Three super routes in one summer for Spain's top big wall climbers:
Iker and Eneko Pou have repeated Zahir (300m F8b+) in the Wendenstocke, Switzerland.
The two Spanish brothers, both among the world's most accomplished big wall free climbers, battled bad weather and poor conditions to tick one of the Wendenstocke's most sought after routes. Their ascent was captured on video and is shown at the base of this article.
Iker and Eneko first looked at the route back in 2007 to find out if it was a possibility for them - they left knowing the game was on. According to their website, this 'reconnaissance tactic' is something they use very often.
The route breaks down in to eight pitches: F6c, F8a+, F8b+, F7c, F7a+, F7b, F7b+, F6c, and as with many multi-pitch Alpine routes, the bolts are often very spaced and the climbing is committing.
This ascent marks the end of an exceptional summer for the Spanish brothers, who have ticked three of the top Alpine rock routes in just a few months.
Their 'Alpine Trilogy' is Solo Per Guierrieri F8c (Dolomites, Italy), Pan Aroma F8c (Dolomites, Italy) and now Zahir F8b+ (Wendenstocke, Switzerland).
UKC Video links:
The Pou brothers have written an extensive report on their summer adventures here: Pou Website (in Spanish) and they compare their efforts on these European mega-routes to their own big wall masterpiece Orbayu (F8c+/9a), on their home mountain of Naranjo de Bulnes in the Picos de Europa, Spain.
- VIDEO: Orbayu F8c+/9a
Given the brother's previous list of hard ascents, and the speed with which they repeated these three very difficult alpine routes, it is clear that Orbayu is a formidable challenge and is likely one of the hardest multi-pitch routes in the world.
The Wendenstocke, the scene of their latest adventure on Zahir, is a huge Alpine limestone venue in Switzerland, made up of several peaks, which has bullet-hard grey rock and is renowned for being home to some of the best hard alpine rock routes in the world. Many of the approaches are long and difficult, crossing tricky slabs and Alpine terrain, and the weather is notoriously poor. Water can stream down the rock just minutes after rain starts, making the routes feel very 'Alpine' and giving them an adventurous flavour.
The brothers have coined the phrase 'Alpine Trilogy' to describe their summer ticklist. This phrase has been applied to many routes in the past, especially classic north faces, but in terms of top standard Alpine rock routes, it is most often used to describe the following trio of super routes:
- Silbergeier - F8b+ (FA: Beat Kammerlander) in the Raetikon, Switzerland
- End of Silence - F8b+ (FA: Thomas Huber) in the Feuerhoerndl Berchtesgaden Alps, Austria
- Des Kaisers neue Kleider - F8b+ (FA: Stefan Glowacz) on the Fleischbankpfeiler in the Wilder Kaiser, Austria.
Note: Some repeaters have suggested a downgrade for End of Silence.
Stefan Glowacz was the first person to climb all three of these routes back in 2001 and the late Harald Berger repeated the feat in 2005 before the tragic accident in which he was killed by a collapsing ice cave in 2006.
These routes do see occasional repeats and much of this hard Alpine rock climbing, especially in the German speaking regions, goes unreported in the English language climbing media. In fact, many of these venues are relatively unknown.
For example Polish climbers Konrad Ociepka and Marcin Wszolek recently repeated End of Silence. Repeats by climbers such as these two (they have previous ascents of Hotel Supramonte, Sardinia amongst others) go largely unnoticed.
Polish News Link: wspinanie.pl.
As far as we know, no British climbers have repeated any of these 'Alpine Trilogy' routes. The hardest Alpine rock route known to be climbed by Brits is by far James McHaffie and Ben Bransby's 2009 ascent of the Petit Route (F8b) on the Grand Capucin (UKC News), France.
McHaffie, who led much of the hard climbing on the Petit Route, also put in a strong performance several years ago in Madagascar attempting to free the now famous line of Tough Enough (F8c?) on Karambony. Adam Ondra is currently in Madagascar and we have heard rumours of his ascents, but nothing has been confirmed as yet. More news on that to follow.
VIDEO: Pou Brothers on Zahir (F8b+ 300m)
Iker Pou is appearing at the 2010 Kendal Mountain Festival