Friday, December 25, 2009

A True Gift

On the 22nd of December my wife and I got to ski together. The night before in the climbing gym, our dark-cloud friend proclaimed that the morning would bring cloud and rain. It didn't. And we, thank God, didn't believe him.

We skied in sunny, warm weather with no wind and no people. It was wonderful. The snow, however was not. Heavy, thick new snow that due to the rising temperatures of Föhn conditions was anything but effortless to ski in.

We skied on packed snow for the first part of the morning before venturing, very cautiously, on to some un-tracked slopes.

"Work your skies together", "Create a platform", I said. "You've got to steer your skies through the snow", and "Be more aggressive". At times it looked really good. Jennifer was athletic, crouched, guiding her fat twin-tips through the muck. She was skiing. She was happy. Cool.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ice Conditions, Internet Info & Merry Christmas

I just got through a round of ice climbing as the first climbs of the season started to come into shape over the past few weeks. As expected my crampons, picks and screws are pretty beat up after dealing with thin ice and rocks sneakily hidden under unconsolidated snow. I've got two sets of tools, six crampons and nine screws to file and resharpen over the next few days of Christmas.

Ice conditions in the eastern Alps were really starting to come into shape after more that a week of very cold weather in mid-December. However, it seems that Santa has brought the Föhn with him along with all his other goodies. Obviously the jolly fat guy doesn't climb ice.

Until yesterday (22. December), we experienced a spell of very cold weather in a pattern coming from the northeast. Through Christmas day and St. Stevens a pattern of Föhn conditions will dominate. Hopefully the high temps and warm winds won't destroy all the ice that has already been built up.

So what was/is in shape? The ice falls in Pitztal above 1300 meters, the Anlauf vally in Böckstein in the Gastein valley, Koppenwand between Obertauern and Untertauern, and some small flows in the area between Salzburg and Berchtesgaden.

Andy Kirkpatrick has revamped his webpage. He has started posting some interesting tips relted to winter climbing, clothing, gear, etc. Check it out at

Lastly, I would like to wish all a very merry Christmas and a healthy 2010.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

OeAV-Sektion Salzburg, alpine.ausbildung Jänner - Juli 2010

Meine Kurse Angebot für Alpenverein Sektion Salzburg alpine.ausbildung Programm in 2010. Ich biete auch Übungstouren (Eis, Ski, Alpin, Klettern, usw.) als Unterstutzung für die verschiedene Kurse. Mehr Infos E-Mail an

Eisklettern Grundkurs

Fr.-So., 15.-17. Jänner 2010

Kursort: Salzburg / Berchtesgaden Umgebung

Kursbeginn: Fr. 15.01.2010, 18:00 AV-Haus Nonntal

Eisklettern Fortgeschrittene

Do.-So., 04.-07 Februar 2010

Kursort: Maltatal

Kursbeginn: Do., 04.02.2010, 19:00, Malta

Anreise: Do., 04.02.2010, 17:00


Do.-So., 25.-28. März 2010

Kursort: Johannis Hütte, Osttirol / Grossvenediger

Kursbeginn: Do., 25.03.2010, 12:00, Johannis Hütte

Anreise: Do., 25.03.2010, 07:00

Firn- und Eistouren

Do.-So., 10.-13. Juni, 2010

Kursort: Taschachhaus im Pitztal

Kursbeginn: Do., 10.06.2010, 13:00, Taschachhaus

Anreise: Do., 10.06.2010, 07:00

Klettern Alpin

Do.-So., 01-04. Juli, 2010

Kursort: Blaueis Hütte, Hochkalter Gebiet / Berchtesgaden

Kursbeginn: Do., 01.07.2010, 18:00 Blaueis Hütte

Anreise: Do., 01.07.2010, 15:00

It's all training ...

To paraphrase the late Alex Lowe, everything that you do in the mountains could be considered "training". In the fall, Will Gadd usually posts interesting and invaluable insights into getting ready for the winter ice climbing season.

He's written a series of posts titled "Random Training Thoughts #1 - #6" on his blog that are well worth reading. Click here to get to Gadd's blog

Monday, October 12, 2009


I was in East Tyrol for the first weekend of October with Christos to climb the Grossvenediger. It was the last weekend that the Johannis Hut would be open before their five-month winter break. The weather and conditions on the normal route from the south were excellent. Additionally, there were very few people underway.

From the hut, it is about 1600 meters of elevation gain to the top. The route is a glacier hike with no real technical difficulties. There is however the risk of crevasse falls, a long distance and moving at a height of 3100m to 3600m for more than half of the route. Standard glacier equipment and traveling on a rope are essential.

The high pressure Autumn weather pattern assured for cold temperatures at night and cool, pleasant temperatures during the day. The surface of the glacier was frozen which made for quick travel. There were some deposits of wind-blown snow, and about 5 to 10cm amount of new snow on the upper plateau.

The photo on the left is of Christos walking across the snow ridge that leads to the summit. I remember the first time I walked across it a long time ago and how I had wobbly knees as left and right there are about 200 meters of very steep couloirs falling away to the glacier below.

Above 3500 meters the wind was a bit stronger and the temperature was noticeably cooler. It proved to be a taste of what was to come later in the week in the north-eastern alps.

Today we are in the second day of our first winter storm cycle. There is snow at an elevation of 850 meters. In the next couple of days the temperatures will continue to drop, bring snow showers into the valleys. The forecast is for about a half meter of snow in the mountains.

As it turned out the first weekend in October seems to be the end of fall in the region. Good thing we were able to take advantage of the good settled weather. Hopefully, winter will bring abundant snow and good ice conditions long into the spring.

I plan to be back on the south side of the Grossvenediger for some ski mountaineering activities in March. There are a couple of routes and descents that have caught my eye in the past years, and I am planning on doing a Alpenverein glacier ski course there as well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chamonix, September 2009

I got to spend a short week in the Mont Blanc range during the last week in September. My partner Erwin and I stayed up at the Cosmiques hut not far from the upper station of the Midi gondola. We did some ice and mixed routes on Mont Blanc du Tacul/Triangle du Tacul to spend as much time climbing s possible. Our finishing tour was the popular Cosmiques ridge route back to the Midi gondola station.

We stayed up high because that's where the conditions were at their best. It was clear that the region had gone through a particularly hot and dry July and August. A lot of lower mixed lines and north faces were ice and snow free, or in very bad shape, and therefore prone to rock fall.

Our timing was good: we arrived at the end of a brief storm and the start of a stable high pressure system that lasted for the week. Temps were cool ( the 0 degree line was between 3000 and 3200 meters) with no real wind.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gaisberg Crag & Rif Climbing Tower

The easier routes to the right of the main compact wall on the Gaisberg crag are not found in any guide book. The area has been used for more than fifty years as a training area by alpinists, long before the first hard sport routes were bolted on the main compact wall.

Stefan, Sabine and I cleaned, re-bolted or put up six routes a couple of weeks ago. All the new or refurbished routes are equiped with standard expansion bolts and new anchors. The bolting is friendly and will protect the climber from a ground fall

This is the first step of a process that we hope to complete this fall. We are planning on establishing some two-pitch lines of about 40-45 meters, bolting some extensions, creating a rope technique practice area, and putting up some easy multi-pitch routes.

This project is a private undertaking from the Kletterhalle Salzburg / denkundstein. I will post more details about the crag as we continue working on the routes. Information will also be available at the website of the Salzburg climbing gym / denkundstein.

The climbing tower at the University Sport Center in Rif has also been equiped with new sport-climbing anchors. The anchors are standard two-point anchors with chains connecting one normal and one screw gate karabiner. This much needed improvement will all but eliminate the number one cause of climbing fatalities in the last years at the tower due to errors made while re-threading the anchors. The new anchors make the tower much more user friendly for private climbers and courses.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kletterhalle Salzburg Terminplan

Neue Terminplan für Herbst 2009


Kinder Einsteiger

Mi., 15-16:00, 7, Okt.-9. Dez., 2009

Do., 15:30-16:30, 22. Okt.-04. Feb (Semesterkurs)

Kinder Fortgeschrittene

Mo., 15-16:30, 28. Sept.-07. Dez., 2009

Di., 06. Okt.-8. Dez., 2009


Jungendlich Einsteiger

Mi., 16:30-18:00, 7. Okt.-9. Dez., 2009

Do., 16:30-18:00, 15. Okt.-17. Dez., 2009


Erwachsene Einsteiger

Mo., 17-19:00, 14. Sept.-23. Nov., 2009

Erwachsene Fortgeschrittene

Do., 17-19:00, 15. Okt.-5. Nov., 2009

Private Kletterkurs (ab 3 Personen)

Kinder-, Jungend-, oder Erwachsene Gruppen, Familien, Eltern mit Kinder, usw., auf Wunsch organisiert


Outdoor MultiPitch

Fr.-So., 18.-20. Sept. 2009 (Kletterturm Rif & Blaueis Hütte, Berchtesgaden)

Personal Training

Indoor oder Outdoor, Multi-Pitch (Mehrseillänge), usw., auf Wunsch organisiert

PT für Jugendlicher: Mo., 19:00-20:00

Probe Klettern, Schulklassen, usw.

auf Wunsch organisiert

Friday, September 11, 2009

"The Life of Joe"

The title description comes from one of my wife’s favorite tongue-in-cheek phrases to describe how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. I haven’t written anything here now for two months. What have I been up to? The following is some of what I have been fortunate to do in the last few weeks:

Sport climbing in Kalymnos for four weeks

Kids Climbing Week, Salzburg Climbing Gym

Multi-pitch routes: “Gosausee-Triathlon”, 560m/V+

“Mezzo Rosso” / “Deierweg”, 240m/V

“Strada del Sole”, 400m/VII

“Hochalm Express” / “Im Reich der Zwerge”, 230m/VII+

Bolting new routes on Gaisberg

Sport climbing around Salzburg

Climbing courses, personal training, etc.

September is always a transition month for me. New courses start up, training shifts to getting prepared for the winter season, and I re-evaluate and adjust my training plans for climbing.

Hopefully, the fall season will be dry and settled so that autumn climbing will dovetail nicely into the first ski tour and ice climb.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Dogmatic views and opinions on any thing in life signify mental laziness and insecurity. This is true about how you're "suppose" to do things in, or related to, the mountains, whether climbing, skiing, training, equipment, etc. When I come across a person who is insists that he or she knows the "right way" how to ski, climb, train, or is set in their ways with rope technique, mountain safety, etc., I just escape the situation as quickly as possible.

I am not trying to convert people into doing things the way I do them. I just explain that this is what I do, or would do, in this specific situation at this time.

I like this comment on Brad Warner's Blog relating to Zen and religion:

"There's no proselytizing in Zen because there's no sense in trying to get anyone to convert to it. There's also no sense in trying to change the minds of the ignorant. You can put the correct information out there and hope for the best. But there's no sense in getting up in anyone's face. It just makes them harden their own position against yours. Ignorant here is the significant word because folks like that minister deliberately ignore what doesn't fit their worldview.

There's a mountain of wrong information out there about Zen, a lot of it from supposedly "respected authorities." You can't really change that. Just enjoy."

The "respected authorities" in the realms of climbing take many forms: mountain guides, old timers, young hot-shot boulders and sport climbers, industry types, mountain club directors, etc., etc. I find that more and more I have absolutely no tolerance for someone who sees themselves as one of these "authorities" and starts spouting off about the "only", or "right", way to do something.

Proselytizing just shows insecurity, egotism and questionable motives. It is mental laziness. Openness, a questioning (including self questioning) mind, flexibility, and realizing that only change is constant is the proper mind set for the mountains as well as for life.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Problem with "Projecting"

I read this bit from Rob Shaul on his site the other day:

"I spent the weekend sport climbing in Lander with a few of my sponsored athletes. There is no strong tradition of mountain athletes such as climbers, free skiers, snow boarders, mountaineers, mountain bikers, kayakers, etc. training in the gym to prepare for their sport. I think we're on the way to changing that. Within the rock climbing world, there is quite a bit of literature available on sport specific training. I experimented with it at first, found it lacking, and now we are developing our own training programming and philosophy.

I'm not an accomplished climber by definition. I'm still learning, and progressing slowly. When I actually do get out, I find I spend most my time watching the other athletes, and looking for fitness attributes which need work. One of the reasons within the rock climbing world for the lack of a training tradition is the idea that a huge part of climbing is technique. And certainly this is true. But what I saw this weekend impressed up on me that being strong as hell - specifically core tension, pulling power and simple raw finger strength, can only help. Strength not only adds to performance, but it also makes the athlete more confident - which also increases performance.

What I saw this weekend was my athletes need more strength. It's coming.
On the technique side, there is a tradition to "project" routes far above your climbing skill, and eventually work to climb them cleanly. I'm beginning to think this is a wrong approach. What happens is climbers jump ahead without the foundation, "project" a difficult route above their climbing skill, then at the end of it, can only complete this route - their broader climbing technique base has not been expanded.

In the weight room you can't do this. Even though I may want to snatch 250#, and perhaps have the athletic potential to do so, there no "short cut." I can't "project" this lift. I've got to build technique and strength the old fashion way - thousands of hours in the gym and bunches and bunches of reps. Along the way, I have to snatch 150#, 200#, etc. and work my way up. I can't "skip" ahead.
And consequently, when I do eventually snatch 250#, I can also snatch all the heavy weight below it.

This isn't true of the "pyramid" climbing "project" approach. 5.10 climbers may "project" a 5.12 for weeks, and finally get it. But this doesn't mean now that they can climb a 5.12 route, they can also climb all the 5.11's below it. Often they can't.
As a result, all those weeks worth of work "projecting" the route above their head has done noting to raise their overall climbing ability. They have a "circus" trick to show for it, but in the mean time have lost many opportunities to truly grow as climbers through reps and work needed to build a foundation. They can't then say they are 5.12 climbers.

Understand that my concern here isn't in "projecting" per se, but in projecting a route or problem far above your climbing ability. The issue isn't working on something hard, but making too great a leap. Again, I can't do this in the weight room. If my current 1RM snatch is @ 150#, I've got to lift 155# for my first step to 300#. I can't jump ahead.

So if a 5.10 climber is "projecting" a 5.11a route, great. This is progression."

The issue outlined in these comments are what bother me a lot about the sport climbing mentality. It also, in a round about way, reinforces why someone who is interested in all forms of alpine climbing and mountaining needs to really think about how they use their training time when sport climbing indoors and outdoors.

In my opinion, the physical climbing attributes that are most important in the mountains are 1) on-sight ability, 2) general and local muscle endurance, and 3) the ability to move fast and securely over moderate terrain.

On rock, the only way you're going to be able to build these skills is through the volume of climbing outdoors. That means climbing (up and down) on all types of routes and rock - at various levels of difficulty. It does not mean speading large amounts of training time hanging on the rope rehersing specific moves for a specific route

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Alpine Climbing in Pitztal

On the left is the upper part of the Tasachwand in Pitztal from about a week ago. The tracks that are visible on the upper right side of the flank are from me, Christos and Vaclav. Climbing the 600 meter north face was the highlight of our short four-day trip to the Tasachhaus.

We were also able to climb on the Sexegartenerspitze. We climbed through mixed ground in a couloir placing rock protection as we ascended the 250 meter line.

Conditions and weather were good in south western Tyrol. There was still quite a bit of snow on all of the faces and on the glaciers. the other north face climbs, such as Brochkogel, Petersenspitze, north side of the Wildspitze, etc., all looked good. There is an abundance of alpine climbing possibilities in couloirs, faces and ridges in the area. Additionally, the Taschachfener offered some nice training ground for steep ice.

The slide show below is of a few photos from the trip. The photos can be accessed by clicking on the slideshow. (Additional photos from Christos Palaontas)

Human Folly

The folly of the human mind is never more in evidence then with a person who has superficial knowledge of sport climbing. Due to arrogance some people think they know all there is to know about climbing safety – and worse are “teaching” their friend, spouse, or child how to climb


I have been accused of being a crass surly individual at times. And when adults are doing stupid things at the crags or in the climbing gym my attitude is more or less live and let die. When I am climbing privately, many times I just move away to avoid the risk of being splattered by blood.

But what do you do when an adult is climbing with children? I mean you can kill yourself, but an 11 or 12 year old?

Scene: A rainy Saturday afternoon in the climbing gym. Dad is belaying his 10 year old son on top rope. He has a tuber but is using it as if he is belaying with a HMS knot. The son is climbing barefoot. The rope is through one screw-gate karabiner 17 meters up the wall. It is not screwed closed. The son is attached to the rope with a single HMS locking karabiner. Is it screwed closed? What do you think?

There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t know where to begin.

I have jokingly said that the most dangerous places in Salzburg are the climbing tower at the University Sport Center in Rif and at the climbing gym. It is really not that much of a joke. One or two people seem to die every year at the climbing tower, and it is just a matter of time before there is a very serious accident in the climbing gym.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

denkundstein / Kletterhalle Salzburg Outdoor

denkundstein / Kletterhalle Salzburg Outdoor Kurse, „BaseClimbs“ und Outdoor Personal Training sind kluge Möglichkeiten für begeistert SportkletterInnen das wollen von der Halle in Natur zum klettern.

Das Slideshow ist von verschiedene Outdoor Kurse in Mai. Ich bin mit die TeilnehmerInnen in Rif beim Klertterturm, auf den Gaisberg und in der neue Klettergarten in Mülln gewesen. Klick auf dem Slideshow ins das Fotoalbum zum kommen und Fotos zu downloaden.

Ganz neue bei denkundstein ist unseren Kurse für Mehrseillängen Alpinsport Kletterrouten. Die intensiv Kurse, "MultiPitch" (Juli & Sept.), sind auf der Blaueis Hütte in der Berchtesgadener Alpen.

Meine Outdoorkurse bei denkundstein / Kletterhalle Salzburg:

Outdoor Fortgeschrittene, „BaseClimbs“

Mittwoch, 18:00-20:30, 17. Juni bis 08. Juli 2009

Freitag, 15:00-19:00 und Samstag, 09:00-16:00, 19.-20. Juni 2009

Montag, 18:00-20:30, 06.-27. Juli 2009

Freitag, 15:00-19:00 und Samstag, 09:00-16:00, 03.-04. Juli 2009

Outdoor Fortgeschrittene, „MultiPitch“

Freitag, 15:00-19:00 und Samstag / Sonntag ganztags, 17.-19. Juli 2009

(Ersatztermin bei Schleckt Wetter: 24.-26. Juli 2009)

Freitag, 15:00-19:00 und Samstag / Sonntag ganztags, 18.-20. Sept. 2009

(Ersatztermin bei Schleckt Wetter: 25.-27. Sept. 2009)

Kalymnos: Klettern Einführung und Personal Training (auch Multipitch)

30. Juli bis 25. August 2009

Kontakt und mehr Infos

denkundstein / Kletterhalle Salzburg

Joe Fratianni

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Untersberg East Ridge

Yesterday (08. 05), I was back on the Untersberg east ridge ("Laterndl", III/400m) to train. I did the approach over the "Kienbergsteg" that follows the border between Bavaria and Salzburg. I crossed a couple of snow and debris filled avalanche paths. At about 1200m there are still snow fields to travel over and a small snow coluior before the start of the ridge.

In the route itself, the north-east facing scramble to the start of the climbing is still under a couple meters of snow. After the first initial climbing moves, the short gully leading up to the second belay is also snow filled and running with water at its entrance. The pitch is an interesting bit of mixed climbing. I used my ice axe but the crampons stayed in my pack.

Climbing to the third belay was somewhat nerve racking as just after the winter thaw, everything seemed loser than normal. Overall, the brittle rock sections needed more care due to the fact that the route has not been traveled this early in the year and it is just now thawing out.

An interesting aside: The third belay broke out last fall. The belay anchors on the east ridge are dilled and cemented "U" shaped iron bars. Hence there is only one belay anchor at each station. This is normal on a number of older classic routes in the area. The system is not redundant. A large piece of rock fractured to which the belay anchor was attached. I saw the piece of rock with the intact bolt laying on the ground last fall. I have clipped this anchor numerous times when I've guided the route and even rapped-off from it when I had to bail with a couple of guests.

It really made me think when I saw that the rock broke out with the anchor. I do not trust this type of non-standard belay point any longer. Back up single-point anchors at belay stances.

Monday, May 4, 2009

You Get What You Pay For

This post could also be subtitled, "there's no such thing as a free lunch". I see on almost a daily basis people who think they are getting some sort of deal and saving money by finding a "experienced", or "knowledgeable", friend to teach them how to climb rock or ice, ski, learn about mountain safety, etc.

It does not work: 99.9% of the time, and you get exactly what you pay for. Plus, when you are talking about certain activities such as mountaineering, ski touring, ice climbing, etc., it can be life-threateningly dangerous.

Let's look at the person put in the role of "instructor". In my experience usually this person is someone who has practiced the activity in question for a brief period of time (1 to 3 years) and due to the human dynamic, the "instructor" assumes a role far beyond their experience.

It takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient at complicated activities such as climbing rock or ice. Break that down you come up an average of 1000 hours per year of training time over a ten year period. That's 20 hours per week of doing the activity in question. That 20 hours does not include the time you are using to drink an espresso at the climbing gym bar or sitting in your car on the way to the crag.

There is no substitute for training volume - everyone has to pay their dues. The people who think they are talented, or genetically gifted, or whatever, and delude themselves into thinking that the above does not apply are only fooling themselves. On top of this, someone who is put in the role of transmitting information and guiding the learning process needs a very wide palette of teaching experience similar to, if not more than, the volume needed to acquire the skill itself.

Yeah, it really pisses me off to come along and see someone assume the role of knowledgeable instructor, guide, trainer, climber, alpinist, etc., before they have put in their time. It is simply insulting. I mean when I hear a person talk in a way that implies mastery when they've climbed a few bolted routes, at best can red point one 5b that fits their style in the local climbing gym, have climbed two single pitch WI3's (hanging on every other ice screw), or "done" a classic alpine route with a paid guide, well it makes me want to puke.

If that is the type of person you want to learn from, well that's what you'll get and you'll save some cash. Quality? What quality.

The argument from the "student" is that they are a person looking to save some money and it usually goes along the lines of, "I can't afford it", or "It's too expensive", or "I'm only a beginner, I don't need somebody so good", etc.
This is also a fallacy.

I can see in the first 30 seconds whether or not a so-called beginning climber, skier, mountaineer, etc., has worked with a proper professional or not. The learning curve in the beginning of acquiring a skill is extremely steep. If you chose to screw around and waste this opportunity, you will pay for it over and over again. How? Well you will eventually have to go back and fix every little imperfection, bad habit, sloppy technique, etc., step-by-step. It is much, much harder to override old habits in the nero-muscular system as freshly embed new ones.

In the end, a person may save some cash in the short term but will eventually come to regret not investing in themselves at this very precious time of learning something new.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

AIS-Salzburg Outdoor Climbing

The kids in the American International School - Salzburg climbing course have been able to get outside to climb on the climbing tower at the University of Salzburg Sport Center in Rif. I am really impressed that all the participants have made such progress in their climbing abilities. More importantly, the group is very safety conscious when belaying, always looking out for each other.

It makes a tremendous difference when beginners, such as those in the climbing course, put in the time climbing indoors. The kids have really accummulated the hours climbing and gained security whch is then transfered to climbing outdoors.

Checkout the slide show by clicking on the pictures. You can then download the pictures you want from the album!

Alpine Training Advice

The video link from Kelly Cordes is some great advice about training for alpinism. Codes is the editor of the American Alpine Journal and a product tester for Patagonia.

Monday, April 6, 2009

AV-Salzburg alpine.ausbildung Frühling & Sommer


Skihochtouren: Venedigergruppe (Johannishütte), 30. April - 03. Mai, 2009
Highlights - Großvenediger über Lammerrinne, Großer Geiger über Happ Scharte

Firn / Eis Kurs: Taschachhaus im Pitztal, 11. Juni - 14. Juni, 2009
Highlights - Nordwände wie Petersenspitze, Hinterer Brochkogel und Wildspitze

Hochtouren Kurs: Glocknergruppe (Stüdlhütte), 10. Juli - 12. Juli, 2009
Highlights - Großglockner (Event. über Stüdlgrat), Romariswandkopf Überschreitung

Mehr Infos & Anmeldung:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Weekend of Firsts

This past weekend was the first spring weather of the season. Sunny, warm, T-shirt weather. My wife and I were able to get in a number of "firsts". First long day of sport climbing outdoors, first time climbing at a new crag, first mountain bike ride and of course, first time in our favorite Bavarian Biergarten.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I have always read a lot. Usually when I want to figure something out, my first step is to find what has been written about what I am interested in. Therefore, I have read a bunch of books related to climbing, skiing and alpinism: "how-to" and technique books as well as biographies and historical accounts of climbs.

There seem to be a handful of books that I continually come back to when I am looking for advice on training, climbing, tactical information, inspiration or understanding.

I just finished reading Andy Kirkpatrick's book,
Psycho Vertical. The book surprised me with its deapth and very personal introspection that I did not expect. This got me thinking about all the books and authors that have unknowingly helped me out as a climber and person.

Here's the list at this point:

Walter Bonati, The Mountains of My Life. Bonati is without a doubt the god of alpinism. What he did in his alpine career is unbelievable.

Will Gadd, Ice & Mixed Climbing: Modern Technique. The best book on ice and mixed climbing as well as dry tooling. God technique and training advice too - and everything is relayed in Gadd's super positive, motivational voice.

Mark Twight, Extreme Alpinism. The kind of book that you wished you had read before you ever started in the mountains because it would have saved you a tremendous amount of time and money.

The American Alpine Journal. This yearly journal is what is happening in the world of alpinism. The featured articles are extremely informative and inspirational.

Jeff Lowe, Ice World. One of the pioneers of modern ice climbing. His first ascents with leashes and straight-shaft tools are amazing, plus he goes even further to bring these techniques onto long alpine routes throughout the world's ranges.

Mark Twight, Kiss or Kill, Confessions of a Serial Climber. This is the most read book that I own. I turn to it when ever I get fed up with the state of (or overall lack of) all things alpine in Austria, or in my own mind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

failure - purgatory - salvation


Unclimbed alpine ice at WI4+ to WI6. I know where it is and I want it. Checked out the lines on Tuesday. Got a partner and headed back with all the gear on Friday. 1100 meters of elevation gain over a four hour approach. The slope up to the cirque is 30+°. My pack was 18 kilos without one of the half ropes. Ski touring equipment and ice gear - boots to ski with and boots to climb with.

The weather: unsettled, new snow 20 to 30cm, snow showers during the day, some wind.

Can you see where this is leading?

We got to the base of the climbs. The ice looked good. The long massive lines would have to wait for another day. They are bad-ass, multi-hour (multi-day?) affairs.

Okay, let’s start with the double curtain and then move on to the pillar. We’ll get two firsts.

Short and quick: the low angle “ice” to the curtains was mush on top on wet rock – platter-size chunks broke away under your front points and from your picks.

Let’s take a look at the pillar.

30 meters to the column. I put a good screw in 2 meters from the belay. The next screw at a bulge 5 meters up was shit. I pushed its 19cm almost all the way in just with my hand. It’s just ten meters of snow and then the ice. Yeah, right.

There was no purchase. When I stood up, the surface of the snow brushed against my nose. No pro. Maybe I can climbed the small open book of ice to the right of the column and then move back left to get on the blue, compact ice.

No go. The “ice” in the open book was thin sheets in layers formed on top of spin drift. Go far right, there’s an ice bulge, maybe it’s thick and compact. I knocked away the bottom of a 25cm thick icicle. Reaching my hand up underneath, I found that there was a 10 cm gap between rock and ice. Drill a 22cm screw in and thread a sling. Can’t find the fucking exit hole from the screw! Just clip it and call it good.

I move into the chimney. One side ice and the other side rock. I got a 16cm screw in sideways on the ice bulge. Now I had the illusion of security to fuel my human optimism that, “just a bit further would be some good placements”. Idiot.

There wasn’t even mush, just spin drift over wet, brittle, limestone. I dry tooled through two moves using my back to stem against the left rock wall. I found a hole to thread a thin sling and equalized it to a 10cm thick icicle, clip it all together with a Yates “Screamer”. Made me feel warm all over.

I kept trying to borough through the snow hoping to find some solid ice. I uncovered a small cave. In the back were two thick icicles. Crystal clear, solid. I double wrapped a sling around one and drilled a hole through the other to thread a piece of cord. Equalized everything and rapped off. You win.


The indoor climbing gym, what else?

Pulling on plastic with all the other extreme types. I guess it’s better than staying at home and wallowing in failure. But I’m going to lose it if I see one more yahoo pantomiming moves after they’ve been rehearsing the same route for three hours.

I atone, get stronger, train. It’s not even close to climbing boys and girls. At its best it’s nothing more than training.


Halleluiah! Ice climbing pure and simple. Everyone else thinks it’s too late in the season. Can’t think for yourself? Make your own evaluations? It’s better that way because we’re alone. WI5 ice that’s a bit too cold and brittle. Hallow with lots of air in there. Care, diligence, patience, belief. There’s no, “take”, pulling on quick draws, top rope rehearsal, etc., pure, simple and undiluted.

Misjudgments are immediately penalized. You can’t hide. No bullshit.

Real, climbing.