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Swiss Locals Open Spectacular Ice Climb

Ralph Jorg on Pitch 9, the second crux of B.A.S.E. (WI6+, 11 pitches, 450m), a new ice line in Lauterbrunnen Valley, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. Jorg joined Peter von Kaenel to climb the eleven pitches in separate segments over two days, December 29 and 31; Robert Jasper and Bernd Rathmayr made the first integral ascent on January 2. [Photo] Peter Schoch

B.A.S.E. takes the prominent icefall visible above. [Photo] Peter Schoch

On new year’s eve, locals Ralph Jorg and Peter von Kaenel completed the final three pitches of their new ice climb in the Lauterbrunnen Valley of Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland. They called the eleven-pitch flow B.A.S.E. (WI6+, 450m) since there frequently is a “steady fluttering” of jumpers launching only a few meters from the route’s exit. Robert Jasper and Bernd Rathmayr, eager to get on the new line while conditions were still good, made an integral ascent two days later.

Peter von Kanel inaugurates Pitch 9 (WI6+). [Photo] Ralph Jorg

Jorg had been eyeing the line for some time, waiting for it to come into condition. He recruited von Kaenel and, on December 29, they began the icefall that photographer Peter Schoch has now tauted as “one of the most impressive ice lines in the Alps.” They climbed the first eight pitches through a rock chink, two easier pitches of ice, then 185 meters of sustained WI5+ to WI6 ice–some solid, some “cavernous, brittle”–that led to another shallow chink and the first crux, Pitch 8 (WI6+). At the top of this section they bolted a belay (the only bolts they placed) with a hammer drill. They descended, leaving the final three pitches unclimbed.

They returned on December 31, accessing the top of the cliff and rappelling to their bolted belay. Von Kaenel led Pitch 9 (WI6+), the second crux: “The first 8 meters go up a slightly overhanging ice soil. The ice quality was still absolutely perfect: I hardly needed to chip and could place my ice-tools smoothly and accurately. Above the ice soil I finally placed an ice screw. The rest of this 50-meter pitch is arduous, pure pleasure.” After climbing another lap for the photographer, they finished off the final two pitches (WI4 followed by WI6-) of “easier” ice and celebrated with mulled wine and cake.

Jasper and Rathmayr made the first integral ascent on January 2, 2008, climbing the full eleven pitches in nine hours.

Editor’s Note: On February 11, Peter von Kaenel provided an update: “The line collapsed due to warm weather and
strong wind. A pity. So the time window for an ascent was maybe six days. In the meantime I learned that other people were observing this line for many years. With six climbable days in several years B.A.S.E. might not have the
potential to become a classic.”

Sources: Peter von Kaenel, Peter Schoch,