When first met here Bob Wishart, an experienced mountaineer, has lost his nerve after an attempted ascent of the North Wall of the Eiger, familiarly known to the fraternity as ""Death Bivouac."" A friend had lost more -- a leg. Wishart, edgy and uncertain and looking backward on various other failures, returns to England and then goes up to Scotland where he meets Joanna and there are woodland walks as well as slow whiskies in pubs or with her father -- also a climber, Brigadier Grant. This idles along on the road to reclamation until the Brigadier, although well in his fifties, decides to confront the Eiger and Wishart must go with him. The last part is of course another one of those piton-by-crampon climbs, in a literally killing cold, with the freak accident to follow (an ice-axe pierces the Brigadier's throat). This particular form of suicide usually brings out the best in men and writers: MacHardy's not one of them (he belabors the language with localisms like ""it's a bit wonky"") and the most you can say is that it's a serviceable novel.