Hard Eiger routes climbed free

Jasper and Schaeli on the Eiger north face, Ghillini Piola route

A long way from the Himalaya...

It's been a busy month on the north face of the Eiger, perhaps because it's the 75th anniversary of the first ascent of the Swiss mountain wall.

On 3 August Robert Jasper (Germany) and Roger Schaeli (Switzerland) made the first free ascent of Ghillini-Piola Direttissima (photo: Frank Kretschmann). A week or two later Calum Muskett and Scottish climber Dave Mcleod made the third free ascent of the nearby sport route Paciencia, technically probably the hardest route on the mountain.

Both routes take lines up very steep rock towards the right hand side of the Eiger's north face.

The two ascents were made in somewhat different styles. Eiger veterans Jasper and Schaeli completed their climb in a single one-day push. Muskett and Macleod, determined to redpoint Paciencia with no falls either leading or seconding, spread their climbing over three days. It was Macleod's first alpine climb, he says (apparently he doesn't count the Dolomites).

For Jasper and Schaeli, the free ascent of the Ghillini-Piola Direttissima completed a hat trick. It was the third Eiger route they have freed, following first free ascents of the Japanese Direttissima (2009) and the Harlin Direttissima (2010). They had previously climbed the Ghili-Piola in 2006, but hadn't then felt ready for a free ascent.

After this year's ascent they rated the difficulties at French 7c (UIAA IX), finding the climbing serious, with poor protection (though, with Michel Piola's agreement,  they had replaced the  bolts used on the first ascent with new ones, one for one).

Eiger North Face

Eiger North face: Route 17 is the Ghillini-Piola Direttissima
Photo: Wikimedia, Some rights reserved

On the Ghili-Piola, Eiger north face
On the Ghili-Piola, Eiger north face
On the Ghili-Piola, Eiger north face

Photos © Frank Kretschmann

For more information, read Robert Jasper's blog and Roger Schäli's blog.

A little later in the month, Calum Muskett and Dave MacLeod arrived beneath the Eiger, planning to climb Paciencia. The route takes a line further left than the Ghillini-Piola, breaking through the steepest part of the rock feature called the Rote Fluh, with a crux pitch of 8a.

It was bolted by Ueli Steck and Stephan Siegrist in 2003 with the aim "of establishing a great sport route, not an alpine-style ascent." They finally made a free ascent of the route on August 29-30, 2008. A free ascent by David Lama followed in 2011.

Eiger North Face

Eiger North face: Route 33 is Paciencia
Photo: Wikimedia, Some rights reserved

MacLeod and Muskett aimed to climb the route free without any falls, leading or seconding. They accomplished this after three days on the route. The pitch grades for the route are 6b, 6a, 6a+, 7c, 7c, 7a, 8a, 7a+, 6b+, 6a+, 6a+, 7c, 7c+, 7b, 7a, 6a, 7a+, 7c, 7a, 6c+, 6b, 6b, 6c+. They found the lower-grade pitches to be rather a sandbag.

You can read more about the climb on Dave MacLeod's blog and Calum Muskett's blog.

On the crux pitch of Paciencia, Eiger North face
Calum Muskett on Paciencia, Eiger North face
Paciencia, Eiger North face

Photos © Alexandre Buisse

The north face of the Eiger was climbed for the first time in July 1938, by Anderl Heckmair, Ludwig Vörg, Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek. The route they used passes beneath the rock features followed by the  Ghillini-Piola Direttissima and  Paciencia and leads into the concave central part of the face, and then follows a complex line to the summit.