The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian strikes me as more of an action novel than an adventure narrative. In class we have discussed adventure as an incident that differs from everyday life and undertaking an action where the outcome is uncertain. To me this novel is not an adventure novel. Reading Trevanian’s novel I am reminded of secret agents like James Bond, and Archer. These are the stereotypical secret agents for whom action is a part of their daily life. While Hemlock only kills people when he needs money, this novel seems to be about him doing a job rather than trying to conquer or experience a climb. The climb seems to be secondary and undesirable.
While this story does not feel like an adventure narrative it does provide some insight into why people climb. In discussing Ben and Jonathan’s attempt to climb Aconcagua, Trevanian highlights the difference between summiteers and mountaineers. He states that Ben “loved each step of a climb” where as Jonathan “climbed for the victory”(103). Later in preparing to climb Big Ben Needle, Jonathan is described as experiencing the scent of victory. Later this feeling of conquering and focus on the summit becomes especially clear. When Jonathan is trying to figure out how to get up the last five feet of Big Ben Needle he and Ben take very different views. Ben argues that they had had a nice climb so far and there was no shame in turning back. In response to this Jonathan states “Ninety-nine percent of the way is called a failure”(149). This is an extremely clear view of the difference between climbing for the journey versus climbing for the summit.