The Ogre rises up among its brother and sister peaks, the Monk and the Virgin, a craggy limestone buttress looming above most of the north-eastern part of the Bernese Alps.
The Eiger: 13,042 feet of sheer rock, cracks and treacherous ice-fields.
Many attempts to scale this uncompromising weather-battered mountain have been made over the years, but successful attempts didn't begin until 1938, with the brave perseverance of a team of four German climbers. As a twenty-year-old eager climber myself, I knew all the facts. The windswept North Face (Nordwand) was the height of all climbing careers when I'd been growing up. 1952 - the great year of the Eiger. In that year, twenty men made attempts on just the Mordwand - 'murderous wall' - alone, with eighteen of them making it to the triumphant peak. It was the year in which it seemed the hoodoo of the mighty Ogre was broken.
To a young Viennese piano-tuner, whose precise and delicate profession gave way to an intense, vigorous hobby, the Nordwand became the summit of his aspirations. Seeing his old climbing acquaintance, Heinrich Harrer, be the first to vanquish the formidable 'Spider' formation on the North Face in his team of four, only inspired him further.
I shared his passion for climbing, his admiration for those hardy enough to scale one of these most respected zeniths.
So, naturally, I was shocked to discover that I shared more with this man who was as a stranger to me - he was Engelbert Titl.
He had been waiting for his friend for several hours now. As the sun just began to emerge from the lowest reaches of the horizon, he made the difficult decision to face the Eiger's less volatile Eastern Flank alone, as his climbing partner was still nowhere to be seen.
To do this on his own would be to challenge the growing belief that to scale the Ogre on one's own was easier than in a team - and reports say that he was scaling the mountain at incredible speeds, making seemingly easy work of the Mittellegi Ridge.
The crumbling limestone was rough beneath the pads of his gloves, the snow crunched rhythmically in time with his steps. He imagined it was like pressing the paddles on a piano, touching the ivory keys with his fingers. The narrow course led him between boulders and snow drifts, on one side leading around the fearsome Ogre's wide base, on the other falling away to a breathtaking drop with the wicked North Wall. The hazy outline of the Burmese Alps shimmered in the bright sky, the valleys and mountains creating a fantastical landscape around him.
The thrill of climbing at this height was astonishing; adrenaline pumped through his veins, a flush coloured his cheeks, and each slip, trip or stumble was new electric joy, as he swiftly mounted the infamous Eiger.
I had never expected to ever discover the existence of a man of such tragic fame as Bertl - whose body was found mere feet below the bodies of the two men who created one of the notorious mountain's greatest mysteries; Nothdurft and Mayr.
I'd been told when, in 1961 - three years after his ascent - Engelbert's brother was asked to identify his body. I'd been barely six or seven, then. Black silence was all that anyone ever knew of Engelbert Titl's accomplishments and his unfortunate downfall. Since, from the moment Erich Titl returned from examining the equipment and remains the rescue mission had uncovered, he refused to utter a syllable about it.
So it was with great surprise that I discovered the exultant feats which Engelbert attained.
Here it was. The sun was just past the midday point, high in the clear skies. The air was glacial, biting through his jacket and whipping snow up around him.
He stood on the small, jubilant zenith, having vanquished that prodigious, sacrosanct foe at last.
Above the clouds, beyond civilisation, he stood, untouchable, conqueror of the great Eiger: that humble piano-tuner from Vienna.
All that stood between him and imminent distinction was the West Wall - a simple downward slope which descended to the foothills of the three peaks. It was a relatively easy descent, looking down on the popup municipality of Grindelwald, with its toy-sized churches and ribbons of silvery rivers, matchbox houses and green squares of farming land.
The snow was soft yet firm beneath Bertl's climbing boots, brightly glimmering in the strong afternoon sunlight. The wind was bitingly cold and the air thin.
He wished that his friend could be with him now, battling the Nordwand, which he could just make out to his far right as a dark streak from ground to very uppermost tip of the Ogre, held together by ropes and gripping the granite outcrops with tired hands and pulling up towards that one last podium of rock with over-exerted muscles.
In a few days, maybe they'd have the chance to re-organise the trip. Engelbert took to discussing with himself how to ask his friend why he hadn't joined him that morning, while lowering himself down the incline. He was confident he'd be down before nightfall.
It was only a short way down, however, that his foot finally displaced a little more snow than he'd expected, and he'd slipped down onto his back, freefalling down the white expanse for a number of feet. Extending an arm, he'd managed to chance upon a crag of rock, which he'd clung to. With a grunt of effort, he pulled himself back up, panting with exhaustion and exhilaration and fear. Soft, cold snow continued to slither around him, hissing as it gathered in corners and flooded the mountainside.
It took Bertl a little too long to realise that the flow was only growing.
You'd expect a mountaineering death to be something experienced in appalling weather, with grey storm clouds, blood and terror, dark stone and tearing support ropes. Engelbert had expected chasms and frostbite and suffering, pain and loud screams and panic. Anything but that low whisper of snow on snow which was growing around him while he sat, helpless, just waiting for the inevitable in this bleak, white expanse, with the world at his feet and the sharp feeling of cold in his fingers and toes, and the numbness accompanied with the slow trickle of pale powder around his sprawled body.
He felt that he should at least do his best to escape, and pushed himself with inhuman willpower to his feet. The white river clawed at his ankles, building castles up his calves and piling into the depression where he'd rested. He took one cautious step downward.
There was a short silence.
And then all of heaven seemed to come crashing down on his shoulders.
His tale was told, in brief, by more than one novel. His friend, Harrer, describes how he was found, 'in the couloirs on the West Face, a few yards below the bodies of Northdurft and Mayr,' in his book, The White Spider. In The Climb up to Hell, by Jack Olsen, too, there is a passing comment on the discovery of his body.
Engelbert Titl was discovered minutes after the only two missing Germans on the Eiger - Gunther Nothdurft and Franz Mayr. They had made the arduous journey to the summit up the Nordwand, the Mordwand, and had promised to help two other, Italian climbers who had come into difficulties. They had fallen almost exactly a year before Titl.
He had been descending, victorious, on the West Wall, when he had been hit undignified and unceremoniously by an avalanche. The wall of snow had buried him and crushed him beyond the point of respiring, and he had died, leaving only bones and notebook and climbing gloves behind.
It took many years research before I realised that the Viennese piano-tuner had left more than just equipment and his body behind - he'd left sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews. And what I was most shocked to discover, was that he left me behind. My uncle:
Cause of death: avalanche.