face of the Eiger which Toni and Hinterstoisser had set out to climb with equipment half as good but determination that would probably be a lot more than Joe.

I am posting the first part of the movie here. Once you are done you will get related links to watch the whole movie from there onwards.

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