Adventurer. Born in Knappenberg, Carintia, Austria, he particpated in downhill and slalom ski events in the 1936 Olympics. Graduated from Karl Franzen University in Graz, Austria, with a degree in geography and sports. Became the national trainer for the Austrian Women's Ski Team. Upon graduating in 1938, he immediately left for Grindelwald, Switzerland, and there he joined Anderl Heckmair, Fritz Kasparek und Ludwig Vörg in making the first successful ascent of north wall of the Eiger im Berner Oberland--it had never been successfully climbed before and had taken the lives of numerous experienced climbers. The German-Austrian team reached the summit of the Eiger on July 24, 1938 and was later personally congratulated by Adolf Hitler; after Harrer's return to Austria he was drafted into the SS Korps and became a sports instructor. In 1939 he particpated in a German expedition to Nanga Parbat on the west end of the Himalayas; it ended when the party became prisoners of war of the British in India. He finally escaped in April 1944 along with fellow climber Peter Aufschnaiter and eventually reached Tibet in 1946 where he became a tutor of the (then) young Dalai Lama as well as his lifelong friend. After the war ended, Harrer led some 26 ethnographic and mountain climbing expeditions in verious parts of the world. Authored 20 books; the most famous, "Sieben Jahren in Tibet" (Seven Years in Tibet), was made into a film starring Brad Pitt. In addition to various Austrian and German awards, he was also a recipient of the "Light of Truth" medal from the Tibetan government-in-exile. Died in Friesach, Carinthia (Kaerntin), Austria.
Bio by: Fred Beisser