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Moonwalk: A Kilometer of Austrian Ice

Albert Leichtfried atop the crux ice pitch of Moonwalk (WI6 M7, 1000m), Zillertal, Tyrol, Austria, which he climbed with Benedikt Purner on December 3. The new climb is one of Austria’s longest icefalls and only forms in unique conditions. The protection visible above is the only bolt the pair placed on lead. [Photo] Benedikt Purner

After monitoring ice and snow on a big objective in Austria’s Zillertal Alps for more than a year, Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner found ideal conditions last week. The result was Moonwalk (WI6 M7, 1000m), the longest icefall climbed to date in Austria according to Leichtfried.

Early on the morning of December 3, Leichtfried and Purner skied to the base of the north-facing climb, located near the ridge that runs from Hohe Warte (2943m) to Sagwand (3227m). They climbed 13 pitches of varied terrain–everything from WI1 and M4 to WI6 and M7–in eight hours, then abseiled the route by moonlight, placing four bolts on rappel.

They climbed with full rock and ice racks, extra stubbies, ice pitons and pegs.

“When conditions are right, this runnel freezes into a continuous 900m ice line, and once in a blue moon the drip grows without too much fresh snow,” Leichtfried said. “This is just the right moment for an ascent. Benni and I had checked conditions in the inner Valsertal regularly since last November, which meant that it took more than a year for the right moment to come about. But for such a route, this isn’t really a long time to wait… I still can’t believe we did it, a big dream of mine has come true!”