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Paciencia: More Details on Eiger’s Hardest

Steck climbing fine limestone on the Eiger Nordwand. With the support of Stephan Siegrist, Steck freeclimbed Paciencia (8a [5.13b], 23 pitches, 900m) from August 29-30, 2008. The pair established the route in 2003 then returned this summer to free it; Paciencia is now the most difficult free route on the north face of the Eiger. [Photo] Ueli Steck collection

As reported in the September 3, 2008 NewsWire, Ueli Steck, with the support of Stephan Siegrist, freed what is now the Eiger’s hardest route, Paciencia (8a [5.13b], 23 pitches, 900m), from August 29-30, 2008.

In 2001, Raul Bayard and Stephan Siegrist first began placing bolts on the line before Siegrist invited Steck to continue work on the project in 2003. The two spent several days on fixed lines that year, with the main goal, said Steck, “of establishing a great sport route, not an alpine-style ascent. The route is not finished until it’s freeclimbed–for me, the big challenge is not just to put up a new line on the Eiger, but to free it.” Though Siegrist and Steck finished bolting the route in 2003, it remained unnamed until this summer.

After spending five days working on the route earlier this year, Steck and Siegrist began their free attempt at 9 a.m. on August 29. “Luckily, the day began very well for me, and I climbed the first 7c+ (5.13a) on the first try,” said Steck, who reported the climbing as mostly steep, vertical limestone with sections of slightly overhanging face climbing–“basically, very crimpy.” They traded leads on the easier pitches of the climb to save time, then bivied on-route that evening. They recommenced their ascent at 8 a.m. the next day, continuing to climb through consistently challenging pitches (all twenty-three pitches are 5.10b or harder, and seven are 5.12a or harder). Steck having led sixteen pitches and Siegrist having led seven, the pair reached the top at 2 p.m. on August 30. Steck freeclimbed the entire route.

Unlike many other Eiger routes, Steck said that the bolted Paciencia “does not follow the crack systems” and therefore ascends high-quality limestone similar to that found at Wendenstock. When asked if he believes Paciencia to be the most challenging route on the Eiger, Steck replied that difficulty is always relative to the climber but that “[Paciencia] is definitely more challenging than Symphonie de Liberte (8a, Jasper, 1999). Symphonie has one hard pitch. But Paciencia is consistently hard, and needs good weather and conditions–all in all, a big challenge to free climb.”

Source: Ueli Steck