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Auer Frees 400-meter 5.14a

Hansjorg Auer freeing Vogelfrei (8b/8b+ [5.13d/5.14a], 400m), Schusselkarspitze south face, Wetterstein mountains, Austria. Auer called the route, which had seen many unsuccessful free attemps prior, a “good personal challenge.” He also said it was “special because the last pitch is the hardest.” [Photo] Heiko Wilhelm

Hansjorg Auer, whose ascent of Arctandria and free solo of The Fish Route turned heads in 2007, has now freed the most difficult route in Austria’s Wetterstein mountains. Vogelfrei (Free as the Birds: 8b/8b+ [5.13d/5.14a], 14 pitches, 400m), which takes the steepest and longest direttissima on the south face of the Schusselkarspitze, was an open project for 12 years.

The route was bolted and climbed in autumn of 1997 by Michi Warthl, Tom Dauer and Chris Semmel. Although the trio established much of the route free, up to 8a (5.13b) in difficulty, the upper pitches proved too difficult.

A year after taking a bad fall on the Bachar-Yerian in Yosemite that badly injured the talus bone in his right foot, the Austrian had worked himself back into form. He established the trad line Silberschrei (Silver Scream: 7c [5.12d]) in the Dolomites and climbed his first 8c+ (5.14c) before setting his sights on the Schusselkarspitze in August.

After climbing the first 11 pitches, Auer was “hooked” and returned a few days later with a portaledge and his brother Vitus, who would belay. After climbing to the final three pitches and working through the moves, Auer found, “as often happens, the real problem was linking it all together.”

Auer continued to work on the final moves the next day, finding frustration. But as the sun began to set, he made a final attempt. “I was completely in the flow,” he said. “And after quite a battle, always on the verge of tipping off backwards, I finally ‘woke up’ clutching the finishing hold.”

Sources: Hansjorg Auer,,,