|On 24 January Albert Leichtfried made the first ascent of "Illuminati", a 5 pitch mixed outing located in Val Lunga, close to Selva Gardena, N. Italy. The 30 year old Austrian has put forward the impressive grade M11+/WI 6+.
Leichtfried, a professional Mountain Guide, has devoted much time and attention to ice climbing and dry tooling of late, and all routes in the famous Drylands cave close to Innsbruck were first ascended by him, including Game Over, Europe's first ever M13. Furthermore, in 2005 he placed 3rd in the Difficulty World Championships in Saas Fee, while at the start of 2006 he won the Ice Climbing Festival in Kandersteg.
Leichtfried told us that Illuminati was "the route for which I had to put more effort in then for any other climb ever before. This mixture of hard mixed-climbing and serious ice-climbing is very demanding. Climbing over the curtain and the last ice pitch is dangerous and serious, the last pitch I don't ever want to climb again. I'm glad everything worked so perfectly."
As can be gathered easily, Illuminati is a severe undertaking, to be climbed only when conditions are more than perfect. But let's hear how Albert prepared to seize his day.
Illuminati by Albert Leichtfried
A friend of mine told me about an ice climbing spot near Wolkenstein, Italy. Its an unknown place with some good lines, we have to go there, he said. At first I didn't want to go, because I was really tired after the last competition, but he was so excited about this place so I thought, okay - lets have a look!
On the next day we didn't climb at all. We hiked for three hours to find out that our target icefall had not formed to the ground. But this day was at least successful in another way - I saw this amazing line on the other side of the valley. As soon as we returned home my only thought was to tell everybody about this beautiful, incredible big ice formation with this massive roof below it, situated in a dream landscape, receiving direct sunlight in the morning. Some days later I returned with my drill and Dougal Tavener, a motivated guy from North Wales who came to Innsbruck this winter for ice climbing.
When I stood at the bottom of the wall, I saw the incredible magnitude of this line for the first time. About 60 meters altitude difference to the curtain and more than 20 meters overhanging a huge roof. I began to bolt the route on lead from the ground. After the first day we reached, after placing 2 bolts, the level of the biggest icicle from the curtain there were still 15 meters missing. On the next day, it quite easy to reach the curtain and the route was now ready for the first free climbing attempts.
One week later, on 24 January 2006, I felt I had recovered enough to have a go on the route. Dougal Tavener accompanied me again and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his untiring belaying work.
The first pitch went surprisingly well. I could climb it straight away without falling; even though I was very close to falling on more than one occasion. I had a good feeling after this pitch because I thought the 2nd pitch would be easier. But I was to be mistaken a couple of times: on the 2nd pitch I fell four times and I was close to abseil off, because I was out of power.
I decided to give it one last try. I climbed smoothly through the rock section and on to the icicle. There, I got so pumped that I had to fight extremely hard to reach the belay. But there were still three pitches left. I rested shortly and climbed the pitch over the curtain. I was doing well again, and the first pure ice pitch was a pleasure to climb. I thought that the rest would by easy climb this pillar fast and thats it. I was totally wrong once again. This last 50m-pitch, on a free standing pillar with steep ice turned out to be a complete nightmare due to the poor quality of the ice. In the middle of the pillar I nearly freaked out. I didnt want to go further and the protection was more than dubious. But going down would have been even worse, so I kept on climbing and luckily I found good ice to place two good screws and climbed to the top.
Completely frozen to the bone, absolutely exhausted, but still very happy we abseiled to the ground in the darkness.
ILLUMINATI M11+/WI 6+
Langental (Val Lungo) near Wolkenstein, Italy
Altitude: circa 2000m
Approach: On the left side of the valley, 10 minutes after parking the car - walk up the grassy hill to close to a rock cave . 1 hour
Route setup: Albert Leichtfried & Dougal Tavener on 14. and 15. January 2006
First RP: Albert Leichtfried on 24. January 2006, all pitches on lead
Time of year: December, January
Gear: 12 quickdraws, full waterfall-gear
Length: about 165 meters of climbing
Descent: 3x50m on the right side, lower part down a via ferrata
Notes: This route is a serious alpine undertaking, retreat is almost impossible. The upper ice section should be climbed only on cold days in the shade or on cloud-covered days. Whilst climbing the curtain make sure that your rope does not run below the curtain.
The route was climbed in "reloaded"- ie without spurs. Grading and a free ascent apply to this style only.
1. pitch: M 11- 30m, 12m overhanging. Endurance, crux at the upper part
2. pitch: M 11+ 25m, 10m overhanging. Demanding, hard mixed-climbing
3. pitch: M 8- 30m, 3m overhanging. Nice, over the curtain
4. pitch: WI 4 30m, vertical parts. Perfect ice, easy going
5. pitch: WI 6+ 50m, vertical. Free-standing pillar with very poor quality ice