Calum Muskett and Dave MacLeod have just made a very quick repeat of Ueli Steck's testpiece Paciencia, 8a, on the Rote Fluh section of the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland. The pair climbed every pitch free, alternating leads, onsighting up to 7a+, and redpointing all the harder pitches, with both redpointing the 'crux' 8a pitch.
Paciencia was first climbed by Ueli Steck and Stephan Siegrist in 2003 but the pair were not able to make a full free ascent, Steck returned to make a full free ascent in 2008. The route was then repeated by David Lama in 2011, who claimed the route was th hardest rock route he had climbed in the Alps, despite having made repeats of Bellavista, 8c, in the Dolomites and Voie Petit, 8b, on the Grand Capucin. Due to its sustained and sandbag nature, with the pitch grades being: 6b, 6a, 6a+, 7c, 7c, 7a, 8a, 7a+, 6b+, 6a+, 6a+, 7c, 7c+, 7b, 7a, 6a, 7a+, 7c, 7a, 6c+, 6b, 6b, 6c+.
This, the first time Calum and Dave had climbed together, saw the two of them on opposite ends of the preperation spectrum, with Calum being on very good form recently, with ascents of Indian Face, E7 onsights and new routes up to E8. Dave on the other hand, had for various reasons, "done next to no climbing for several weeks... A few fingerboard sessions, a couple of TCA sessions that's it. I could still one arm a first joint edge. But endurance was nil".
The pair headed straight to the Eiger after meeting in Chamonix despite Dave's reservations about his ability as not only had he not done much climbing recently, but this was also to be his first alpine route. Upon arriving in Grindelwald, they found the route wet following three days of bad weather, the translation of the route name being Patience, seemed very relevant and the chances of making an ascent seemed slim.
After waiting a day to let the route dry a little, Dave and Calum headed for a quick recce of the face, making two journeys to transport all their kit up to the base of the route on the Rote Fluh. They then had a look at the first pitches of the route, including the first two 7c pitches and the crux 8a pitch. After working these pitches, they descended to Grindelwald, hoping to start the route the next morning.
Commenting on his blog about the ascent, Calum said: "Our upward progress for the first couple of days was really positive, all pitches were climbed first redpoint including the sustained and amazing crux which climbs through the apex of the main roof of the Rote Fluh."
The following day, the pair awoke feeling very tired and with some more hard climbing to do that day, feeling totally wasted, Calum handed the lead of a very tricky 7c+ pitch over to Dave, who commented on his blog about the pitch: "Both of us were tired that day, and I almost fell right at the end of a 7c+ pitch, where I knew Lama had also fallen. I knew I didn't have the energy for another go within the hour, so I just held on like my life depended on it when a foothold broke 4 moves from the belay ledge"
Fortunately, both Dave and Calum felt much fresher than the previous day, and after jugging back up the ropes they had fixed the previous day, they were in a strong position to top out, with Calum even "making an unlikely flash of the final 7c pitch through determination to not be on the face any longer".
After descending the Eiger, they found that they had missed the last train, so had a long slog back to Grindelwald, for Dave who had got blisters early on in the trip from wearing an ill-fitting pair of boots, and the problem having been exacerbated over nearly four days of wearing rock-shoes, this was a slightly painful finish to his first alpine route.
Talking about why he wanted to climb Paciencia, Calum said: "Paciencia climbs an amazing wall on the nf of Eiger. I'd seen some amazing photos of Steck and Lama on the route and it sounded like a great challenge.", adding "it was great climbing with Dave. He's such a great all rounder and took the new environment easily in his stride"