Swiss Redpoint Eiger's Hardest Free Climb

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Climbing into the clouds on Paciencia. Courtesy of Ueli Steck.

Switzerland’s Stephan Siegrist and Ueli Steck have completed a team-free redpoint ascent of the Eiger’s hardest free climb: Paciencia, a 23-pitch 5.13b on the north face.

Although the Eiger is best known for its committing alpine routes, the right side of the north face holds fairly solid limestone and has several demanding free climbs. Siegrist and Steck first climbed Paciencia in 2003, breaching the overhanging Rote Fluh and continuing up the steep Czech Pillar, using a mix of bolts and traditional gear. The line is a bit to the left of La Vida es Silbar, the 27-pitch free climb that Siegrist and Steck redpointed in 2003 at 5.12d. The two men returned to Paciencia and redpointed much of the route, including two of the 5.13 pitches, but a continuous free ascent eluded them.

On August 29 and 30, at the end of a summer of very poor weather on the Eiger, the two swung leads on Paciencia in excellent conditions, with Steck leading all of the crux pitches, including one 5.13b and two 5.13a pitches. Steck did the entire route free, while Siegrist redpointed all of his leads but fell while seconding some pitches, either from “broken holds or [I] just got a baaaad pump!” In addition to the three 5.13 pitches, Paciencia has five 5.12 leads and numerous pitches of 5.10 and 5.11.

The two men had stashed bivy gear at the Czech Bivy, atop the 11th pitch of their route, and in the morning they had to race up the remaining 16 pitches because Siegrist was due back in the valley that night for a slide show.

The route uses “bolts only where you can’t use trad gear, and there are still some nice run-outs,” Siegrist said. Courtesy of Ueli Steck.

Ueli Steck (left) and Stephan Siegrist celebrate the redpoint of Paciencia. Courtesy of Ueli Steck.

Both men have illustrious histories with Grindelwald’s iconic mountain. In addition to their free ascent of La Vida es Silbar, the two men established The Young Spider (5.11+ A2 WI6 M7) in 2001, a super-direct mixed line just to the left of the famed Harlin Dirretissima. In January 2006, Steck returned and soloed The Young Spider for its first winter ascent (and second ascent overall). Steck also holds the speed record for climbing the 1938 original route on the north face, blazing up the mile-high wall last winter in an astonishing 2 hours 47 minutes 33 seconds.

Dates of Ascent: August 29-30, 2008, Stephan Siegrist,, Alpinist

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