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Bernese Oberland, Switzerland


Mar - May

Start Elevation

3,967 m

Located in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, the Eiger and its legendary North Face stand at 3,967m above the town of Grindelwald. Arguably the most famous alpine face in the world, it has a fearsome reputation among climbers for being steep, dangerous and subject to temperamental weather.

Less notorious and more amenable is its West Flank. It's still a long and committing undertaking, but one which doesn’t require technical climbing skills to ascend. And once the Eiger’s summit is gained via this aspect, it then provides an epic ski descent for those accustomed to steeper slopes with sustained exposure.

Jöttnar's John Thornton lives in St. Anton, Austria, and is a pioneering skier, climber and photographer. Here he gives a pro skier's insight into this iconic descent.

Beginning in Kleine Scheidegg, make your way towards the Eigergletscher station where you turn in the direction of the Eiger West Flank. Alternatively, you can pay an extra fare and take the train all the way to the Eigergletscher station. From here, ascend some 300m onto the West Flank's Rotstock Plateau. This makes for an ideal bivouac spot. Some 1,300m later and nearing the summit, you may encounter a small, steeper section of ice which is usually easily passible. Shortly after you’ll find yourself standing on top of the Eiger, ready to ski down.

Usually the snow is very thin at the top so most parties descend this initial section on foot. You’re just one wrong turn from the North Face here, so it really pays to be cautious.

"You’re just one wrong turn from the North Face here, so it really pays to be cautious."



Depending on conditions, either rappel or down-climb the small section of ice that you previously climbed through. We managed to find an old peg that was sufficient enough to rappel from. At this point it’s usually possible to put on your skis and begin the long descent. The snow was thin that year and so we had to make one further down-climb through a small scree slope to gain the skiable remainder.

The face is very sustained, at between 45 and 55 degrees, but has a plateau at the midway point, just above the serac. This makes for a good rest spot. Skiing down under the serac, the face narrowed as we navigated our way through numerous rock bands.

Soon after you’ll find yourself on wider slopes with Rotstock and the Eigergletscher Station well within your sights. You can now look forward to a well-earned beverage and Apfel Strudel at Kleine Scheidegg.

Images © John Thornton

Specialist Equipment

Angle of Descent

55 °

Descent Time

1-2 hrs

Descent Distance


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