Famous Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer died on Saturday, January 7th 2006, at the age of 93. He is best known for making the first ascent of the north face of the Eiger in 1938, together with three other climbers (Andrease Heckmair, Fritz Kasparek and Ludwig Vörg).
One year later Harrer took part in a German Nanga Parbat expedition. In those days the war broke out and the German climbers were arrested by the British and imprisoned in India. After some time, Harrer and Peter Aufschneiter, the head of the expedition, managed to escape. That was how a 21-month-long escape through the Himalayas began. The two climbers reached Lhassa, the capital of Tibet, where Harrer got to know the Dalai Lama, and became his tutor and friend. In 1950, when communist China started the occupation of Tibet, Harrer had to leave Lhassa. Nevertheless, his friendship with the Dalai Lama survived and lasted till the end of Harrer’s life. Heinrich Harrer documented all that story in the famous book Seven Years in Tibet (1953), translated into nearly 50 languages since its first publication.
After leaving Tibet, Harrer made the first ascents of Ausengate (Peru), Mounts Drum, Deborah and Hunter (Alaska) in 1954 and, in 1962, Carstensz Pyramid (4884m), the highest mountain of Oceania.
All the souvenirs, photos and documents he collected during his numerous journeys are exhibited at the Heinrich Harrer Museum in his home town, Hüttenberg (the Carinthian Region in Austria). This place was visited and blessed by the Dalai Lama on Harrer’s 80th birthday anniversary.
In 2002 Harrer wrote an autobiography entitled “Mein Leben”. He was also awarded the Gold Medal of the Eiger, the German Great Cross of Honour, the Austrian Cross of Honour for Art and Science, Austria’s Golden Humboldt Medal and the Explorers Medal of the Explorers Club of New York.