Words By: Luka Lindic
Photos By: Stefan Wiebel
I am in the middle of a grey slab desperately looking for holds, already a couple of meters past the last bolt. I see a drilled 10mm hole that would perfectly fit the bolt that is not there… I fall and hit the wall 10m below quite hard. The climbing is not steep in this part, making falling really uncomfortable. After taking around 7 of these long falls, I am mentally wasted and need to rest. I rest at the belay for about an hour and try to get ready for a fight again. I make a plan in my head, pull myself back up and – in full-on screaming mode – I fight through the crux of this run out 7c+ pitch.
That’s how my first day on the route “End of Silence” went. I know most climbers who’ve repeated this climb first came from above to check the hard and run out pitches. It’s everyone’s personal decision on how to do it, but coming from above to check the route definitely takes away from routes like this. This was by far the hardest multi-pitch route I have ever tried and I wanted to test myself on if I’m ready for routes of such high difficulty.I felt I needed to climb everything from the ground up first to be satisfied with my performance. It took me two climbing days, with many memorable moments looking for holds high above the last bolt. While the first part of the project was finished, things were far from over. Climbing the whole route free in a day became my project for this summer.
I started working on the sequences alone using a fixed static rope. I climbed everything quite quickly, aside from the boulder crux in the most difficult pitch. Finger strength is normally not my weakness but after a winter of finger injury and lots of alpine climbing, my fingers simply weren’t used to the small pockets needed to hold on this crux. I was afraid I would injure myself trying this boulder too often so I decided to take a little break from the route and train on a “hangboard”. The weather was perfect for climbing during that time and I was struggling to not join everyone going out climbing on a perfect rock in the Berchtesgaden area. I knew climbing less and working on my weaknesses were keys to succeed, and it was very rewarding to see how quickly the focus and hard training payed off. I started to feel comfortable pulling on small pockets but the crazy summer heat wave hit the area right when I started to feel ready for another try.I decided to try anyway and managed to climb everything up to the crux pitch. Once there, I failed three times. I still returned home happy though, seeing see I could climb that many hard pitches in one day. I just needed one more session in the crux pitch to fine tune the beta. On my next visit I found a better solution for the crux with a different footstep and was able to climb the pitch for the first time. After this, I knew I was able to do it –but I needed to keep a calm head and feel under pressure. It’s not easy in this kind of technical type of climbing, where the smallest mistake is enough to make you fall. But, at the same time, it’s what makes climbing in routes like this so special. Not only power will bring you success. You simply need to climb well and be precise.I couldn’t imagine a better person to support me on a project like this than my girlfriend Ines. On Monday, July 22nd, we walked to the top of the wall with the idea to spend the night before starting my second try the next day. That same day I rappelled once more through the route to mark the holds and footholds with chalk. However, the marks got washed away by the rain and I knew how important they were for a successful free ascent. Ines prepared our camp and food before we enjoyed the sunset high above the valley floor together, but I need to admit I couldn’t fully enjoy it as I started to feel the pressure of the next day.We descended to the base of the climb and I started the first pitch. After two meters, I had already taken a fall with a broken hold in my hand. I managed to recollect quickly and started the pitch from the beginning. I tried to focus only on the next few meters and not feel the weight of the crux pitches waiting high above. I climbed in control the entire way, even through the 7c+ and 8b pitches. At the belay below the 8b+ pitch I felt a bit nervous. But still feeling quite fresh, I was confident and managed to switch my mind into execution mode and pulled it off despite a small foot slip at the crux. Both of us started screaming like hell. Even though I still needed to climb a 7c and a 7a+ pitch, I knew nothing could take it away from me anymore. As I started to climb relaxed, I felt like I was flying between the holds in those last two pitches.
“End of Silence” was opened and free climbed by Thomas Huber. With its 11 pitches and difficulties up to 8b+ it is still among the most difficult alpine free climbs. This climb definitely opened my eyes to see what I am capable of in difficult rock routes. I’ve never climbed harder than 8b+ in a crag and never really focused on only rock climbing in my career. Because of this, I didn’t dare think I’d be able to climb a route like this. Encouraging words from Ines and new friends from the Berchtesgaden area made me decide to give it a try.I often travel around the globe to climb in the big mountains and challenge myself – too often actually, in this time when everyone is keen on the environment and sustainability. Having a proper challenge only a 15 minute drive from home was really refreshing and made me think a lot about my career. I realized I don’t always need to travel thousands of kilometers to get what I’m looking for. It was a great experience to work on this route and I was once again surprised by the support and good energy the local climbers showed while I was trying.
At the moment, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the new possibilities when it comes to difficult rock climbing after this breakthrough. The send of “End of Silence” is definitely a nice reward after the hard work. But, knowing that I am improving every year in all aspects of climbing and mountaineering is an even more satisfying.Head to the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy in Squamish, BC to hear from Luka, alongside Ines Papert, on Thursday, August 22 at 8:25 p.m. Learn more about all of our key note speakers HERE.
Mountain: Reiteralm, Feuerhörndl
Route: End of Silence
Grade: 8b+ (7a+, 6c, 6a, 6a+, 7b+, 7c+, 7b, 8b, 8b+, 7c, 7a+) Length: 350m
First ascent and RP: Thomas Huber
I needed two days to climb the route, ground up, joined by Luka Krajnc on Day 1 and Ines Papert on Day 2. After another 7 days of working on the route and marking the holds, I redpointed the route on July 23rd belayed by Ines Papert.