Alpinist reported the ascent of another new route on the Eiger this autumn when Italian Christoph Hainz from the South Tyrol and Switzerland’s Roger Schali climbed a direct line up the right side of the north face (see the November 8, 2007 NewsWire). Their climb forces an exit onto the west ridge at approximately half height, just above a small but prominent, detached, mushroom-shaped pillar of rock. This curious formation is used by BASE Jumpers, who need to gain the flat top of the mushroom by a short downward Tyrolean from the crest of the west ridge. No surprise then that the wall below the mushroom is extremely steep.
The most conspicuous feature on the right side of the Eiger’s north face is the rightward ascending buttress taken by the now-classic line of the Geneva Pillar, a route opened from August 13-16, 1979 by two young and, at the time, largely unknown Swiss climbers, Gerard Hopfgartner and Michel Piola. Although by today’s standards difficulties are relatively modest (5.10d with about nine meters of A2), the route is long, quite serious with at least one section of difficult climbing on poor rock, with an overall grade of ED2. The wall to the left of this is very steep and is delimitated at its left edge by a prominent dihedral, the North Corner. Two years after Hopfgartner and Piola’s success on the pillar, Christel and Hanz Howald completed this line with the late Marcel Ruedi (who subsequently died during his quest to climb all the 8000m peaks). The 1200m line (ED2) gave 5.11b climbing with sections of loose rock, poor pro and a little A2.
In the early 1970s Clint Eastwood was also at work in this vicinity making his notorious film The Eiger Sanction, while being mentored by some of the world’s great mountaineers and mountain film makers. The imaginary line that appears on a photo in the film, and the new route that Eastwood was supposed to be attempting, took the right edge of the steep wall left of the Geneva Pillar. In 1988 Piola returned to take up the challenge, this time with one of his regular partners of the time, fellow Swiss Daniel Anker, a man who would go on to become something of a guru on the mountain and its most knowledgeable historian. The Sanction (ED2/3, 5.11d, 1000m, Anker-Piola, May 1988) featured bolt protection, committing climbing and has seen few repeats.
The rock between this and the North Corner was too steep, too compact and too difficult to attract climbers at that time, and it had to wait until 1998 when Italians, Andrea Forlini and Gianni Faggiana arrived at the base of the wall hoping to repeat The Sanction. Unable to find the original bolts, they spotted an unclimbed line to the left and over twenty-six days during July and August completed eighteen new pitches to create the 800-meter Yeti. The pair approached via the tunnel window of the Dynamitloch, a narrow opening in the north face about 200 meters right of the more well-known Stollenloch from which the 1938 Route can be accessed. Yeti features bolt protection and obligatory climbing of 5.11c/d. The crux, which the pair was unable to climb without rests etc, was thought to be 5.13a. They hoped to return later for a redpoint ascent but in the end this had to wait until July 2006 and Robert Jasper, who, after an inspection the previous year, took two days to practice the moves on the final, often wet, 250 meters, before climbing Yeti all free with Stefan Eder in just twelve hours. He confirmed the grade as 13a.
Hainz and Schali attempted a line to the left of Yeti and directly below the mushroom. They worked ground up, drilling protection from skyhooks. The excellent quality limestone is very compact, and protection on this route is solely from bolts and a few pitons; in fact, Hainz noted that future parties could leave wires, nuts and Friends at home. The pair’s 600-meter line has twenty new pitches and took six days to complete. The difficulties on the lower section are reasonable at 5.10a and 10b, but the upper 400 meters are either vertical or impending: the middle section at 11c to 11d, with the last ten pitches sustained between 11d and 12d. The bolts are not closely spaced, and on the crux pitch there are obligatory 7b [5.12b] moves. However, the route, named Magic Mushroom, was not climbed completely free; a number of pitches are yet to be “enchained,” and a redpoint ascent is high on the pair’s wish list for next year.
Hainz held the record for the fastest ascent of the 1938 Route on the north face until it was beaten early this year by Swiss Ueli Steck (see the March 6, 2007 NewsWire). However, noting that conditions on the face were exceptional, Schali arrived at the foot of the wall on October 15 and, with Hanspeter Hug, dispatched the ’38 route in a mere eight hours, most likely the fastest time this route has ever been climbed by a roped pair. There are now around thirty routes on the north face, but don’t be lulled into the belief that it is nearly worked out, particularly as increasingly talented rock climbers take a modern approach to the steep, quality limestone towards its right edge: left of Magic Mushroom is a line already being worked by a team from Hungary.