Great north faces of the Alps

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The north face of the Eiger

In mountaineering, the six great north faces of the Alps (also called the six 'classic north faces') are known for their difficulty and great height. A face is "a vertical or sloping side of a mountain or cliff."[1]

They are (sorted by date of first ascent):

Making the first ascent of each of these six faces was a major preoccupation of the best European climbers in the 1930s. Gaston Rébuffat, a French alpinist and mountain guide, was the first to climb all six of them, and his 1954 work, Etoiles et Tempêtes (Starlight and Storm), chronicles these climbs.[2]

Three of these north faces—the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses—are considerably harder to climb than the others. This led to their becoming known as 'the Trilogy'. The first to climb these three faces within a year was the Austrian Leo Schlömmer, from the summer of 1961 to the summer of 1962. Ivano Ghirardini was the first man to climb the Trilogy in winter, solo (1977–78), and Catherine Destivelle was the first woman (1992-93-94).[3] With the introduction of the concept of enchainment, the next challenge was to climb all three faces in one outing, a race eventually won by Christophe Profit, who achieved the feat between 11–12 March 1987 in a time of 24 hours.[4]

From December 2014 to March 2015, during a project known as "Starlight and Storms", Tom Ballard climbed the six major alpine north faces solo, being the first person to complete this feat in a single winter season without a support team.[5] A film chronicling this project, Tom, won several awards at international film festivals.[6][7]



  • Anker, Daniel (ed.) (2000) Eiger: The Vertical Arena. Seattle: The Mountaineers.
  • Bonatti, Walter (2001). The Mountains of My Life. New York: Modern Library. ISBN 0-375-75640-X.
  • Hargreaves, Alison (1995). A Hard Day's Summer: Six Classic North Faces Solo. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-60602-9
  • Rébuffat, Gaston (1999). Starlight and Storm: The Conquest of the Great North Faces of the Alps. New York: Modern Library. ISBN 0-375-75506-3
  • Destivelle, Catherine (2003). Ascensions, Arthaud (French) (ISBN 2-7003-9594-8)
  • Destivelle, Catherine (2015). Rock Queen, Hayloft Publishing Ltd (ISBN 978-1910237076)


  1. ^ "face - definition of face in English | Oxford Dictionaries 2.2". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  2. ^ Rébuffat, Gaston (1999). Starlight and Storm: The Conquest of the Great North Faces of the Alps. New York: Modern Library. ISBN 0-375-75506-3.
  3. ^ Destivelle, Catherine (2003). "L'Eiger en solitaire et en hiver". Ascensions. Arthaud. p. 181. ISBN 2-7003-9594-8.
  4. ^ Mark Twight, Kiss Or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber, The Mountaineers Books, 2002, p. 33
  5. ^ Sawer, Patrick (26 February 2016). "Tom Ballard conquers the Alps 20 years after his mother's death on K2". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  6. ^ ""Tom": il film sull'alpinista Ballard conquista i film festival internazionali della montagna". 14 January 2016.
  7. ^ Elena Golatelli. Tom.