Below we have a report from Greg Boswell of his ascent, including a video, plus an account of Lucie's ascent where she managed to onsight the first two pitches. We also have Albert Liechtfried's account of his first ascent with Dougal Taverner including stunning images from Herman Erber.
"Illuminati is an awe-inspiring line, bolting it was a nightmare, ground up, hanging off one axe in the overhang, whilst drilling with the other. When we did the first ascent the curtain was about 40m long, looming down behind you, casting a shadow over the rock pitches. By the time we got passed the curtain the upper ice pitches had been annihilated by the sun. On the upper pitches you could hand place the ice screws - didn't seem to slow Albert down though!"
- Dougal Tavener
I got a txt from my good friend Charly Fritzer who lives in Austria. It said... "Conditions looking good for Ice, you come?"
That's all the info I needed, so I drove home, booked my flights, re-sorted my already-packed climbing gear and got psyched for another mixed-climbing send-session in another country.
Six weeks ago Charly and I were sat in Simon Yearsley's house after Charly and Matthies had hired a Big Tree Campervan for their Scotland send-session during January. I picked up the Climb Magazine photo edition and started to flick through it. I stopped and looked at a photo of the mixed route in ItalyIlluminati Charly swiftly said, "ahhhhh Illuminati, I really want to climb that line this season"
I followed with, "yeah me to, it looks awesome"
And Charly being Charly just comes out with, "ok, so we climb Illuminati together as soon as it's in condition"
And that's exactly what we did!
On Sunday the 12th of Feb I flew out to Munich airport where Charly picked me up. We then made the 3hr30 drive to Val Lunga where we kipped in a small ski guest house ready for a day's cranking the next morning.
As we walked down the immaculate valley, it was unbelievable how much rock was looming overhead. The huge intimidating Dolomiti towers where staring down on us as we ambled through the trees on the valley floor. Almost as if they were daring us to try and attempt one of the most sought after ice/mixed this country has to offer. But we trotted on regardless and as soon as we got to bottom of the leftward-branching valley and the ice section of Illuminati came into view at its top, all our worries and anticipation went out of the window.....we were PSYCHED!
After the long slog up the avalanche track we approached what can only be described as the Giant's Lair. It was a huge overhanging cave with 70m of ice dripping over its top. What more could you ask for?
Charly and I knew that the route had a reputation for being hard, but that had never stopped either of us in the past. So we sorted our gear and got ready for the fight. On day one, Charly sent the route almost onsight, only to slip off on the second pitch when a crumbly hold broke off and he slumped onto the rope. I got the first pitch second go and then followed Charly up the whole thing as he was keen to try and ground-up the route.
The ice pitch was totally fine with such featured ice that it was like climbing a vertical staircase of big hooks and easy foot placements. For me the M8 pitch was the scariest of the entire route. After the bolts ran out, you had to make your way up to the ice that was too thin for screws, the rock quality got even worse than the previous two pitches (if that was possible) and you felt like you were climbing a vertical semi-frozen beach!
But it all went to plan, and by the end of day one Charly and I had freed the 5 pitch wonder route that is Illuminati. This was awesome, but I wasn't satisfied with my ascent. I really wanted to lead the spicy bits of the route. So we held off on the celebrations that evening so that we were ready to do it all again the following day.
The next day was a bit harder for me, both physically and mentally. It was my turn to lead the route and having already climbed it the previous day, my muscles were not as psyched as I was to get back on the unbelievably steep first two pitches. But after some huffing and puffing the route got sent fairly swiftly and, as Charly was the day before, I was also uber-psyched to have also leadIlluminati. The second pitch didn't go down without a fight though. On my first go through the roof my axe ripped as I was turning the lip, and I took an upside down fall which resulted in me dropping a tool. This is never good, but thankfully we had packed a spare tool in the haul bag (small rucksack) in case this very thing happened. So I got the pitch sent on my second go. But again the route put every hurdle in our path as possible, and a hold ripped as I was climbing the roof. This time I was left hanging from one tool 50m off the deck with nothing but air bellow me. I managed to throw up my other tool and gingerly carried on for the send. That night we decided to maybe celebrate just a little, and the next day we opted for a low-level, easy accessible ice route which was home to some awesome features and enjoyable climbing.
Illuminati was an awesome line and the steep and hard climbing style was super-fun. With the ice pitch at the top being the icing on the cake for me. What a line!
And in the broken English words of Charly.... "It was gart to climbing with such a friend" (it was great to climb the route with such a good friend), which it was!
On 19 and 20 February, Lucie Hrozová became the second woman to climb Illuminati. She climbed all of the pitches onsight, beginning on 19 February with key dry-tooling pitches of M11- and M11+ grading; then, on 20 February, she climbed the two remaining pitches, a third mixed pitch and a fourth one of pure ice. This is the eighth overall ascent along this legendary route created by Albert Leichtfried in January 2006 (see his account of the first ascent below).
Lucie arrived under this monumental route with Mirek Matějec and Paľo Rajčan on the afternoon of 19 February. According to information provided by Palo Rajcan, who climbed Illuminati last year, it is necessary to practice the first two overhanging dry-tooling pitches. The first pitch is a thirty-metre endurance pitch with a crux at the end, overhanging by 12 metres, with M11- grading. The second pitch has 25 metres; overhang by 10 metres, and a difficult mixed climb of M11+ grading. Lucie Hrozová climbed both these onsight. Pao Rajcan and Mirek Matejec followed the pitches. They abseiled from the second station because of the arriving darkness.
The climbers changed their positions the following day. The first two pitches were climbed by Mirek Matějec in the RP style. Lucie Hrozová, who had already "on-sighted" the first two pitches the day before, climbed these two pitches without falling as a second. From the third, M8 rating pitch, which leads under hanging ice and over it, Lucie took over the lead again and, in bad ice under which water was flowing, also climbed the final pitch in OS style along a loosely hanging ice pillar with WI6+ rating. Owing to the bad quality of the ice and screws, she climbed cautiously in a safe manner and reached the end of the icefall just before dark. Mirek climbed the final length largely in the dark.
Lucie Hrozová is from the Czech Republic and an accomplished ice climber and dry-tooler. She is a member of the Singing Rock Climbing Team.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to Albert Liechtfried (Albert's website) and Herman Erber.
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