2021-10-02 Debrief Trisselwand
- crimps - tiny holds (hold = where you hold on to)
- slab - large holds which you hold on to using the friction of your hands instead of actually holding on to using your fingers
- indoor climbing - usually with artificial holds
- outdoor climbing - usually with natural holds (rock)
- deep water soloing - climbing (ocean) cliffs without a rope
- traverse - climbing horizontally instead of upwards
- topo - route topography/map
- approach - trail to get to the start/bottom of one or more climbing routes
- belay - securing a climber with a rope
- belay device - device to secure a climber; the device stops a rope from slipping through your fingers, in some cases automatically; with it, you can “catch” a falling climber
- abseil - lowering your partner or yourself down a climbing route using a rope and a belay device
- express - two carabiners connected by a short fabric, mainly used to secure a climber climbing up a route
- bolt - installed by awesome climbers to make climbing more secure; when climbing up a route, climbers connect the rope to the bolt using an express (2 connected carabiners)
- lead climbing - climbing a route from the ground upwards taking the rope up with you as you ascend; climbers secure themselves by clipping their rope to bolts using expresses
- follower - climbs after the lead climber which has secured the rope up the route; takes out the expresses set by the lead climber
- stand - a secure position climbers build using carabiners, slings and other equipment from which they can belay their climbing partner (who’s following or leading ahead)
- anchor - two or more bolts which allow a climber to build a stand
- bail biner - a carabiner which you leave behind on the wall when you want to get down a route that you can’t/don’t want to climb up until the next anchor
- pitch - the climbing route between two anchors, meaning between two positions from which you can belay; usually anywhere between 20-80 meters
- multi-pitch routes - as you can probably guess climbing routes with multiple pitches; roughly speaking a route that is several rope lengths long
- simul-climbing - both climbers climb at the same time, securing themselves with a fixed length of rope between them, the expresses that are clipped into the bolts between them and their body weight; if one climber falls, the other climber stops the fall not with traditional belaying methods but simply by being connected via a knot to the same rope; more dangerous for the upper climber as they can be pulled down into the last express if the upper climber falls
- progress capture device - secures the top climber from a fall by the bottom climber while simul-climbing
I first saw the face over 5 years ago. It was winter and I was standing on the porch of my uncle’s cabin. The trees around the lake were covered in snow. The air was cold and the sky was covered in dark clouds. The lake was completely still. You could see the reflection of the mountain in the crystal clear water. Right there in the middle, pointing skywards from the water, is a 500-meter tall wall: Trisselwand. It looked awe-inspiring, massive, and out of place.
I wondered if people climbed it. I wondered if I would ever be able to climb it.
Trisselwand covered in snow & clouds. Credits: Alessandro Kumric
Years went by. I would see the wall throughout the seasons. Covered in snow and ice in the winter. Shining bright like a shark fin in the summer. Glowing pink and red at sunset. A dark, menacing shadow in the distance at night.
I had not climbed in almost a decade. One day, Luke, who was the roommate of one of my best friends from high school in Berlin at the time, invited me to go bouldering with him. I had brought my old climbing shoes with me when I moved to Berlin on a whim, just in case I ever wanted to use them again.
We started bouldering regularly. I brought my harness to Berlin and started climbing again. Soon, Luke bought climbing gear and we started climbing on the manmade outdoor climbing spots in Berlin. A year went by and we discovered Bunker. An old World War II concrete bunker filled with tiny crimps - climbing slang for tiny holds. We were training for the outdoors, without any specific outdoor climbing goals in mind. Maybe we were waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.
One evening in Spring, Luke and I went to a hole-in-the-wall bar in Berlin called “Bierbar”. While we were drinking the local tap beer, I told Luke about a wall in Austria that had always been hiding in plain sight, waiting to be climbed. We checked out the topo (route topography). Route “Seeblick”: 12 pitches, 440 meters. The description said that the further you climb, the harder grades get. We decided to give it a go sometime in the summer.
At the beginning of summer, preparations for the trip began in earnest: regular bunker sessions, then 2 trips to Frankenjura. Climbing holidays in Mallorca and Croatia. Buying half ropes, extra express, new belay devices, more carabiners for stands, and shoes you could wear for longer periods. We settled on a weekend and booked our flights. We‘d have a 2-day weather window, narrow by all standards.
On the 1st of September, I checked the weather forecast for the first time. It was supposed to rain on the weekend. "It’s still early", I told myself. As the weekend drew closer and the forecast accuracy steadily increased, it looked more and more as if it was going to rain on our weekend. Tuesday evening, 3 days before the weekend I called Luke: "Would you consider going early and making an attempt on Friday?" He was supposed to work during the week on a team retreat in Vienna, but on Thursday, since the forecast had not changed for the weekend, Luke gave me the green light for Friday.
Weather forecast and green light on 2021-09-09
Friday: First Attempt
Luke and I in front of our objective. Game on!
2021-09-10, 07:00, I pick Luke up in the car. 11:00, we start the hike along the north side of the mountain. The approach is steep, sometimes exposed, and considerably longer than the topo says. We’re motivated and think little of it. We rope up. I take about 15 meters out of the 60-meter rope by coiling it around my chest. We start climbing shortly before 13:00 and blast up 165m in one go, simul-climbing - meaning both climbers climbing at the same time - the first 4 pitches without a stand. After I reach the first anchor - two bolts next to each other where it’s safe to belay your partner - I throw in one of our two progress capture devices. These devices are added to the rope system after harder sections to protect the leader against a fall of the follower. Without using progress capture devices, if the follower falls during simul-climbing, he would pull the lead climber down, off the wall, and into the last bolt, the leader clipped, which could result in injury. As I lead through the second pitch, there is one bolt fewer than expected. I take out my phone and start inspecting the topo, holding on to the rock with my other hand. It’s only a 3 or 4 (climbing grades) so I manage without problems but think that’s it's pretty strange that I couldn't find the bolt. I'm happy when I'm able to throw in an express after the section. I throw in another progress capture in the middle of the 3rd pitch. Some bolts are also missing on the 4th pitch and the ones I find look quite different than the bolts below.
Luke at the end of the first simul-climb.
13:30. Luke leads the second pitch. During the 50m climb, he only finds 4 bolts and the route is in the 6er range. Very strange. The pitch is supposed to be in the 6er range but should have 11 bolts, more than double the number of bolts we come across. Since this section is a blank slab with small crimps and neither vegetation nor a traverse, it's unlikely Luke missed a single bolt. He definitely didn't miss 6 bolts. Luke builds a stand and I follow up, searching for bolts but finding none. It is at this point that we first think we’re not on our intended route.
We can see bolts to the left and the right. None look exactly like our route. We have to make a decision and traverse to one of the two rows of bolts we can see. The rows of bolts to the right are colored in blue and are clearly leading to the left. There is a row of bolts about 10 meters to the right of us, leading straight up. At this point, we are unsure of the exact height we are on the route. We think we've climbed 5 pitches on the topo already. The 6th pitch of the route is supposed to go towards the left, but the features on the wall to the right look nothing like the topo. The route before us is going almost straight up. Maybe we’re lower than we think - in the 5th pitch - and have to climb higher until we reach the left-hand traverse.
We make the decision to go right. There’s a 10-meter traverse until the first bolt. I’m on lead. It’s easy until about 3 meters before the bolt. There is a great right-hand side pull at the height of my head one meter out from the bolt. Cautiously I grab the hold. I pull myself towards the hold and suddenly a rock about the size of a soup bowl rips out of the wall. I hit it on my helmet and it falls down. Surprisingly, I don’t lose balance but move quickly to clip the express. Slipping would have resulted in a 10-meter fall in a pendulum motion, griding across the wall until I was handing straight below the anchor. My dad once had a fall like that which resulted in an injury. I climb 5 more bolts until the anchor and secure myself. Luke shouts: „Bro, you dropped an express.“ I look at him in disbelief. „The rock broke off, then you grabbed an express, dropped it, grabbed another one, and clipped." I had no recollection of the event. I remember my skydiving training. After the first time jump, the instructor asks every student what color the plane is. More than half the students can't remember. While I was able to remember the plane color, I had a similar experience while deep water soloing - climbing ocean cliffs without a rope - in Mallorca a month prior. I couldn't remember parts of the route after my first climb. It was only during the second climbing session, that could capture an accurate memory of the route.
I belayed Luke up while examining the next bolts. They went straight up, not at all like they should. Or should they? We had, by now, established that the route was a lot trickier to find than expected. There was a slight chance that I had missed the correct stand at the end of the simul-climb and we had climbed the previous pitch left of our intended route. Still, the next section was supposed to be a 4 leading to the right. In front of us was at least a 6er overhang. We could clearly see another route to the right, but the bolts looked completely different than our previous ones.
„We have to make a call. Let‘s try this pitch and see what’s over the overhang.“ It’s Luke‘s turn to lead. He climbed through 2 bolts before reaching the steepest part of the overhang. From there, the distance to the next bolt was a good 3 meters. „This can’t be the fucking route man“, Luke says. I agreed, „Throw in a bail biner” - a carabiner which one leaves behind to abseil - ”and let's traverse left to the other route“. Luke arrives at an anchor about 20 meters left my current anchor 5 minutes later. I traverse to Luke leaving the rope in the bail biner since this is the only method to get to him. After reaching the anchor, I pull the rope through and untied and pulled the rope through. I notice, that my feet are hurting quite badly. I check the clock and notice it's already around 17:30, I had been wearing my new shoes for 5 hours without taking them off. I take them off to give my feet a quick rest.
We were now at an anchor of a route with blue-colored bolts. We are supposed to take a hard right and traverse for about 45m. There is a chance that this could be our route, although it's very unlikely, that a route setter would place colored and non-colored bolts for the same route. We decided to give it a shot since we're on a perceived dead end on the right side of the wall. I lead to the next anchor and need a break since my feet are burning. After checking the next bolts, which lead around a corner, I decide to continue simul-climbing up. I climb around a corner, Luke notifies me that he's out of rope and will start following up. I climb past one anchor about 30 meters later and reach the next anchor 35 meters after that. It's a nice climb traversing the wall at an approximately 45° angle. I reach the anchor and start belaying Luke up to me. While belaying I have a look at the clock, 18:15. Luke comes around the last corner, 25 meters out from my position, and is surprised to find me belaying him. Apparently, he hadn’t heard me shouting "on belay".
Luke reaches the anchor. We eat a quick snack and drink some water. The route we're on creeps further to the right at a 70° angle for at least one more pitch. We check the topo. The route is supposed to be vertical with some right-leaning sections. I go to crag.com and check what other routes are in the area. We stumble across a route called Sommernachtstraum. This might be the route we’re on. Then we come across a route called Blue Moon. "Interesting, our bolts are colored blue and the route is called blue moon". I try to read the topo which is a grainy pdf that's especially hard to read since the sun is blasting down on us. The topo mentions that the anchors are always 35m apart - check - and colored in blue - check. A good team can climb link-up pitches and climb 70m a pitch with 16 express. This means there are bolts every ~4 meters - check. In the middle section, the route veers slightly to the left while getting gradually harder - check. "Holy shit, we might be on Blue Moon."
I take a look at the clock. It's 18:30. I know that my weather forecast app, which I had been using since my time flying gliders, indicates sunrise, sunset, dawn, and dusk times. We have 2h until dusk - meaning complete darkness. "Luke, the rational thing to do is to turn around right now. I don't want to turn around but we should. We have at least 4 more pitches. Both Blue Moon and Sommernachtstraum get harder from here on out. We shouldn't risk getting stuck in the darkness." Luke agrees. I'm very happy since it's critical that we both prioritize safety. We have been climbing for 6 hours and estimate we've climbed through 300 meters of route, not counting our traverses.
While I’m enjoying a Mars bar I say to Luke: “I think the rational thing is to turn around”
The rope is severely twisted. We clip into the anchor directly and untie ourselves. I untangle the rope with Luke's help and start abseiling down. Since we traversed, skipped several anchors while climbing, and are in a hurry the first pitch of abseiling already proves difficult. The rope constantly tangles up, is severely twisted, and constantly gets stuck in bushes. To reach the next anchor, I need to walk across the wall to the right for a good 10 meters. At 35 meters of rope above until the anchor, a slip would be quite painful as I would pendulum across the wall. I do my best to plant my feet into the wall, abseiling with one hand and pulling myself further out to the right with the other. I'm very happy my abseil device, a brand new Giga Jul I'm using for the first time, is in assisted blocking mode. I reach the anchor, Luke comes down. Rinse and repeat. The rope gets stuck every couple of meters. Frustration. Expletives are shouted. After pulling out the rope of the upper anchor and funnel it through the next one, I notice that I didn't tie a knot into one of the rope ends. A critical error. I think: "Fuck, we're getting sloppy. Now is the most dangerous time of the climb." We abseil the 3rd pitch. Since it's a super far traverse, I tell Luke to abseil to 5 meters under my height so I can pull him over for 15 meters. It's a painful process and since the rope is stuck at a bush halfway up the rope almost pointing at a 45° angle when Luke reaches my position. "It's super dark", I say to Luke. "Take off your sunglasses", he replies. The sun had just disappeared behind the mountains to the west - our wall pointing west-north. The stress is noticeable. I take the glasses off and put them under my shirt. I abseil down and can't find the anchor after having run through 35 meters. After a short discussion with Luke, we decide I should go down further. After 45 meters, I reach an anchor. It's the 2nd anchor of our original route, the one after the 25-meter runout. I'm extremely happy since we now have a good chance of getting off the wall. We abseil the last 2 pitches and reach the bottom of the route. As Luke is abseiling down, I retrieve my shoes which I've clipped to my chalk bag. The shoelaces are twisted so I have a hard time finding the one of the right shoe. I find the shoelace and pull the shoe off the carabiner. I hear a faint, dull clap. I look back as my shoe tumbles off an at least 60-meters high cliff. The shoe disappears in the darkness. I'm able to retrieve the other one. I put on my left shoe already imagining the agony of walking with a climbing shoe I've been wearing for 8 hours. Luke reaches my position and we have a laugh about all the things I've lost today. It is at that moment that I notice that my sunglasses are also missing. Still, spirits are high as we've made it off the wall in the nick of time. The first meters of the approach is quite steep and very exposed. I advise that we should abseil another 20 meters since visibility is deteriorating with every minute and it will be as fast as cautiously walking down. We complete the short abseil, coil up the ropes, and start scrambling down.
20:30. As we depart on the steep, slippery, and exposed trail back it is completely dark. My phone battery is at 8%. I have to use the flashlight to get down because a slip could result in falling down dozens of meters. Luke tapes his phone to his helmet. We scramble down for about 25 minutes. Once we hit the main approach trail, I call my cousin to ask her if we can sleep at my uncle’s cabin. We didn't expect to be this late. She starts organizing someone to give us the keys.
21:00. My phone is almost out of battery and I want to save the last 3% for an emergency. I give my cousin Luke’s number and I turn the flashlight off. She soon tells us that both people are unable to give us a key to the cabin. With the help of my aunt and uncle, she organizes a room in a hotel belonging to a friend. I tell her we'll arrive in 30 minutes. The main approach trail is a tiny path leading over the top of a stretched-out 100-meter rock face overlooking the Altaussee lake from the south. Luke walks in the front while I follow as close as I can behind him. Since the light is shining from the front of his helmet, I can't see anything. I ask him to hold the phone in his hand so that the ground right in front of him and behind him is illuminated. The trail is no more than 20 cm wide now. Left of us, the abyss of a deadly 100-meter fall. We're surrounded by complete darkness except for a few faint lights of Altaussee, the town we'll hopefully be sleeping in tonight. I feel intense pain coming from my right foot, still tightly squeezed in my way-to-small climbing shoe. Suddenly Luke falls. For a second the light from his phone disappears. "I'm okay", I hear his voice in the darkness. He gets up and a few seconds later, we're back in our rhythm. He's walking at a good pace but every now and then I start falling behind a few meters. "One sec", I ask him to stop so I can catch up again. After what seems like an eternity and another fall, the trail takes a sharp left turn. "We've made it", I scream. "This is the turn we took a few minutes after departing from the car". A few minutes later, we reach the meadow just in front of where our car is parked. We're ecstatic. We've made it out in one piece.
22:00. We start driving to Altaussee. I call my aunt and she tells me the hotel owner is worried about where we are. I severely underestimated how long it would take to hike out. A short 20-minute drive later we arrive at the hotel. The hotel owner vents his frustration and we apologize. We eat meat rolls and down a beer. Luke is usually a vegetarian but tonight, he makes an exception. "What a day.", we both say with relief. We go to our room and pass out on our beds.
Topo & route of the first attempt. Green marks the ascent, violet the descent.
Saturday: Rest, Recover, Regroup
2021-09-11 09:00. I wake up. Luke's on the balcony, reading a book while drinking a cup of coffee in the morning sun. The way we feel can best be described as "fucked". We eat breakfast amongst groups of retirees vacationing at the lake. Our vacation experiences couldn't be more different. We clearly look like we don't belong here. It's made even more evident by the American slang we speak. "We need to regroup and try this shit again." We begin planning our second attempt: We need to get up way earlier, we need headlamps for the approach, new rations and I need new shoes. We quickly agree that not all was bad yesterday. Our rationing of food & water was great. Our climbing speed was good as we were flying through the pitches if we could gauge where to go. There is still room upward in terms of climbing. In order to have a successful attempt, we have to find the route. After short coordination with my uncle, we receive the key to his cabin. We buy headlamps and food. I ask the woman at the electrical store to print out the topo. We need the prints to better determine where we went off course. It also seems like a good idea to fumble around with a piece of paper instead of a phone a few hundred meters off the ground. We arrive at the cabin. Luke is blown away by its beauty. "What a place." We have a chat with the neighbor as we sort out our gear and carry our belongings into the cabin. We have some snacks as I start drawing my recollection of the route on paper. We compare two different topos of our route Seeblick and the drawings. We determine that I made a mistake at the 4th pitch, which was the last part of our first 1st pitch while simul-climbing. I didn't traverse far and high enough. We were 10-15 meters short and to the left of the anchor. We also determined that just above where Luke threw in the bail biner, the traverse to the right has to start.
13:00. We decide to walk around the lake once, grab some lunch at the James Bond hut and get a closer look at the wall. We eat well, take some pictures of the wall and return home a few hours later. Luke works for a bit while I warm up some curry that Petra offered. We have a glass of whiskey and hit the hay before 10 pm.
The second peak to the left marks the top-out of Trisselwand.
Sunday: Second Attempt
2021-09-12. Our alarm goes off at 05:00. We both had slept quite badly. Luke says: "Man, I'm not sure about doing this". I really want to go and think about what to say. We lie in bed for a minute or two. "If we don't get up right now, we won't do it", Luke says. We get up and start making breakfast. The mood is not great. Luke makes himself a coffee. We end up eating for an hour and I can feel Luke getting more and more motivated. "Let's get this fucker done." We start driving at around 6 and arrive at the parking lot at 06:30. The sun is just about to rise, so we decide not to bring the headlamps. We start walking a few minutes later. "Holy shit, we walked this in the dark. This is insane." The trail was more exposed than we had made it out to be 36 hours earlier in the darkness.
08:00. We start climbing. I simul-climb up. The plan is to go a little slower in favor of not getting lost. While climbing up to the second bot I come across something unexpected: my sunglasses. What a surprise. After 7 bolts, I'm unsure if I should go up 10° right or 45° left. I pick left. Two minutes later I shout: "Fuck man, we're already lost." I had gotten lost before reaching the first anchor. Since Luke is already on simul, I belay him up until two express under me. Then I throw in a bail biner and belay myself down 15 meters over pretty easy terrain via a bolt. Some climbers cross our route (on an easy 3/4) as Luke switches to lead. He finds the anchor a few bolts later. I tell him he's got plenty of rope and can already climb through the first anchor to the second anchor. I warn him that this is the first pitch where I couldn't find a bolt in the middle. I can't see Luke as I give him more and more rope. After 15 minutes, Luke shouts that he's at the anchor. What a terrible start.
Next pitch. We soldier on. I'm on lead. 3 bolts up, two to the left, then one more bolt until you reach the anchor. Simple enough on paper. I cruise through the first 3 bolts and start traversing. 5 meters out. 10 meters out. I'm now as far away as on Friday when I almost slipped off the wall when I broke a rock off. I can see a dead bush 5 meters from my current position. There are no bolts to be found anywhere near me. Far out, about 12 more meters, I can see a bolt on a slight overhang. I traverse to the dead bush and throw two express around the biggest branch. "It's very questionable if this bush can catch a fall, never mind a 10-meter whipper." I reach the bolt after some climbing over grass-covered footholds, the opposite of what one describes as “a bomber foot placement”. The bolt is at the bottom of a small overhang there. I stand on a small ledge while clipping. Just enough to stand on while clipping but large enough to make a fall very unpractical. I climb through the 3-meter overhang and then 7 meters on tiny crimps. I can see the ledge 10 meters below me. Not a great place to take a fall. Not a bolt in sight. I think: "We can't continue like this, this is too risky." When I climbed up the first 3 bolts of the pitch, I crossed over the same blue-marked bolts we had used higher up two days prior. "Luke, I wanted us to have fun on this climb. This is not fun, this is dangerous. I know that the other route has evenly spaced bolts every few meters and an anchor every 35 meters. Nobody cares if we send Seeblick. Let's switch route. This is too dangerous. And by the way, the other route is harder anyways.", I scream towards Luke, some 40 meters away, trying to sell the idea to Luke and myself while crimping on tiny holds. I want to send Seeblick, but more than that I want to send Trisselwand. I slowly make my way down. I'm relieved when I'm under the overhang, out of the fall zone. But I still have over 20 meters to traverse until I can continue on the blue bolts. Slow precise steps. Tripple checking every hold. Listening for dull sounds while bashing my knuckles against the rock. Hopefully, nothing breaks off. Take out the bush belay. After a few minutes, I arrive at the Blue Moon bolts and climb up to the anchor.
Luke follows and climbs up the next pitch. It turns out to be right where Luke arrived after bailing on the overhang. Luke builds a stand at the first of the two anchors I skipped during the second simul-climb on Friday. "Luke, you gotta built the stands faster", I shout. Immediately regretting venting my stress at my climbing partner, I shut up and give him time to finish slowly and safely. I climb up. We have a short talk about stand building. The anchors consist of two bolts through which a 10 cm metal ring is funneled. I tell him that we should just clip in a screw carabiner on a sling connected to our harness instead of building a full stand system with 3 carabiners and a sling on two safety points. Since the ring is already connected to both bolts, It won't make a difference if we build a sophisticated stand or not. Also, the bolts are only a few meters apart so I don't expect us to be pulled up more than a meter in case of a fall. This means there is a low probability of your body being pulled up and into the wall above the stand. This can happen if the belayer’s connection to the stand is too short and the leader takes a big fall. Since the belayer cannot be pulled up beyond the length of his connection to the stand, belayers sometimes hurt themselves by being pulled up and into the wall during a big fall.
We simul up the two next pitches. Luke arrives shortly after me. We're now at the spot where we bailed on Friday evening. We estimate to have somewhere between 4-6 pitches left. It's noon and for the first time of the day, both our spirits are high. We're pumped and think we'll have a good chance at sending the route. From now on, we'll climb pitch by pitch since the routes are getting harder and harder, but more importantly since we don't want to get lost again. The only thing that can really keep us from sending is bad navigation.
Luke leads the next pitch. He shouts his signature "OH!" as a testament to the beauty and relative safety of the route. "Mate, we made the right call", he greets me as I arrive at the next anchor. I lead a beautiful 45° rightwards climb followed by a short overhang and some slab plates until the next anchor. "This is what I wanted for us, this is real climbing!" The distinctive features of the last pitch make it easy to gauge where we are on the Blue Moon topo. 4 pitches to go. The last pitch is an 8+, something we want to avoid. Luckily, there are 3 options to switch route. A few meters to the right of us we can see the bolts of what must be Seeblick. We have no intention of switching back. We can skip the last pitch of Blue Moon if we stay on it for 3 more pitches and then traverse left to Sommernachtstraum for a comparatively easy 6. Luke leads a beautiful 6+ pitch. From time to time, smaller rocks have been zipping by our heads today and on Friday. Luckily, we both had not been hit until now and we were eager to keep it this way. During the pitch, Luke finds a huge rock the size of a microwave just leaning against the wall. Luke tells me to take care and makes sure he doesn't drop it on my head. “What a guy”, I thank him jokingly when I arrive at the anchor. Our newfound motivation produces comical conversations during the switchovers. I lead the next pitch, a beauty of a 7-. Now and then we had been encountering 50/50 holds - meaning holds that would probably break off if we used them. I would skip them without exception but since this was a particularly tricky section and I was in vertical terrain, I chose to lean into the wall and try to press the loose rock against the wall as I was stepping on it. It worked but I was happy to take my foot off the hold.
Luke leads the next route, a tough 7, with one fall. When I arrive at the stand, I'm drained of energy. It's now time to switch to Sommernachtstraum and top out. I can see the next 4 bolts, a 40° traverse to the left with a continuous overhang. I climb up but have to sit a couple of times. After the 4th bolt, I'm surprised to arrive at an anchor with a good square meter of flat ground as standing real estate. I was expecting this pitch to lead all the way to the top. "I found an airport of an anchor. Belaying you up." Luke follows. Since I’m low on sugar, I eat a Snickers and the second half of a gummy bear pack. After some water, Luke starts leading the final pitch. The bolts are a little further apart, approximately 5 meters. Given our condition, I yearn to get over this last vertical section quickly and get off the wall. Luke leads and with one fall sends the last 45-meter pitch. He screams with joy as he arrives at the anchor. I climb up, slowly regaining energy as the sugar kicks in. Luke has reserved the stepping over the last ledge for me. I'm grateful and accept the honor. He gives me a few meters of slack and I scramble over the edge. I’m filled with joy: "YEAHH!!!" I pull the rope over the edge and then make sure to secure Luke as he steps over the edge.
Luke and I on top
The timer on my phone says 9h55 as I stop it. We had been climbing for 10 hours without a break. Since we switched routes before the last pitch, we had climbed 20 meters more, bringing the total to 460 meters. We hug and congratulate ourselves. Luke gives me a kiss. We look out over the wall, onto the lake far below us. Beyond the still blue water, you can see the beautiful town of Altaussee. The Loser towers over the houses and in the distance, the massive Dachstein glacier sparkles in the soft rays of the late afternoon sun. The view is unbelievable. We can't believe what we just accomplished. Pure joy.
The view after topping out
We coil up the ropes, drink, and change our shoes. I had borrowed running shoes from my uncle and was very happy to not have lost them. I send a picture of us two to the family group: “9h55, 460m 🔥🔥🔥”. My uncle calls me. They are having dinner with my grandparents. I talk to almost every single person that’s at the dinner. They have lots of questions and share our happiness. I thank them multiple times for their support. My granddad and I joke that he’s surprised my shortcut took 4 times longer than the 2.5 hours it took him to hike up. I call my dad and tell him and my mom that I'm okay. I give him a few details of the ascent and he congratulates me. He truly understands what we just went through. He knows what finishing this route means for a climber. Luke talks to his girlfriend while I give mine a call on the way down.
Grundlsee in the evening sun
We hike down taking in the beautiful views of Altaussee and Grundlsee. Luke suggests we should play his favorite song, Heroes by David Bowie. We sing as loud as we can as we listen to everything from Rap to Jazz to French rock. We run down the mountain with excitement. For some reason, my knees, which usually scream with pain if I run more than a few minutes, are fine. Luke twists his ankle during a jump but recovers after a few minutes. We arrive at the meadow 45 minutes later. We enter the restaurant next to where our car is parked and share our success with the waitress. She brings us two beers and two Zirbenschnaps on the house. The house rules state that every successful climber of the route gets one. We talk about our success quite loudly in English and draw the attention of the locals at the next table. One of the men introduces himself as the route setter of Seeblick. I have a long list of criticisms, but I keep them to myself. Right now, it’s time to celebrate. Luke drinks another beer and we drive to my uncle’s cabin. We shower, eat the rest of what we had bought yesterday and leave for Vienna at 21:00.
We arrive in Vienna shortly after midnight. My dad is still awake and wants to know all about the trip. We give a tired account and crash into our beds at 01:30. The following morning, we get up at 06:30 as we need to catch a flight back to Berlin at 09:05. What a day.
Thanks for climbing with me, Luke.
Topo & route of the second, successful attempt. Green marks the ascent.
What went right?
- Morale - Usually only one person was down at a time
- Water management - We brought enough water and conserved it
- Climbing speed - We were able to move fast from pitch to pitch
- Climbing difficulty - We were able to climb all parts of the route except the 8+, which is great. Almost no sitting or falling.
- Climbing endurance - We had the endurance to finish the climb.
- Simul-climbing - Went well from a technique perspective.
What went wrong?
- Route finding - We had great difficulty finding the route.
- Knot at rope ends - No knot at the end of the rope during at least one abseil.
- Communication issues - Luke didn't hear me that he was already on belay. I didn't make sure he responded to me shouting.
- Turn around time - Planning the turnaround time in advance
- Climbing time estimation - Multiplying the climbing time by 2 or even 2.5.
- Route research - Research of the routes around our route.
- Late starts - Not starting early enough on Friday.
- Eating schedule - Forgetting to eat after being on the wall for 9h.
- Safety gear - First aid kit, headlamps, enough phone battery.
- Equipment loss - Don't lose critical shit on the wall
- More slings - Buy more slings and bring single carabiners for these slings
- Documentation - Not enough documentation during the climb (e.g. GoPros)?
- Underestimation of the climb
- No clear plan: main plan, plan B, bail planning, accommodation
What can we learn from this?
- Description of the route & the approach
- Find someone who has don't the route and talk to them
- Adjacent routes
- Special risk of that wall - brüchig, known for bad weather, known for surprise weather changes
- Turn around time from the point furthest away from start (for Blue Moon that would be 2-6 pitches before the top)
- 2x the time estimates
- Buffer time on top of the 2x time estimate
- What gear is required?
- Who climbs what?
- Who carries what?
- Safety gear
- Gear to document the climb
- Where will we sleep? Backup?
- What if we lose gear X?
- Plan A
- Main route
- Plan B
- Is there an easier route to finish? Traverse and hike out?
- Bail options
- Abseil duration from almost the top? Bail in the middle of the climb?