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A few weeks ago, Lara Neumeier (23) and Romy Fuchs (21) each dispatched Delicatessen, a five-pitch 5.13d in Corsica. Their success came after a mere four and five days of effort, respectively.
Located one hundred miles south of France, and 60 miles south of northwestern Italy, Corsica floats in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. The idyllic land sways from white beaches to wind-swept granite faces.
Delicatessen consists of 600 feet of fiery-red and orange rock. From a runnel to cheese-grater crimps to friction-slopers to large flares to the mouth of a fortress, and finally, to the view of a lifetime: Delicatessen snakes across the belly of the Punta du Corbu. The five-pitch line was established in 1992 by French climbers Arnaud Petit and Stéphane Husson. The pitch breakdown, in order, are 5.13d, 5.13a, 5.12d, 5.13b, and 5.11b. Initially unable to ascend the line, Petit returned in 2011 for the first ascent. Since then, only a small handful of teams have also climbed the route. Pro climber Nina Caprez (the belayer in this week’s Weekend Whipper) considers it “the most beautiful and aesthetic line” she’d ever climbed.
Neumeier and Fuchs, both German athletes, are currently living and studying in Nuremberg. Neumeier is getting her masters in marketing, while Romy is finishing her fourth semester of medicine studies. The two met as youth competitors and reconnected when they both moved to the city.
For Neumeier, Delicatessen came after an impressive tick of another multi-pitch: She’s also sent Hotel Supramonte (5.13d; 10 pitches), in Sardinia. Delicatessen was Fuch’s first multi-pitch, but she’s no stranger to hard climbing—she placed twenty-third in a European Continental Cup last year, and she’s climbed several V13’s in Switzerland.
Climbing caught up with Neumeier and Fuchs to hear more about their trip and the seldom-completed Corsican line. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Climbing: What made you want to try Delicatessen? Despite its reputation, it remains a somewhat obscure route.
Neumeier: I climbed Hotel Supramonte (5.13d) in Sardinia in 2018. After that, I got excited to climb Delicatessen. [Sardinia, also in the Mediterranean, is eight miles from Corsica.] But I never found a climbing partner and then the coronavirus came … When I met Romy it was super cool. And we decided to team up and try it together.
Climbing: How did you first hear about the route?
Neumeier: I first heard about it from Babsi Zangerl. She did it [in 2012]. She told me that the rock formations are crazy and it’s super cool, and that it might be the coolest multi-pitch she’s climbed, or one of the coolest.
Fuchs: For me, I got into it because Lara told me about it. But it seemed to be an okay thing to start [with multi pitch climbing] with because it’s just five pitches. Of course it’s super hard and in the grade, but the lines are bolted and everything, so it seemed to be suitable for me to start with.
Climbing: Can you tell me about working the pitches? What did you struggle with? What surprised you?
Fuchs: On the very first day, we actually got up to the route really late because we didn’t find the trail. So we didn’t have too much time on the wall, and we just tried the first pitch.
Neumeier: We each needed about one and a half hours just to get up. And it was raining.
Fuchs: Yeah. The first day was not perfect. When I was up on the slab, it started to rain, and I was like, “What the f*ck, how am I supposed to do this?” It felt super hard the first time up. But I also remember that we were really excited about it because it was so much fun and had cool moves. We liked the runnel in the beginning. It was super cool. And yeah, we were definitely excited to try the other pitches the next day.
Neumeier: We went back the next day and we decided to try to get as far as possible to try all the pitches. We went up the first one and needed a super long amount of time again. And then we did the 7c+ (5.13a, pitch two) and the 7c (5.12d, pitch three).
Fuchs: We struggled there. There were some parts where we thought, “Shit, we can’t climb it.” But what was super funny was when Lara was trying to 7c+. She was struggling for such a long time on this one part, and then later, it turned out the sequence was actually super easy because she just didn’t see the hold—it was behind the corner. But [the time we spent there] made us think that it’s all super hard. We were tired after that because we had been trying for hours. And then I went up the 7c and it felt so exhausting. Also, I think on the second day, we were not that confident with our feet, with the friction.
Neumeier: In the beginning, we just thought that we can’t climb the route.
Fuchs: I think the first two times when we tried the 8a (5.13b, pitch four), we thought it was impossible. There was no beta, and no holds. We found this super small, but really incut crimp for the left hand, and the next crimp was about 2 meters (6.5 feet). We thought there was nothing in between. …
Neumeier: I think after the second day we went back home and we just thought, “We can’t climb the 8a.” And then I asked Babsi if she remembered. She told us a funny beta, but I think it was probably what we used.
Fuchs: We were also super tired after the second day, because we spent about 10 hours on the wall the day before. Our fingers were really sore. We had no skin. That was when we decided to climb one day on and then one day off.
Neumeier: In the beginning, we thought we could climb two days on and then do one rest day. But then we realized it was too hard. And on our third climbing day, our skin was still super bad. So we decided to climb with tape on our fingers.
Fuchs: It was the worst!
Neumeier: Yeah, for me, it was super hard to climb with tape, but it was the only possibility for getting good skin again. So on the third day we climbed up to the 8a.
Fuchs: Yeah. But we didn’t go to the end because we didn’t know where the anchor was.
Neumeier: I think there’s a belay point [for the 5.11b, fifth pitch] and Rami first thought that she had to go there, but it’s a super big runout. So she came back down and I tried it, but I only went to the last quick draw and then we went back down and we looked at the Topo again. Then we realized that we really have to go left for a long time.
Fuchs: Yeah. And we just realized that we’re supposed to stop at this one feature and make our own anchor. I think that’s the intended way, but it was pretty okay to do the runout to the belay anchors. It was just super scary for the first time.
And the worst thing was actually on the fourth day on the wall. It was super freaking windy. It was crazy.
Neumeier: The wind was 70 to 100 kilometers per hour (44 to 62 miles per hour).
Fuchs: We were trying on the slab on the 8a. And there are barely any holds and footholds. I remember I really got knocked out of the wall because of the wind. Also, when we pulled down the rope later, it didn’t even fall down all the way, it just kept flying in the air.
Neumeier: Then I went up and the rope somehow got stuck. I had to go back down to get it and we couldn’t hear each other. I didn’t know what she was doing and she didn’t know what I was doing. When I was back at the edge, we saw each other, but we still couldn’t hear each other. I think it was 10 meters (30 feet) or so, well, maybe not even 10 meters [Ed note: likely 20 feet]. And we still couldn’t hear each other because of the wind.
Neumeier: But yeah, in general, we were super lucky with the weather.
Fuchs: Definitely. We just had rain on the first day and we had strong wind, but also sun. It just got better and better.
Neumeier: After the third day, when we climbed with tape, the next day felt much better on the route. So then, we thought, “Okay, maybe we can climb it,” but we only had two more climbing days.
Fuchs: We knew that both of us had one day for a send try.
Neumeier: Yeah. It was super stressful. And, but then we went back on the fifth day, and that was also the day when the photographer Frank joined us for the first time. We went up and I started climbing, and I thought, “Okay, I’ll warm up until the fifth quick draw, and then come back down again. The conditions were good, but it was cold. But then I started climbing and I felt super good. So I decided to continue up, and it worked out well. I was able to send the first pitch. And then I knew there was a good chance that I could send the rest as well. And we had a lot of time. It was super early in the morning, maybe 10:00 a.m. The sending days were quite chill.
Fuchs: Yeah, definitely. I think on both days, we were at the top around 3 p.m.
Neumeier: Yeah, it was just super stressful for the mind.
Fuchs: Especially the first two pitches. They felt so intense. When I was on the upper part of the 8b on the slab, I felt like my mind was going crazy. I was like, “O.K, focus, take everything you have. You can’t let go here.” I also thought that the lower part of the first pitch, before the no-hands rest, was also really hard and I fell there once on that day. I was like, “F*ck, O.K., I can try again, but I don’t have unlimited goes for the first pitch.” So once I managed the beginning half to the first pitch, I definitely wanted to finish on the upper slab.
Neumeier: And I think this slab is a big mind game.
Fuchs: Yeah. And it’s so unpredictable. You can just miss the small footholds by a centimeter or so, and then you’re off.
Climbing: What do you think enabled you to send it in the end, in spite of all the doubt?
Fuchs: We were getting used to the style. Especially me—I wasn’t really confident in this alpine style. It was bolted like sport climbing, but the climbing itself was more like alpine climbing. It was really friction-dependent. I think we got more comfortable on all the small holds.
Neumeier: Yeah. And I think we learned to trust our feet. That’s something I really learned after the first few days. That was a big point for me, especially on the 8a pitch.
Fuchs: And of course we improved our beta every time. I think on the first few days, when we tried the 7c and 7c+, they felt super hard for the whole body. We were so exhausted mentally and physically. But that was just because we spent so much time on the route. When you just climb it once, it just doesn’t cost as much power as we used on the first few days.
Neumeier: And on the first day there was no chalk. We didn’t see the holds and we didn’t know where to go. Then we improved our beta and it just worked better. … It was really cool that we both climbed it. Somehow it worked out perfectly. Yeah.
Fuchs: Sometimes luck is on your side.
Climbing: What are the standout memories from the trip?
Fuchs: I think the moment when I got up on the approach and stood on this hill. When I saw the wall for the first time, I was so overwhelmed because it looked so amazing.
Neumeier: Yeah. I had seen it before, because last year, I went to Corsica with my boyfriend. He’s not a climber, but we looked at the route then. But, for me, I think a special moment was when we arrived at the third anchor [Ed Note: see the cave-like feature]. I think the rock formations there are just crazy cool. That was a unique moment.
And I think just the whole experience. I think the cool thing with multi-pitch climbing is that you start super early, you finish up super late, and you just focus on the adventure—on climbing the whole day. No smartphones!
Fuchs: Yeah, definitely. That was really cool. And also, like the whole process, I mean, you know it from lead climbing or bouldering. You come to a boulder and you try to do the moves. You can’t do any of the moves, and in the end you send it somehow anyways. That’s also kind of a process for this multi-pitch, alpine style. It felt completely impossible. And then somehow we were standing on the top twice, and that was really amazing.
Climbing: What is next for each of you?
Fuchs: I don’t have any big projects planned for now. I have a big exam in the summer. It’s the first big exam of my studies. And so my whole August and September will be blocked. But I’m still kind of new to Frankenjura. Nuremberg is really close to Frankenjura. I just want to check out some harder sport climbing routes, but we’ve also said that we definitely want to do something like this again pretty soon, but we haven’t picked another route.
Neumeier: Yeah. For me, it’s the same because I’m studying full-time as well. Our university started one week ago, and I think we have class until August, so the exams are in August.
Somehow we feel super tired. [Laughs] So I think back to training or sport climbing in Frankenjura. We have a lot of exploring to do here. And, in the summer I would love to do another multi-pitch, but I haven’t planned anything concrete.