25-year-old Austrian alpinist Laura Tiefenthaler has made what is believed to be only the second ever solo ascent of the North Face of the Eiger by a woman, climbing the face via the Heckmair route. Catherine Destivelle made the first female solo ascent of the North Face in March 1992.
The classic line has seen heavy traffic of late due to a period of good weather. On 8 March, Laura completed the Heckmair Route in a day alongside German alpinist Jana Möhrer.
Laura had just earned her degree in Medicine and finished a mountain guide course when a long weather window left her seeking objectives in the mountains. Encouraged by Patagonian legend Rolo Garibotti, a return to the Eiger's North Face - this time alone - was the goal.
An initial foray on 24 March ended in retreat after a route-finding mistake, but the following day, Laura returned with a more confident mindset to complete the route in 15 hours.
On Instagram, Laura wrote:
'DARE TO DREAM BIG. Another trip to the Eiger – this time on my own.
Seeing the promising forecast at the end of my guides course last week, I toyed with ideas for what to do, when @rolo_garibotti came up with the idea to go back to the Heckmaier, by myself. For him it seemed like an obvious choice, after climbing it with Jana had felt so good 2 weeks earlier. For me it was not even a possibility, but when he mentioned it, desire immediately grew. Doubts about my abilities and too many people on the wall were on my mind. However, the dream was born so I drove there to have a look.
On 24th my mind game was not the best, and I managed to take the wrong turn, losing 2 hours, so I bailed, to eventually go back the next day.
I spent the whole day at the train station, watching tourists, recharging and setting my mind in the right place. The first rule was to get down safely, the 2nd to have fun, not to have it feel as an exam, but rather go there with curiosity.
On the 25th, I set off at 1am. I felt good. Doubts were magically gone. With curiosity as my main motivation, and knowing that up to a point, I could get down, it felt safe to go explore. As I progressed, confidence grew. I rope-soloed all the hard pitches and some short sections. Reaching the Traverse of the Gods at 10am, I knew that time was on my side. I slowed down, prioritizing safety over speed, and topped out at 4pm, exceeding my expectations.
I shared the climb with 3 other parties, but mostly managed to stay a good distance away from them, having the type of experience I was looking for. I passed them in the lower part, had most of the climb to myself, until the exit, where out of caution I rope-soloed, so I let 2 of the teams passed me back. There were no issues, we were kind to each other, and had fun.
What a trip! What an experience!
Thanks Rolo for the encouragement, for helping ask the right questions, and being there, on the other side of the phone. Sorry for scaring the shit out of you, but it's your own fault. It is great to have a friend and mentor who believes in ones abilities more than oneself without putting pressure.'
British alpinist Alison Hargreaves soloed the Eiger's North-East spur via the Lauper route in 1993.
Laura was a member of the 2019 DAV Expeditionskader - the German Alpine Club's women's expedition team. In January this year, she climbed Cerro Chalten (Fitz Roy) in Patagonia via the Afanassieff Route with Babsi Vigl.