Obituary: Kurt Albert

Kurt Albert, 87 kb
Kurt Albert
© Martin Schepers
Kurt Albert (1954 - 2010)

It is a shock: Kurt Albert is dead. He died on the 28th of September in hospital, after an accident on his home crag in which he took an 18m fall from a "harmless" via ferrata.

Kurt Albert was the father of the Redpoint, who significantly influenced rock climbing not only in his native Germany but far beyond.

His spirit of fun was immortalised in the famous photograph of him hanging ropeless from the rock - beer in hand. He never ceased to underline the fact that for him, it was not soley about numbers and adrenaline, but he sought fun, adventure and challenge.

Kurt was born in 1954 and started climbing at the young age of 14 as part of his local Nuremberg scene. As was customary at the time, he started out in the mountains, where he climbed the Walker Spur at age 17 and the Eiger North Face just one year later. But it was from his first trip to the Elbsandstein in 1973 that Kurt brought back the free climbing bug that was to stay with him his whole life. The sandstone towers of the Elbsandstein, on the border of Germany and the Czech Republic, are famous as one of the birth places of free climbing. The ethics there are strict and the protection is sparse.

Albert transferred his free climbing to the limestone of the Frankenjura where he started to free existing aid routes. It was in 1975 when, for the first time, he marked a route he had freed with a red dot of paint - a Rotpunkt - and thus coined the term for a free climbing style, as it is known today: Redpoint.

Kurt Albert climbing on Weissenstein, Frankenjura, Germany, 176 kb
Kurt Albert climbing on Weissenstein, Frankenjura, Germany
© Martin Schepers
Kurt dedicated his life to climbing, making the first ascent of many routes and in 1982 with his route Magnet (originally graded UIAA 9+, now UIAA 9) he created one of the hardest routes in the world at that time. He often climbed with Wolfgang Güllich and other German sport climbing pioneers, and he lived in the now legendary shared house in the Frankenjura, where visitors from all over the world stayed. It was in this climber's hang-out that British rock legend Jerry Moffat lived for some time in his early climbing career.

Kurt Albert the maths graduate did not work in his profession as a teacher for very long. He was one of those people for whom climbing was much more than a sport - it was his lifestyle, until the very last. No regular job would have fitted into his life, certainly not one that would have taken his freedom away.

Travelling and adventure were a huge part of his life. Alongside Güllich and other top climbers he ventured to many great rock walls across the globe. Patagonia, Venezuela, Karakoram, China, India, Canada: there are not many corners of the world that Kurt did not explore on his search for new rock. In doing that, he left great routes the world over and he made friends everywhere he travelled. For Kurt was not only focussed on following his climbing ambition, but he always maintained a laid-back and good-humored approach to life. Kurt brought high spirits to his lectures and slideshows, from which he partly made his living, his audiences were often in histerics of laughter. Kurt Albert did not only gain fame with his climbing achievements - he had character.

With Kurt Albert, the climbing scene loses one of its most distinguished personalities. It hurts infinitely. But in all that he left us, Kurt lives on.

Kurt Albert gracing the cover of Boulder Magazine - the legendary magazine had only 3 issues, 200 kb
Kurt Albert gracing the cover of Boulder Magazine - the legendary magazine had only 3 issues
© Boulder Magazine

Kurt Albert - a brief CV:

- 1954: On January 28 Kurt Albert is born in Nuremberg, Germany
- 1968: At age 14 he first comes in contact with rock climbing
- 1971: At age 17 he climbs the Walker Spur, a year later he climbs the Eiger North Face
- 1973: Kurt travels to the Elbsandstein and is fascinated by the free climbing ethic that is practiced there.
- 1976: Kurt Albert frees the "Gelbe Wand" at the 'Matterhornwand' in the Frankenjura to give the first routes of UIAA-grade VII
- 1977 Kurt opens up the routes "Exorzist" (UIAA 8-) and "Osterweg" (UIAA 8) in the 'Altmühltal'
- 1981 With his ascent of "Sautanz" at the 'Gössweinsteiner Wände' Kurt climbs Germany's first UIAA 9-. Together with Wolfgang Güllich he climbs "Locker vom Hocker" (UIAA 8-, 250 m)
- 1982 Kurt made the first ascent of "Magnet", Germany's first UIAA 9
- 1984 Kurt Albert is awarded the "Silbernes Lorbeerblatt“ - the highest commendation for sport achievements in Germany.
- 1987 Kurt creates a sensation with the first redpoint of the "Brandler-Hasse" (UIAA 8+) on the 'Cima Grande' and of the "Schweizerweg" (UIAA 9-) in the Sexten Dolomites
- 1988 Together with Bernd Arnold and Wolfgang Güllich, Kurt succeeds in free climbing the "Jugoslawenroute" on the 'Nameless Tower' (Trango) in the Karakoram.
A year later he returns with Güllich and other friends and they open up "Eternal Flame" (9-, A2) perhaps the world's ultimate rock climb.
- 1991 Kurt is part of the first ascensionist team that opens up Riders on the Storm (9, A3) on the Towers of Paine in Patagonia. Since then he has undertaken many expeditions to big walls in exotic destinations all over the world. To Patagonia alone he returned many times. In 1995, he made the first ascent of "Royal Flush" (9) on Fitz Roy.
From 1995 on, Kurt travels to his projects 'by fair means'.

A selection of his many first ascents:
- Moby Dick (9+, A2; Ulamertorsuaqu, Greenland 1994)
- Hart am Wind (8; Renard Tower, Antarktis 1999)
- Odyssee 2000 (9-; Polar Bear Spire, Baffin Island 2000)
- La conjura de los nejos (9+; El Gigante, Mexiko 2001)
- 2006 Expedition to Venezuela – by fair means: with canoes over 200 kilometers through the jungle of  Grand Sabana to Acopan Tepuis – First ascent over the North Vace: "El Purgatorio" (650m, UIAA 9)

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