Austrian climber Alex Luger has made two impressive first ascents in the Val Ferrera valley in Switzerland, with Piece Of Mind (WI5+/ M6/ 250m) and The Winners Loose It All Some Day (WI5/ M6 X/ 300m).
After soloing the Rotes Vergissmeinnicht (WI4+/ 140m) in the Val Fererra, Alex and friend Hanno Schluge spotted a yellow ice formation hanging on a big overhang on the opposite side of the small village of Ausserferrera. After a few days the pair returned to try the line which would eventually become The Winners Loose it All Some Day.
Alex told UKC: "The first 200m was easy mixed terrain on snow, rock and some vegetation. Then we climbed a traverse to the left that was very loose and overhanging with almost no protection. We climbed this traverse in a big 80 metre pitch. Then the rock got a bit better and we continued over huge blocks stacked together to reach the start of the ice. We climbed the yellow hanging icicles in one pitch with moderate difficulty."
He added: "We left no trace on the climb and took all the gear with us used for protection apart from the slings we used for rappelling. It´s hard to recommend the route because of its very loose flakes on the traverse pitch. Maybe it's a good adventure for lovers of loose rock!"
Regarding Piece of Mind, Alex commented:
"On this climb we had a close call. After 15 years of climbing you get your routine, your speed, and most importantly your experience. I have had close calls in my climbing life and most of them happened because of a misinterpretation of conditions or because something was not what you expected it to be. When climbing without fixed gear these misinterpretations can be fatal. I am aware about this fact and very conscious of how I behave in the mountains."
Hanno took a large whipper, yet fortunately both climbers were unharmed. After their wake up call, there was still enough ice for the pair to climb the pitch. After a moderate mixed pitch they reached the hanging icicles where the crux was thought to be, but completed it with relative ease and after some bouldery moves on granite, reached a higher ice section and topped out.
Alex summed up the experience as follows: "It's a really nice climb and very versatile, from ice climbing to mixed climbing on solid granite high above the Val Ferrera. A route I can recommend. We did this first ascent in clean style. No fixed gear on the entire route!"
Alex adds these committing ascents to an ever-growing list of hard climbs of all styles, showing his status as an all-rounder - with his trio of 8b+ ascents on trad including Prinzipp Hoffnung, Psychogramm and Sangre de Toro.
Read more about Alex and his trad climbing in this UKC interview by Chief Editor Jack Geldard.