Translator's introduction Introduction to the 1998 edition About the author In the mountains of North Tyrol 'They'll never make a climber of me' A lesson from death End of an Alpine apprenticeship Grade VI - in the limestone cliffs Three routes on the Schusselkar The dying mountain - the north wall of the Praxmarerkarspitze Head-first to life The extreme edge of the abyss - the Mauk west wall Straight on up - the Laliderer wall Change of occupation - the ski-racer Avalanches, plaster casts and a hint of spring The Dolomite fairyland Smuggler's journey into Fairyland Once in a lifetime - Goldkappel south wall The north-east wall of the Furchetta A climb on probation Ice-glazed rock, waterfalls and stones The Royal Wall of the Civetta Winter training In the hell of a blizzard - Schusselkar wall Twenty-five summits in thirty-three hours The cold arete In the ice of the Western Alps The wall of ice and grit The north wall of the Triolet Only eight hours - but productive! Christmas on the precipices Climbing on steeples Turned down by the Jorasses Dreams come true Thunder on the Aiguille Noire A storm on the Monarch The south-west wall of the Marmolada, in winter Down a crevasse and an Alpine wager The buttress of the Grandes Jorasses Fifteen peaks at one bite The Matterhorn and a flagon of wine Gymnastics on rock - the north wall of the Western Zinne A climber went a-wooing We had to bivouac after all - on the Tofana buttress Badile - north-east wall Preparation for a great objective The mountain crucible - Eiger north wall The daily round intervenes Alone on a winter's night - east wall of the Watzmann Nanga Parbat Below 26,000 feet Above 26,000 feet Epilogue - A year later.
For many, Hermann Buhl is one of the greatest climbers of all time. Born in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1924, he was a frail child and not encouraged to climb but, driven by enthusiasm and determination, he did so anyway. He became one of the best rock climbers in Austria, and then one of the best mountaineers, before serving in the Second World War where he was captured while stationed with the alpine troops. Following the war, he turned his attention to the Western Alps with impressive results, making a series of remarkable climbs, often solo and frequently in appalling conditions. As his experiences and abilities grew - Buhl was to qualify as a mountain guide - it was inevitable that he would turn to the greater ranges. In 1953, on his first expedition, Buhl made the first ascent of Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest mountain in the world. Climbing alone and without supplementary oxygen, he made a highly committing dash for the summit. When, in 1957, he made the first ascent of Broad Peak, again without oxygen or support from porters, he became the first man to make two first ascents of 8,000-metre peaks. Buhl was killed only a few weeks later while descending from an attempt on nearby Chogolisa.