INTERVIEW: Nina Caprez - Silbergeier - Alpine 8b/+

Nina Caprez, the 24 year old Swiss climber, has become the first woman to complete the iconic multipitch route of Silbergeier (8b/+) in the alpine limestone region of the Rätikon, Switzerland.

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.

Nina Caprez on the perfect limestone of Silbergeier in the Rätikon, Switzerland., 138 kb
Nina Caprez on the perfect limestone of Silbergeier in the Rätikon, Switzerland.
© Stefan Schlumpf

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.

RELATED VIDEO: Nina Caprez - profile and climbing Ali Baba (8 pitch 8a+)

We caught up with Nina to find out more about her climbing and about her ascent of Silbergeier:

INTERVIEW: Nina Caprez on Silbergeier

Nina Caprez, 64 kb
Nina Caprez
© Stefan Schlumpf

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.

Nina recreates the famous 'one foot' poster shot of Pietro dal Prà that inspired her to do the route, 185 kb
Nina recreates the famous 'one foot' poster shot of Pietro dal Prà that inspired her to do the route
© Stefan Schlumpf

It's a really famous and iconic route, did it live up to your expectations?

Oh yes! The route is just perfect for me. You have to be really strong on little holds, your foot work has to be super good, you need really good balance and on the traverses, you don't have to be afraid off the long run outs... you have to be a little bit sick and this is what I am!

So it suited your style?

Completely. If I am strong at something, well, it's on this style. And I think that I was really in good shape and I was just so motivated to do it.

We know it has some long run-outs, and is quite a 'spicy' route, but is it in real alpine terrain? With poor weather and difficult approaches?

Hmmm, it's almost alpine terrain. The approach is about 1.5 hours and the last hour you have to climb on fixed ropes.

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!

Nina Caprez at the base of Silbergeier, 170 kb
Nina Caprez at the base of Silbergeier
© Stefan Schlumpf

What are your future plans? More big walls? New routes?

It's hard for me to say that. I have some lines in my head I really want to do, but when I'll do them, I don't know. Perhaps I can go on the Eiger North Face in August, I really like to climb Deep Blue Sea. Also La Voie Petit on the Grand Capucin, in the Mont Blanc range looks so great! Next year I really want to go to Yosemite in California.

For this year, I have already climbed this big project, so I feel really free now and I'll just climb some more dream limes, but they don't have to be really hard, just cool things! In October I'll go to the Petzl Roc trip in China and after that, I think I will need some holidays with my Cédric.

Final question - If you could design your own 'perfect route' - what would it be like? Where and what rock? Who with? The 'dream climb!'

A singular dream climb doesn't exist for me. My dream is to climb on all different styles, walls, rocks and countries in this world. I'm so curious about what this world can offer me and often when I have climbed a route in one style, I have to change. After Silbergeier, I just want to go bouldering and the next multipitch I will do will have to be on a steep wall, my feet have suffered enough!

Huge thanks to Nina Caprez and to Stefan Schlumpf for the photographs.

Nina Caprez is sponsored by Petzl, Arc'teryx, Five Ten, Beal

Forums 2 comments

This has been read 11,863 times
Return to News from July 2018