INTERVIEW: Nina Caprez - Silbergeier - Alpine 8b/+by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Jul/2011
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Caprez, an ex-competition star, has recently focussed her attention on hard and beautiful multipitch routes. She recently climbed the stunning multipitch 8b of Délicatessen on Corsica's sculpted granite (UKC News), and has now eclipsed that with her extremely significant ascent of Silbergeier.
Silbergeier is a six pitch limestone route that was first climbed by Beat Kammerlander in 1993. As is typical of the Rätikon style, Kammerlander equipped the route from the ground up, giving long run-outs with extremely committing climbing on vertical and blank, slabby rock, with almost no holds.
The list of ascensionists of this route reads like a who's who of top alpine rock climbers of the past two decades, featuring names like Beat Kammerlander, Stefan Glowacz, Pietro dal Prà and more recently Nico Favresse, amongst a few others.
Nina had been trying the route with her boyfriend and top Swiss climber Cedric Lachat. Cedric made a successful ascent just prior to Nina. Cedric, perhaps better known in the UK for his top competition performances (in both lead and boulder) is no stranger to hard big wall climbing, and in 2009 he virtually onsighted the Free Rider on El Capitan, which was the best style of ascent on El Cap at that time.
Nina Caprez has previously climbed several hard multipitch routes in several countries, including the super-sustained 8 pitch 8a+ of Ali Baba in Southern France. Her climbing background, detailed below, is from alpine multipitch routes. She then became a top level competition climber and is now transferring those skills back to cutting edge big walls and multipitch routes.
We caught up with Nina to find out more about her climbing and about her ascent of Silbergeier:
You're from the Rätikon area, right?
I grew up in the valley of Prättigau, close to the Rätikon, so I started climbing there when I was 13 years old. I started by climbing multi-pitch routes, easy classics, for about four years.
Starting climbing in the Rätikon, I grew up with the phrase: 'Sometimes, you can't fall'. So now, my head is really strong and when you really can't fall, I don't, because I don't want broken bones! ;-)
Then when I turned 17 I learnt the phrase 'sport-climbing'...
Two years later I did my first competition and I did the comps for a long time, but always with a big passion for rock climbing. Then two years ago I completely stopped doing the comps and I started to focus on hard multi-pitch climbing.
And why choose Silbergeier?
When you grow up in the Rätikon, Silbergeier is such a myth. This route is and was the top of the top and ever since I started to climb, I have had this famous poster of Pietro dal Prà in my bathroom. It has always been my dream to climb this route one day.
The weather is hard to predict. I really wanted to climb the route before the summer, because in summer the sun burns all day long on the wall and often in the evening there are short thunderstorms.
This June, it was raining a lot. It was like two days of sunshine and then big rain for a long time. Our main problem was because of this strong rain, the hold were always a little bit dirty. Also the rain often turns to snow and hail and it was so cold to climb.
Would you consider another hard route in the Ratikon, WoGu (8c) for example? Or a new route?
Well, I heard that there are some glued holds on WoGu, so I don't know... But I'll recommend some classics that you have to do: Intifada and Lilith on the Schweizerzoo, Caladriel and Via Accacia.
How does climbing hard multi-pitch routes compare to short routes? What experience/tactics do you think is important?
Multipitch climbing demands huge all over body fitness. Often you have long approaches, you have to carry a heavy back pack. Then it's really important that you adapt your tactics to the route and it's difficulty.
On hard multipitch, it can take you a few days to reach the top and often it's so hard, that you are depressed and you can't imagine you'll ever redpoint all the pitches. Also you have to climb with a little haul rope on your harness and a mini traxion to haul the bag...well, a lot of stuff is so different. The more experience you have, the less time end energy you waste on the wall.
But the most important thing is you partner. Me personally, I can only climb with someone else, who is also motivated for the route. I can't just take someone to give me a belay and who has to jumar. In one case, it was an exception: for Silbergeier, my ex-boss wanted to come, because it was always a dream of his, to go on this route. So it was also great being up there together with him!
Mutipitch climbing is always a big, big adventure because you go to your limit and often you are in a shit situation and you have to fight for a long time to get out of there, always with your partner, it's all about sharing!
Huge thanks to Nina Caprez and to Stefan Schlumpf for the photographs.