Climb the Eiger with the help of ‘Street View’

Ever wanted to climb the Eiger? Now you can do it in 360º without getting up from your computer.
A climber tackles the famous Heckmair route up Switzerland's Eiger for Manut's Project360, which filmed the route in full 360 degree video
Now that's a 360º view! © Mammut / Dani Arnold
By Sissi Pärsch

The third dimension hits 1,650m atop the Eiger Nordward and it's available for anyone to watch. Mammut alpinists Stephen Siegrist and Dani Arnold climbed the legendary Heckmair route, with a little extra something on their backs – a 360º 'camera cube' which offers video footage from every direction. Matthias Taugwalder, the project's technical director, fills us in on the details of this ground-breaking video project.

Matthias, what's your role?
I put the tech together. I'm a photographer and I specialise in interactive formats, and particularly in the mountains. I've worked with Mammut in the past, and together we came up with the idea of 'street view goes vertical', and then taking it a step further to include video.

A climber tackles the famous Heckmair route up the face of Switzerland's Eiger with a custom-made 360º camera pack to film the route for Mamut's Project 360
Just a few extra grams © Mammut / Dani Arnold

What makes this special?
The viewer is supposed to feel like a mountaineer. The experience that pros have on the mountain is now accessible to all – even those who've never been in the mountains. Also, ambitious climbers can sift through the material to prepare for their own climbs. This virtual sharing aspect is really exciting!

The camera itself was custom-built?
Yes. I spent two months building the system out of several existing components. Basically, it's a camera cube of six GoPros, with overlapping pictures and videos assembled on the computer to build a 360º view.

© Mammut / Dani Arnold

What were some of the challenges?
Making sure it would be functional on the mountain. Can it be handled in extreme conditions? With gloves? How much memory do you need? Can it survive the cold temps? That sort of thing. There were a few refrigerator tests along the way!

The route up the Eiger is also not easy...
And it's not easy on the gear either. We absolutely had to take that into consideration. We tried to make the system both easy to use and robust at the same time, well protected from damage and moisture. On the climb everything went super smoothly fortunatly.

Mammut's technical team and photographer Matthias Taugwalder planning the 360 degree camera unit used to film the ascent of the Eiger for Project360
Matthias Taugwalder meets with the team © Mammut / Christian Gisi

How does it limit the climbers?
It's different for them, but it shouldn't limit them – they should be able to climb to their normal standard. And it's a little more advanced than it looks. It's not just simply attached to their backs. There's a custom aluminum frame that helps maintain the proper distance and perspective.

Climbers Stephen Siegrist and Dani Arnold climb Switzerland's Eigerfor Mammut's Project360, which filmed their route up the mountain in full 360 degree video
The view from above © Mammut / Christian Gisi

Why is this pioneering work?
The virtual experience is becoming very popular, with products like the Oculus Rift glasses. I think it's also great when climbers can document their own trip independently, without helicopters circling the mountain and polluting the air.

Climber Stephen Siegrist on the wall section of the Eiger in Switzerland during his climb that was filmed in full 360 degree video for Mammut's Project360.
Stephen Siegrist heads up the wall © Mammut / Dani Arnold

Is it the end of traditional photography?
No. When it comes to capturing special moments, or creating an artistically challenging photograph, you need the appropriate technology. And it's still the photographer who makes the picture.

What's next for the Mammut project?
Well, we'd like to capture the entire Alps, so there's a little bit left to do!

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