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HAuer-5402

3 big walls | 2 flights | 1 day | no rope

On the morning of August 8th 2016, I embarked on my adventure with a few essentials: my small paraglider, a light paragliding harness, my climbing shoes, a jacket, a pair of thin gloves, a headband and my chalk bag. My brother Matthias helped me as a supporter, watched me from the valley ground, looked where I’ve landed after every flight to provide me food and drinks.

In the cave, 15 minutes below Marmolada Southface, we had spent the night. While Matthias was still in his sleeping bag, I started up the “Vinatzer / Messner” and reached Punta Rocca after two hours of climbing. I took my wing flew down and landed on the ski slope above Canazei. The “Abramkante” should be the route on Piz Ciavazes Southface. Around noon I was at the end of this climb and crossed the Sella range by hiking over to Rifugio Pisciadu. There was my second take off. Unfortunately I already had to land in Corvara. The strong wind didn’t allow me to get any further. I felt already very tired and it was difficult for me to get the concentration to the right point when I started the long hike. Finally after many hours I reached the start of my last climb “Große Mauer“ on Sass dla Crusc Westface. At that moment I knew that I had already crossed my usual limit. The crux pitch felt not easy anymore and while climbing the famous flake traverse I was yearning for the end oft the route. After the final crack I felt relieved to see Matthias sitting on the rim waiting for me. He looked calm and relaxed, while I felt tired and exhausted. After 15 minutes walking we reached the summit of Sass dla Crusc together.

Twelve hours, three big faces of the Dolomites, two flights, many meters in the gravel and two brothers who enjoyed the sunset with three cans of beer on the summit of Sass dla Crusc. This was the day I had been thinking about in the past three years.

 

Video Clip:

 

Facts and Pictures:
6:15 Start bivouac
6:30 Start Free Solo “Vinatzer/Messner” (800m/UIAA 6+)
8:30 Summit Marmolada Punta Rocca
8:45 Start flight #1
9:15 Start hiking #1
10:45 Start Free Solo “Abramkante” (500m/UIAA 7-)
12:00 End of route
12:00 Start hiking #2 to Pisciadu Hut
13:15 Start flight #2
14:00 Start hiking #3
17:15 Start Free Solo “Große Mauer” (300m/UIAA 7-)
18:00 End of route
18:15 Summit Sass dla Crusc

Approx. 33km of distance, 3600 vertical meters. Combining the three elements of climbing, flying and hiking with a minimum of equipment. Free solo and with a lightweight wing in a 18l backpack on my back (no stashed gear).

 

June Afternoon. © Elias Holzknecht

June Afternoon – New multipitch in Ötztal

Finally I’ve freed my old multipitch project in Ötztal calling it June Afternoon. This five pitches long sport climb located on the right side of the Nösslachwand offers some great climbing on incredible good rock smoothed by the glacier thousands of years ago.

More importantly than the overall difficulties is the beauty of the fifth and final pitch, an 8a which is without doubt one of the most beautiful in the entire valley. The Nösslachwand hosts a series of other multipitch sport climbs, most of them far easier, ideal for spring, autumn and cool summer days.

Thanks to everyone who was up there with me this and over the last years, when I was trying the line occasionally. Also High Five to my longtime buddy Thomi. Together we’ve explored this piece of rock nine years ago during our crazy time on and off the walls.

Facts – June Afternoon (8b/+, 150m):
P1: 8b/+, 35m
P2: 5a, 20m
P3: 7c, 30m
P4: 7a, 25m
P5: 8a, 20m

Approach:
From the parking lot Nösslachwand, just before the village Au/Längenfeld, take a small path on the right side before the road gate. This will lead you directly up to the base and central part of the wall. After ten minutes follow the cairns to the left, move up a short fixed rope, traverse far left and climb up some easy slabs to a small ledge (approx. 25 minutes).

Descent:
Abseil back down the route. From the second belay abseil off directly to a hidden belay stance. From there one more rap back to the ledge.

Gear:
10 quickdraws, 70m single rope

As the sun was already setting down. © Hansjörg Auer

Mango Tango – New climb in Black Canyon

On May 4 2017, Much Mayr and I made the first ascent, ground-up and in a single 11 hour push, of a new climb in the Black Canyon, Colorado, USA. Actually it was my second trip to the Black Canyon after I’ve travelled there with Ben Lepesant in spring 2011 where I managed to free climb the historic Hallucinogen Wall (5.13 R) for the first time ever.

The new route is called Mango Tango and climbs a 600m line on the righthand side of the Diagonal Will Buttress between the routes Diagonal Wall and Pathfinder. We graded it 5.11+ R/X and the 18 pitches are characterized of serious trad climbing along logical systems of cracks and corners but also some spicy run-outs on the face climbing pitches like the third one, where falling is no option. We left two pitons and one nut in-situ and even if the Black Canyon is famous for poor rock this new climb offers mostly the opposite.

So if you’re looking for a big and adventurous day out, Mango Tango is exactly what you would think about.

 

Matthias in his element. © Hansjörg Auer

‘Kaunergrat’ Winter Traverse

From March 14 to March 17 my brother Matthias and I managed to traverse the main part of ‘Kaunergrat’ in winter. This ridge line in North-South direction hosts some of the wildest peaks of the Ötztal Alps. The project to connect the nine most important summits from ’Kleiner Dristkogel‘ to ’Rostizkogel‘ in winter by following the main ridge line was in the back of our minds for the last two years.

The process of dreaming, planning, thinking but also hesitating and being plagued by inner turmoil about a climbing project is often the most intense part of the whole journey. And to share all that with a brother implies an even higher level. With his family in mind the mountains of the Himalaya are not a goal to tackle at the moment for Matthias. His feeling of responsibility for his wife and his son is just too strong. So we were looking for something in the backyard of our home and we came up with the idea of this wintery ridge traverse. We just had to wait for the right moment, which provided good weather and at least useful climbing conditions. Our plan was to do it without any stashed gear and no other support, carrying everything with us. To make the approach and descent possible we used snowshoes.

Difficulties up to grade UIAA 5- on rock, many exposed, steep and corniced parts and also some hard digging through deep snow challenged us a lot but doesn’t really express what we experienced while being out there. In total the mission took us 38 hours of climbing spread over four days. However, this project showed me once again how, at times, grades and numbers can mean not very much in alpinism.

Summits from North to South:

Kleiner Dristkogel (2934m)

Großer Dristkogel (3058m)

Gsallkopf (3277m)

Rofele Wand (3353m)

Sonnenkogel (3153m)

Verpeilspitze (3423m)

Schwabenkopf (3378m)

Watzespitze (3532m)

Rostizkogel (3394m)

 

 

Icelandic Ice 9. © Tim Kemple

Icelandic Ice

Sometimes before going on a climbing trip I check out the official website of the country. So I did for Iceland, where I´d planned an ice climbing adventure with my friends from ‘The North Face America’.

“Iceland is a country of sharp contrasts. A place where fire and ice co-exist. Where dark winters are offset by the summer’s midnight sun. A country where insular existence has spurred a rich and vibrant culture.”

But honestly I´ve to say it´s much more. I was not expecting such a great landscape, couldn’t imagine that strong power of the Northern Lights and furthermore the glacial ice formations which we found were simply amazing. It was such a cool climbing trip on which we were exploring nearly every day a new area on the southeast coast of the island. Glacial ice climbing is not about to conquer this wall or that cave. The glacier is changing his face from time to time anyway and what you climb now will be gone in a few weeks and will be there in a different formation. It’s more like being a kid, jumping on whatever you’re up to and which line inspires you the most. One of those days:

“The ‘Blue Wall’ of the huge Vatnajökull Glacier is the most eye-catching part from a climbers perspective. At the very end of the massive ice landscape floating down from the Icelandic higher plateau it breaks down for more than 100 feet in slightly overhanging angle. Got my ass kicked being the first one up with some spicy one arm swing-outs high above my last screw and a final whipper which reminded me of spanish limestone. After I got down it was clear to succeed it would take some finely tuned and sharpened ice tools and crampons. On the next day I did the line first go and Sam put up another route on the virgin part just right of it. Above the ‘Blue Wall’ we then explored the ‘Five Finger Moulin’. An awesome and impressive place to climb next to waterfalls, on some fine and exposed ice ridges and all this on the bluest glacial ice I’ve ever seen. Iceland keeps giving.”

During the second day on the wall. © Hansjörg Auer / The North Face

Gimmigela East 2016

Located on the border between Nepal and India Gimmigela East (7005m), it is the subpeak of Gimmigela Chuli (7350m), and also referred to as ‘Gimmigela’s Sister’. It´s steep Northface had never been tried before by any expedition and was a well hidden project in the remote Kangchenjunga area. Situated approximately four kilometers from the World’s third highest peak Kangchenjunga (8585m), it´s summit was only reached twice by Japanese after trips in 1993 and 1994 from India, Southside of the mountain.

After a five-day gruelling hike through the jungle alongside the Tamar River and across the higher plateaus of the Ghunsa Valley, we basecamped a little higher than the classic Pangpema basecamp; one of Nepal’s most treasured sites.

Alex Blümel and I started to acclimate on the Dhromo south ridge and, after a total of three nights at 5900m, on November 8, we felt ready for Gimmigela East’s north face. Due to a wet Monsun with high precipitation we found the 1200m high face in perfect conditions. After two bivies, of which the second one on the final summit ridge seriously challenged us due to the small ledge been extremely exposed to the strong winds, we reached the summit at 7.30am on 10th November. A cold, windy but clear morning allowed us to see far into Sikkim’s great mountain range and to the unexplored east face of Kangchenjunga.

„Yet again, it was one of those expeditions where everything came together. A great project, an even greater friendship and a very efficient first ascent of a ’King Line’ on a 7000m peak in one of the most remote places in the Himalayas.“

Thank you Alex for the great time on and off the wall, and Elias and Matteo for making the time spent in the basecamp during this expedition even sweeter.

 

Fact Box:

Mountain Range:                                 Kangchenjunga Area/Himalaya/Nepal

Mountain:                                              Gimmigela East (7005m)

Altitude of Basecamp:                         5200m

Difficulties:                                            85° ice

First Ascent of the face:                      8th – 10th of November 2016 in alpine style

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The loss of the Demantoid

Together with Alex Blümel I established ‘The loss of the Demantoid’, a new alpine multi-pitch rock climb up the Kristallwand face on Kirchkogel (3280m) in Austria. This route we dedicate to our late friend Gerry Fiegl.

The 3280m high Kirchkogel in the Ötztal Alps is not really well known. But if you walk up the higher Gaisberg Valley it’s north face catches your attention immediately. Surrounded by a great glacier landscape the Kristallwand rises above your head. A steep rock face well hidden, which is mainly characterized by chossy rock, just a few obvious lines and a really steep overhang. Ever since I climbed the first two routes of the wall in 2012 and 2014, I had always wanted to go back to find a free climbable line.

I looked on the left part of the wall, where the rock is perfect. The only thing that kept me from doing it was that it’s pretty close and compact. So opening the route with minimum bolts was the hardest thing of my recent adventure on this wall. But my first visit this season was really promising and already after that day I knew, that working on this route will be a lot of fun and it was exactly the thing I was searching for.

After three days of opening the line and one day of checking the hardest pitches, I grabbed the free ascent on August 19 with difficulties up to 7c+. After all what happened to Alex and me on Nilgiri South, we thought that ‘The loss of the Demantoid’ is a great name for the route. A ‘demantoid’ is one of the most precious gemstones that exist.

There is an interesting fact around this face: The Kristallwand had been first attempted over 70 years ago by legendary Austrian alpinist Hermann Buhl and since then nobody else tried to climb it. When I came there in 2012 to open the first route, I found his piton where these guys abseiled off.

 

 

Short edit of opening ‘The loss of the Demantoid’ on the steep and wild Kristallwand:

Kirchkogel – Kristallwand – Ötztal/Austria – The loss of the Demantoid – Alex Blümel/Hansjörg Auer from Hansjörg Auer on Vimeo.

After many hours of climbing in the storm. © Alex Blümel

Annapurna III 2016

When arriving home from an unsuccessful expedition, I prefer to keep to myself and reflect. A short summary of our expedition, however, follows:

After pre-acclimatising in Zermatt/Valais Alps David, Alex and myself flew to Kathmandu early April, soon establishing Basecamp at 4600m between Annapurna III and Annapurna IV. Like previous expeditions we took the helicopter to achieve this. Nick Bullock, an alpinist who was there in 2010, described the area as follows and I couldn’t do it any better: “It’s one of the most special areas in the Himalayas. In fact the place has only ever had a handful of very privileged people enter beyond its steep entry walls or the very inaccessible sheer cliffs of the Seti Kola Gorge and it soon becomes obvious by the fact there are no paths, tracks, feet-worn formations, human detritus or markings of any kind. The moraine between the top of the Seti Kola gorge and the col at the head of the cirque is a massive untamed jumble filled with icefall, tumbling blocks, fins of towering rubble, minarettes, spires of rock and grass meadow. All of these are virtually untouched by human hand.”

After three acclimatisation rounds on the Annapurna III East Ridge with a highpoint of 6000m we felt ready to give the Southeast Ridge a try. During three days we climbed a possible new highpoint (around 6500m) in really difficult and exposed terrain. But in the end the weather was not on our side and forced us to retreat. After another bivy and many rappels we were back at the glacier. Exhausted we hiked back to Basecamp. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance for another try due to heavy snowfall and even more humid conditions after that. It was a hard but inescapable decision to finish the expedition. With a last glance up this great line on Annapurna III we left the mountain mid May.

Thanks to David and Alex for the great time in this amazing mountain range, to Mungo and Menk for capturing our activities and to Flo for raising the money. Back in Nepal this fall for another high altitude session.

 

eholzknecht_151031_Nepal_1939-2

Nilgiri South 2015

From October 22 to October 26 Hansjörg, together with Alex Blümel and Gerry Fiegl, successfully made the first ascent of the 1500m high Southface of Nilgiri South (6839m). This is certainly one of the finest ascents of the season in the Himalayas and a long waited project has finally been realised.

Nilgiri is located in the Annapurna massif in Nepal. Comprised of the North, Central and South Summit, the South Face rises directly from the glacier starting from 5400m up to 6839m. 

The Expedition started on October 5 and following a tricky and steep approach to Basecamp, the team immediately started the process of acclimatization. After spending two nights up in advanced basecamp at a height around 5300m, the conditions allowed for an immediate first attempt of the peak.

“Out of his eyes shined the brightest light when we all reached the summit together. What happened next was one of the darkest moment in my life.”

Hansjörg, Alex and Gerry climbed a line on the right side of the face, via the previous unclimbed Nilgiri Spire (6780m) and then by traversing up and down on the spectacular and exposed ridge, they reached the summit of Nilgiri South at 11am on October 25. It was the first ascent of this face and only the second ascent of the South Summit itself since the Japanese First Ascent in 1978. The team’s descent via the previously unclimbed Southwest Ridge was more technical and difficult than they had expected and at approximately 2pm on the 26th of October Gerry Fiegl sadly took a fall from which he did not survive.

„When an good friend falls and dies in front of you, that’s when everything else loses its importance. Our expedition could not have ended worse.”

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Nilgiri South was first climbed on 10 October 1978 via the East Ridge by a Japanese expedition led by Kazao Mitsui. The formidable South Face and SW Ridge had been attempted unsuccessfully on various occasions by Japanese, Czech and Slovene expeditions and the new Austrian route, climbed with three bivouacs during the ascent and one during the descent with difficulties up to M5 90° ice, is only the second ascent of Nilgiri South. It is probably one of the most important Himalayan ascents this season, unfortunately though overshadowed by the tragic loss of Gerry Fiegl in descent.

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