Anderl Heckmair's account of his life and climbing accomplishments is the story of a man dedicated not just to climbing, but to adventure in the best sense of the word. Whether summiting the Matterhorn in his walking shoes (he hadn't really intended to climb the mountain that day), or guiding his millionaire client to a perfect ascent of remote Mount Waddington in British Columbia's Coast Range ("We stepped onto the summit with genuine Bavarian whoops of joy"), Heckmair is set apart as much by his ability to communicate his joyful enthusiasm for life as by his brilliance in climbing.
Heckmair's greatest mountaineering achievement, the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in 1938, was an undertaking so dangerous that the Swiss government had attempted to ban climbing on the face. When Heckmair and his three teammates (Wiggerl Vorg, Heinrich Harrer, and Fritz Kasparek) reached the summit safely, much was made of this as a great accomplishment for fascist Germany. This controversial characterization receives proper treatment in this new edition of Heckmair's classic autobiography, as he insists that he was an apolitical mountaineer. On hearing Hitler refer to Czechoslovakia as "a spear sticking into the side of Germany that must be broken off," Heckmair realized that not only was the Fuhrer preparing for war, he was actively courting it. "If that happened, it would be the end of the freedom in the mountains. It was a profound disappointment, and the certainty of what was to befall us depressed me."