Kurt Albert, climbing legend and pioneer, died on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 8:45 p.m. in Erlangen, Germany from serious injuries he sustained after falling 60 feet on the via ferrata Hohenglucksteig outside of Hersbruck, Germany on Sunday. He was 56.
Albert was best known for coining the term “redpoint.” The name comes from his practice of free climbing aid routes and then marking the start of the route with a red dot. He also completed hundreds of first ascents, with routes bearing his name on all seven continents.
In a 1993 interview with Rock and Ice, Albert described a youth full of aid and mixed climbs, because, he said, “There was no concept of free climbing in West Germany.” His first exposure to free climbing happened in the early 70s, and he spent the late 70s and early 80s establishing difficult free routes in Frankenjura. In 1984, he, Wolfgang Gullich and Sepp Gschwendtner were awarded the Silberne Lorbeerblatt, the highest sports award in Germany, for their contributions to German climbing. It wasn’t long before redpointing spread internationally, and today it is an integral part of sport climbing.
An impressive list of Albert’s first ascents includes the first German 5.13 and Eternal Flame (IV 5.12b A2), a high-altitude rock route that expanded the realm of difficult climbing in the Himalaya. In Patagonia, he left behind Riders on the Storm (VI 5.12d A2) on the east face of the Central Tower of Paine, and Royal Flush (5.12d A2), a 44-pitch route up the east side of Fitz Roy.
Albert had a reputation for traveling to climbs using only human-powered transportation. In remote environments, he relied on travel by foot, kayak or sailboat, part of his lifelong aspiration toward a more self-sufficient form of climbing.
The international climbing community will long mourn the loss of Kurt Albert. He will be remembered as a strong climber, an innovative thinker, and a dedicated friend.