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Illuminati

A friend of mine told me about an ice climbing spot near Wolkenstein, Italy. “It’s an unknown place with some good lines, we have to go there”, he said. First I did not want to, because I was really tired after the last competition, but he was so excited about this place – so I thought, okay - let’s have a look!

Perfect shaped ice formation

On the next day we did not climb at all. We hiked for three hours to find out that our target icefall has not formed to the ground. But this day was at least successful in another way - I saw this amazing line on the other side of the valley. As soon as we came home my only thought was to tell everybody about this beautiful, incredible big ice-formation with this massive roof below it, situated in a dream-landscape and getting direct sunlight in the morning. Some days later, I came back with my drill and Dougal Tavener, a motivated guy from North Wales, who came to Innsbruck this winter for ice-climbing. When I stood on the bottom of this wall, I could see the incredible dimensions of this line for the first time. About 60 meters altitude difference to the curtain and more than 20 meters overhanging – a huge roof. I began to bolt to route on lead from the ground. After the first day we reached, after 22 placed bolts, the level of the biggest icicle from the curtain – still 15 meters missing. On the next day, it was quite easy to reach the curtain and the route was ready for the first free climbing attempts.

Climbing at the absolute limit

One week later, on the 24. January 2006, I felt recuperated enough to have a go on the route. Dougal Tavener was accompanying again and I want to say thanks a lot for his untiring belaying work. The first pitch went surprisingly well. I could climb it straight away without falling; even though I was very close to falling more than one time. I had a good feeling after this pitch, because I thought the 2nd pitch would be easier. I should be mistaken on this day for several times. On the 2nd pitch I fell four times and I was close to abseil, because my power was gone. I decided to do one last try. I climbed smooth trough the rock part on to the icicle. There, I was so pumped I had to fight very hard to reach the belay. But there were still three pitches left.  I rested shortly and climbed the pitch over curtain. I was doing well again, also the first pure ice pitch was a pleasure to climb. I thought that would be done easily now – climb this pillar fast and that’s it.

The last pitch - a mental game

I was totally wrong again. This last 50m-pitch, on a free standing pillar with steep ice was due to the very poor ice-quality a real nightmare. In the middle of the pillar I nearly freaked out. I didn’t want to go further, protection was more than dubious. But going down would have been even worse, so I kept on climbing and luckily I found good ice to place two good screws and climbed to the top. Completely frozen to the marrow, absolutely exploited, but still very happy we abseiled to the ground in the darkness.

© 2010 Mag. Albert Leichtfried - Meteorologe - Bergführer - Extremkletterer
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