The Nordwand, German for "north wall" or "north face," is the spectacular north (or, more precisely, northwest) face of the Eiger (also known as the Eigernordwand: "Eiger north wall"). It is one of the six great north faces of the Alps, towering over 1,800 m (5,900 ft) above Kleine Scheidegg. At 2,866 metres inside the mountain lies the Eigernordwand railway station. The station is connected to the north face by a tunnel opening at the face, which has sometimes been used to rescue climbers.
It was first climbed on July 24, 1938 by Anderl Heckmair, Ludwig Vörg, Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek, a German–Austrian group. The group had originally consisted of two independent teams; Harrer and Kasparek were joined on the face by Heckmair and Vörg, who had started their ascent a day later and had been helped by the fixed rope that the lead group had left across the Hinterstoisser Traverse. The two groups, led by the experienced Heckmair, cooperated on the more difficult later pitches, and finished the climb roped together as a single group of four.
A portion of the upper face is called "The White Spider," as snow-filled cracks radiating from an ice-field resemble the legs of a spider. Harrer used this name for the title of his book about his successful climb, Die Weisse Spinne (translated into English as The White Spider: The Classic Account of the Ascent of the Eiger). During the first successful ascent, the four men were caught in an avalanche as they climbed the Spider, but all had enough strength to resist being swept off the face.
Since then, the north face has been climbed many times. Today it is regarded as a formidable challenge more because of the increased rockfall and diminishing ice-fields than because of its technical difficulties, which are not at the highest level of difficulty in modern alpinism. That distinction lies with the 8,000 meter peaks in the Himalaya and Karakoram. In summer the face is often unclimbable because of rockfall, and climbers are increasingly electing to climb it in winter, when the crumbling face is strengthened by ice.
Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the north face, earning it the German nickname, Mordwand, or "murderous wall", a play on the face's German name Nordwand.