Climbing Limestone Alps
In the eastern Alps, in early July, Mauro “Bubu” Bole and Harry Berger made the fourth and fifth ascents, respectively, of Thomas Huber’s End of Silence on the Feuerhorn in Germany’s Berchtesgaden region. With an 8b+ (5.14a) crux, plus two pitches of 5.13 and five of 5.12, the11-pitch route, first redpointed in 1994, is the Huber brothers big home-turf testpiece, and still hanging tough as one of the hardest long free routes in the world. Previous repeats were by Jörg Andreas (1999) and Stefan Glowacz (2002). In August, the Hubers added Firewall (13 pitches, 8b), an eight-pitch variation to End of Silence. Word is that full-value runouts more than compensate for the slightly lower difficulty grade on this ground-up route.
Bole also apparently has repeated Huber’s fierce Bellavista on the Cima Ovest in the Dolomites, and added another free line to the area with his redpoint ascent, on August 1, of the 350-meter Camillotto Pellesier on the north face of the Cima Grande. In what appears to be the accepted modern style for free ascents in the Cime di Lavaredo, Bubu installed modern bolts at the belay stations but redpointed the pitches using the existing assortment of in- situ pins and bolts. The route’s first 200 meters are quite sustained, with pitches of 7b+, 7c, 8b (5.13d), 8a, 7a, and 8a+, at which point the route overhangs the ground by about 35 meters.
Also last summer, the Couzy Route on the neighboring Cima Ovest got its first free repeat since Bole freed it four years ago; the Austrian Michael Mayr redpointed the climb, calling it 8a+. (Bole originally rated it 8b.) Mayr also has visited the States recently, where he made the second free ascent of Alexander Huber’s El Cap route Golden Gate, in October.
During the second week of October (after returning from Yosemite, where he did El Niño), Iker Pou freed the A4 route Zunbelt on the Naranjo de Bulnes, the El Cap of Spain, an alpine limestone wall in the popular Picos de Europa near the northern coast. Although the technical crux is the second pitch, 8b+ (5.14a), two more pitches are 8a/a+, and none of the first seven pitches is easier than 7b (5.12b). There is much solid 5.12 climbing on long runouts above bad gear, and overall Pou thought Zunbelt was harder and more serious than the famous alpine free-climbing testpiece Silbergeier in the Swiss Rätikon, which Pou climbed last year.