Heinrich Harrer was born in 1912 in Carinthia. His skiing prowess won him a place in the 1936 Austrian Olympic team. He was in the party which first ascended the notorious North Wall of the Eiger in 1938, and is the author of the classic climbing book The White Spider – a full history of the attempts to make that terrible climb.
While climbing in the Himalayas he was caught by the outbreak of World War II, and, being Austrian, was interned in India. From here he succeeded in escaping to Tibet where he stayed for seven years. During this time Harrer became friend and tutor to the young Dalai Lama, and accompanied him into India when he was put to flight by the Red Chinese invasion.