Barbara Zangerl completes the Alpine Trilogy
Three major first ascents were done in the Alps in 1994. Thomas Huber climbed his route End of Silence on Feuerhorn in the Berchtesgaden Alps after many years of preparation. The Vorarlberg climber Beat Kammerlander completed an old Martin Scheel project on the fourth Kirchlispitze in the Rätikon and called the route Silbergeier (silver vulture). In Wilder Kaiser, Stefan Glowacz put the finish on his multi-year project Des Kaisers neue Kleider (the emperor's new clothes) on Fleischbankpfeiler. This trilogy became a milestone in the history of alpine sport climbing. At the time, it was a great leap into a new dimension of difficulty. Silbergeier, the shortest of the three routes, is six pitches long and End of Silence, at eleven pitches, is the longest in the trilogy. Each of those routes presents several pitches of UIAA X and X+. After Beat Kammerlander's first ascent, it took a few years before Peter Schäffler finally broke the spell in 1997 and repeated Silbergeier. Andreas Jörg then made headlines with the first repeat of End of Silence and the second repeat of Silbergeier in 2000. Stefan Glowacz was the first to complete the Alps Trilogy in 2001. Harry Berger fulfilled his dream with the Trilogy's first repeat in 2005.
I did not pursue the goal of climbing the Alps Trilogy from the beginning. In the beginning, only Beat Kammerlander's masterpiece Silbergeier was on my wish list. Nina Caprez and I decided in the summer of 2011 to attempt this route. After several starts things got better and better and we could soon do all the moves and climb some passages continuously. After our fourth day on Silbergeier I had to quit because of an injury, had to take six months off and had to take a total of two years' break from Silbergeier. The same year, Nina made the first female ascent of the route. At that time I was so motivated and extremely inspired by Nina's ascent that I started looking for a similar challenge as early as the next year. I wanted a route that offers a similar style of climbing and so I decided on a pilgrimage to the Feuerhorn near Berchtesgaden with Emanuel Falch, to the route End of Silence.
After prolonged web research it was clear to me that we would only need quickdraws, no further protection like Camalots or nuts for End of Silence. But that quickly made us hit our mental limits. This route's style was a bit different. Long runouts, just like in Silbergeier. but particularly in the easier pitches they were so long that a lot of risk needed to be taken without additional protection. With nuts and Camalots along, everything was a lot more relaxed. On our second attempt we climbed as far as pitch five and had to realize that it would be hard work. Just climbing each pitch by itself took everything I had.
With time and many attempts on the crux pitches that are found in the upper third of the route, things went better and better. I checked the upper pitches from above with Emanuel. On August 1, 2012 I decided on a first ground-up attempt. In the first 7c+ I was climbing at my limit and arrived at the belay totally pumped. But things went great up to the ninth pitch and I lead everything on the first attempt. Then the psycho thriller began on pitch nine. After two falls and getting tired out, I could not really imagine climbing End of Silence any more that day. But my head fortunately persevered and I finally stood successfully on the top of End of Silence after ten hours on the wall.
This year I returned to the start of Silbergeier with mixed feelings. I was not sure if this was a good idea. I was quite afraid of another forced break because of injury. This year it felt much better. I did not have to do a lot of bouldering and could climb the hard pitches fast and in control. But in the end it was a great surprise to be standing on top of Silbergeier. That day I had really wanted to check out the first three pitches thoroughly again with Tobias Bitschnau. Tobi wanted to get an idea of Silbergeier by following it. Everything went super smoothly from the start so I stood overjoyed at the exit in the afternoon of July 28th. That almost meant more than anything else to me. To climb those special moves without pain, to be fully fit again and to end up with another wonderful adventure under my belt and to stand on the summit floating in happiness.
It was only at this time that I took it into my head to complete the Trilogy. I took things easy for the first week after climbing Silbergeier. But I could hardly wait to get going to Wilder Kaiser. It needs to be said that I had a partner who was at least as motivated as I for Des Kaisers neue Kleider. Jacopo Larcher started this undertaking with me. We swapped leads most of the time, fixed ropes on the wall and checked each pitch out. Soon we could do all the moves to pitch eight. But that eighth pitch really got to us. Again and again we tried to get up this crux by any ways we could think of. But our feet simply did not want to stick to the slippery mini holds. Jacopo could soon find a solution and climb the crux. I tried to arrive at my solution in vain. Finally I got it too and it became clearer and clearer that the Trilogy might actually happen this year. But somehow I could not really wrap my head around it yet.
Just jumaring to the eighth pitch without climbing took a lot of my strength. I could not even imagine to have any strength left after climbing seven difficult athletic pitches. The holds on pitch five were wet again and again. It always took two dry days to make this pitch climbable again. Time almost got away on us.
Jacopo made the first ground-up attempt. Two days later I dared my first try. After three days of good weather I had far better conditions than Jacopo had for his attempt. Everything went great on the first pitches, even on the first 8b+. I was extremely nervous but made no mistakes and climbed well through the seventh pitch. We reached the belay of pitch eight at 3:30 pm. I felt almost spent. After a half hour break I started my first try, which went nowhere after four meters. I could simply not build any more tension on the small footholds.
Every half hour a loud 'fuuuuuck' could be heard on Fleischbankpfeiler and again and again I was dangling on the rope, frustrated. That happened a total of six times. All my hopes evaporated. My strength was completely finished. But somehow I managed to get a bit higher with each attempt. That motivated me for each subsequent try. I was startled to hold the jug after the crux in my hand and could hardly believe it. Then it was vital to keep calm and somehow I fought my way up the last pumpy part of the route to the belay. A big dream was coming true. I barely had any nerves left and was close to tears. After the last almost easy pitch the two of us were standing on the summit of Fleischbankpfeiler. One of my most beautiful moments, ever!
Three days later Jacopo too climbed Des Kaisers neue Kleider. He did not nearly put on the same show as I and climbed each pitch on his first attempt without hanging. It was an incredibly beautiful time to try this route together, to motivate one another and to pursue the same goal. To get closer to it every day and to finally complete the project successfully. Sick!
I want to give thanks to everyone who supported me in these projects. Big thanks to Jacopo Larcher, Emanuel Falch, Matthias Knaus, Nina Caprez, Florian Metzler, Tobias Bitschnau, Andreas Miller, Jürgen Höfle, Hannes Mair. It would not have worked without you, thank you for all the fun and the cool days in the mountains!