Two Germans and two Austrians, led by German mountaineer Toni Kurz, took Hitler up on his challenge and attempted to climb the north face of the Eiger. All four moutain climbers died in the process. Toni Kurz was the last one to die, and the story of his death is gutwrenching. After losing all three of his companions to either rock slides or roping accidents, Toni Kurz found himself trapped on the end of a long rope, dangling for two days from the sheer mountain side. He dropped his left glove, and his hand froze in the frigid air. A rescue team was sent up the mountain to rescue Toni, but because the team also lost a rope, they had not enough rope to facilitate the rescue, falling two meters short of being able to reach Toni. Seeing his rescuers could advance no further, Toni worked for five hours with his one hand, attempting to tie together two ropes to lower himself to the rescues, but after his painful and unfruitful attempt to lower himself a mere six feet, Toni Kurz looked at his rescuers and uttered in German:
"Ich kann nigt mehr."Translated, those four German words mean "I can go no further." At that very moment Toni Kurz died. It would be two weeks later that another Austrian rescue team reclaimed the body of Toni Kurz.
The story of Tony Kurz and the unsuccessful 1936 attempt to conquer Eiger is grippingly retold in the 1960 classic book The White Spider (reprinted in 1998). Most people know of the Eiger because of Clint Eastwood's movie The Eiger Sanction, but for drama and edge-of-your-seat suspense, nothing tops the 2008 German movie (with English subtitles) North Face, which recreates the true story of Toni Kurz and his failed attempt at climbing the Eiger.
We are staying at the Eiger Hotel, directly across from Eiger mountain, and as I thought of Tony Kurz's last words - "Ich kann nigt mehr" - I can go no further - I couldn't help but think about how similar physically death is to spiritual rebirth.
The moment a person comes to the end of himself, an event Jesus calls "dying to self," which is in essence a person giving up and dying to self-effort, self-will, and self-love - what Paul Tripp calls "The Kingdom of Self" - then Jesus Christ takes over.
So death and hope go hand in hand in the Kingdom of God. I die to self that I might really live, empowered by God, for His kingdom and not my own.
I can go no further. But God can do through me what I never dreamed possible.