Ines Papert on The Hurting XI 11Interview

© Franz Walter

German alpinist Ines Papert has climbed The Hurting (XI) XI 11 at  Cairn Gorm - Stob Coire an t-Sneachda - making the first female ascent of one of Scotland's hardest winter routes.

Ines Papert climbing The Hurting XI 11
© Nadir Khan

Photographer Nadir Khan posted some photos on Facebook on Sunday evening with the following comment:

"Phenomenal effort today in conditions most people wouldn't dream of leading one of the hardest routes in Scotland. Ines Papert on 'The Hurting' XI 11. The pics may give some indication but it was gusting 100mph on the summits."

The Hurting was first climbed as a winter route by Dave Macleod in February 2005, making it the hardest winter pitch ever lead in Scotland at the time, described in the UKC Logbooks as "Dave Macleod's horror show!"

Ines climbed the route on her second attempt after conditions proved too poor the first time round.

Ines Papert after her ascent of The Hurting
© Nadir Khan

We have managed to ask Ines a few questions, and have received some comments from her belayer on the day - Simon Yearsley.

How long were you in Scotland, Ines, and why?

One of the reasons I came was an invitation to the Fort William Mountain Festival, where I was invited to do a talk on Saturday night in front of an incredible audience. Before then I had been to Scotland twice before, and each trip turned out to be such a great adventure. This time I was here with my friend from Bavaria, Seppi Pfnuer. It was his first time climbing in Scotland and he was really excited to have his own Scottish adventure!  The main reason had always been to come for the winter climbing, and of course I also wanted to see some friends again, like Simon Yearsley - we rented one of his Big Tree Campervans on an earlier trip and we always got such a great support on logistics from him; Greg Boswell - such a young enthusiastic and strong winter climber; and Ian Parnell who joined us on the first journey and helped us to understand Scottish winter climbing traditions and ethics. This year it was a 9 day trip, we climbed 6 days in the mountains and 1 day in the Newtyle cave when the conditions just turned out to be miserable. On the last day of my trip I sent The Hurting, which was a great finish, and I was glad that I gave it a go!

What made you choose The Hurting?

It’s a famous route, and one of the hardest worldwide. This trip I felt ready for it. Dave Macleod had created this very hard climb at a time (2005) when people did not believe it was possible. His creativity and spirit is so inspiring, and of course the stories I heard, or read about it... ground fall potential…super hard and technical climbing, made me really curious. I like to push my own limits by not pushing the risk lever to high. On the other hand, dealing with the risk is an interesting challenge, but I do like to have climbs under control, and I was curious about this climb and the stories. In the end, I was telling myself, well, let’s just go for it and see what it’s like – “in the end we are all just cooking with water” (it’s kind of a German saying). We first tried the route on Friday with Seppi and I felt ready to send it. Seppi belayed me for two hours, but unfortunately the conditions were not good. I knew about the ethics of Scottish winter climbing conditions - and I guess it was not in good Scottish conditions on this attempt. Even though the cracks were white and there was snow on all the ledges, looking back, the overall feel of the route wasn’t wintery enough.

Seppi had to go back home on Saturday evening, but Simon offered to belay me on Sunday. Only a few weeks earlier I had repeated “Ritter der Kokosnuss“  which is an M12 trad style route in Switzerland, which was a real contrast to The Hurting - very powerful climbing but with well placed pitons most of the time.  Even though “Ritter” is not a bolted sport route and does have some trad gear, it’s absolutely nothing compared to The Hurting in terms of the style.  In the end I enjoyed both climbs a lot, and that’s what I am climbing for, the fun. 

Ines Papert sending in horrendous conditions
© arose, Feb 2015

What was the hardest part of the climb for you?

The first ten metres felt kind of challenging, until I got the first good gear in. The crux, getting over the roof, felt quite good and safe, but the upper wall was super technical. This time conditions were excellent and the small blobs of moss were enough to hold the thin placements. For me as a “non local climber”, the crux was knowing how to place the gear well enough. The cracks and hooks were all covered by fresh snow. The gear was so different on Sunday than on Friday. Beside the gear, the weather on Sunday was the worst on the entire trip, the winds high up to 80 miles per hour but what I have learned from Simon was in Scotland, don´t give up until you are on the base of the climb. It might be a bit sheltered from the wind. Even if the chance was small, this happened to us after the approach in a snow storm. Simon´s great spirit pushed me a lot.

What do you think of Scottish Winter climbing?

I wouldn’t be here for my third trip if I didn't like it! The ethics are different than in the Alps, but this is the challenging part of this kind of climbing. It's always good to have some reserve in terms of power, it´s also for safety. What I learned on that trip is only to attempt a route when it is in really good winter conditions - the rock is covered in white rime, well frozen vegetation, and there is a “wintery feel” to the route. Before, I didn’t really know where the boundary was. Now I know a lot more, but not all the intricacies of Scottish winter ethics – there is still so much to learn.

Ines on the Hurting
© arose, Feb 2015

I heard you also tried out the drytooling at Newtyle - how was it?

It's a fantastic spot for training, I wish we had something like this at my place. But it’s not something I would specifically come to Scotland for – it filled our “rest day” with some great pumpy moves on an M11 flash ascent. 

Why do you think there are so few women trying winter climbing? (in the UK at least) Is the situation similar in Germany?

I have no idea why there are so few women. It’s a pity; I wish I could get more girls inspired by this kind of climbing.  Is it about confidence? Is it about how we are educated in our childhood? Is it about the cold weather? There are so many women climbing hard routes in the UK on trad gear, even E9s, that I could only imagine it’s the cold in winter?  No idea, to be honest. There are a few women climbing ice and mixed in Germany, but not many go for higher grades.

What's next for you?

Soon we are going to attempt the link up of the North Faces of the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau with our paragliders in our pack - of course using them to get from one mountain to the other and back home in one push. I’m also planning a trip to the Antarctic, as well as a holiday in Canada with my son.

A belayer’s Simon Yearsley

The plan was simple: on the last day of her Scottish trip, get Ines on The Hurting. She was super-psyched and frustrated after her and Seppi’s abortive attempt a few days before. The only problem was the weather – the early morning should be good, with light winds around dawn but then getting really nasty by late morning/lunchtime with storm force winds and heavy snow. We scurried away from the Fort William Festival Climb Night as quickly as politeness would allow, and drove over the Cairngorms. Starry skies and light winds. Perfect. It all changed about 4am when we were both awoken as the campervan rocked in the gusting wind – the bad weather had come in early. Nadir and Ali arrived just after 6am and we were soon all stumbling uphill into the strengthening wind and blustery snow showers. I’d convinced Ines that the Hurting wall could well be sheltered from the wind, and the best thing was to keep walking and decide when we reached the base of the route.

Prime XI 11 sending conditions...Simon's phone reveals all!
© Simon Yearsley

I was wrong. The wall was continually blasted by powerful gusts, violently changing from one direct to the other, sharp snow showers and shrouded in scudding cloud. Ali and Nadir quickly set the abseil photo rope. Ines warmed up, checked her gear one last time and set off. I’ve been climbing for over 35 years and this was the most impressive lead I’ve ever witnessed: sketchy moves from the start; a couple of bits of poor gear until a secure and comforting sling; then a tenuous traverse before a dubious small hex. Up a few more metres until suddenly the wind was so powerful it simply blew the good sling runner clean off. Oh...12m up with only a poor hex, in a growing storm, climbing XI,11. Ines continued.

Cutting loose on the Crux
© arose, Feb 2015

Some good gear in the wall below the roof. Breathe. As she pulled over the roof the wind was increasing in strength, physically pushing her from side to side, easily gusting 80mph if not more. I thought about closing my eyes as she linked the off-balance moves on the steep headwall, at one point losing a placement and dropping straight-armed onto one remaining tool. It held. I kept my eyes open. She continued. Ali and I looked at each other and burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of what we were witnessing. A seemingly endless series of loooong powerful reaches, flagging feet and skittery tools. Several times she completely disappeared into the growing maelstrom. Then the whoop. The very, very loud and joyous whoop. It was over. Ali and I started breathing again. Nadir stopped filming. We struggled downhill, trying often in vain to keep our balance in the storm.

Later, sitting in the cafe, we explained to Ines what a “hoolie” was.

Back at the van. Phew!
© Simon Yearsley

Visit Ines' website:






Ines is sponsored by: Arc'teryx, Black Diamond, Julbo, Lowa and Red Chili

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23 Feb, 2015
wow, that picture of her after doing it shows how minging it must have been. In addition I can't believe the news item doesn't even mention she did it with the original fusion's. Surely these axes only climb up to viii,8?
23 Feb, 2015
Saw the excellent talk she did at Fort William on Saturday and after seeing some of her movies/pictures it isn't surprising she led this route, she has put up some "Horror Shows" of her own.
23 Feb, 2015
Bloody brilliant! (and the original Fusions are very good axes)
23 Feb, 2015
Very Bad Ass. What's the hardest British female lead in winter?
23 Feb, 2015
We walked into Sneachda early on Sunday and turned back due to appalling visibility and deteriorating conditions, passed Ines heading in as we returned to the car park. The fact that anyone led this route that day blows my mind.
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