Photos courtesy of Hermann Erber (http://www.outdoor-foto.at/).
Harald Berger and Albert Leichtfried, along with photographer Hermann Erber, have pioneered a wildly overhanging ice route at over 4,500 meters in Chile. The Austrian team discovered the line on the south face of 6,100-meter Cerro Marmolejo, where Canadians Ben Firth and Eamonn Walsh established a five-pitch climb, The Nook (WI6+), on the southwest face in 2002.
Finding conditions too warm on the southwest face during the Southern Hemisphere summer, the team moved over to the shady south face and discovered a stunning line of glacial ice and pillars. The result was Senda Real (6 pitches, WI7+). Leichtfried said the climbers onsighted the first three pitches at WI5, WI6-, and WI7-. But the iron-hard glacial ice of the six-meter roof on the fourth pitch resisted an onsight effort, and the team resorted to preplacing a few screws and preparing a few hook placements for ice tools. Even so, Leicthfried said, the redpoint was at “our absolute limit.” Berger elaborated: “I’ve done some harder glacier ice on our home training area, the Pitztaler Glacier, but I’ve never done or seen an ice line like this. At this moment in ice climbing, doing figure fours is normally not a very big deal any more, but doing this at 4,500 meters in altitude, and not with booties but normal ice climbing boots on your feet, is a real challenge.”
After two more pitches, at WI5 and WI6-, the climbers reached lower-angled slopes and battled through fields of sharp nieves penitentes to the summit.