Stephan Siegrist, slick as a whistle on the Eiger.
Many climbers’ earliest adventures involve climbing out a bedroom window to embark on a great enterprise. Some never outgrow that urge. On the right side of the Eiger’s great Nordwand, Stephan Siegrist and Ueli Steck of Switzerland finished the first free ascent of the Rote Fluh — the overhanging rock shield skirted by the 1938 route’s Hinterstoisser Traverse — conveniently beginning from the legendary Gallery Window on the Eiger railway. Previous Eiger “sport climbs” take the Geneva Pillar, located low and further right on the face. In 1998, renowned Eiger climber Daniel Anker recruited the young Siegrist to tackle the steepest sector of the huge north wall, the Rote Fluh (Red Crag), long dismissed as too sheer and possibly too rotten for free climbing. The climbing — mostly bolted, and all established on lead — proved adventurous, difficult, and superb. Above the overhanging Fluh, Anker and Siegrist continued direct up the steep face of the Czech Pillar, reaching the west flank much higher than the Geneva Pillar routes, in a significantly more alpine and exposed position. The 27-pitch line was dubbed La Vida es Silbar — “Life is a whistle,” named for a you-never-know-what’s-next Cuban film.
This June, coming off “injured reserve,” Siegrist returned with Steck for the one-push redpoint. On day one, several leader falls ate up time and the pair needed 12 hours for the route’s first 16 pitches before settling in for a chilly night at the Czech Bivouac at 9 p.m. Facing a weather report for strong frontal thunderstorms in the afternoon, they set out early the next morning, braving hard face climbing with numb fingers. Conditions soon warmed to allow a window of much more pleasant climbing, and after 7 1/2 hours they reached the top of the Czech Pillar just ahead of the cold front, which already threatened with turbulent, cold air and clouds. The climbers descended the Eiger’s west flank and reached Kleine Scheidegg at 4.30 p.m.
With seven pitches of 5.12, including two each of French 7c (5.12d) and 7b+ (5.12c), the 900-meter route is among the longest and most continually difficult free climbs in the high Alps.
Also on the Eiger, on the Geneva Pillar sector, Daniela and Robert Jasper’s 1999 link-up Symphonie de Liberte got its first one-day redpoint this August by the couple Ines Papert and Hans Lochner. At 8a (although others believe the crux to be significantly easier), this link of two Swiss routes, Le Chant du Cygne and Spit Verdonesque has some of the Eiger’s most difficult free pitches, and also is approximately 900 meters long. The couple climbed it in 14 hours.