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Hansjörg Auer and Much Mair, Hahlkogel North Face 23/12/2013
Photo by Hansjörg Auer
Hansjörg Auer and Much Mair, Hahlkogel North Face 23/12/2013
Photo by Hansjörg Auer
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Hansjörg Auer and Much Mayr climb Hahlkogel North Face in winter

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On 23/12/2013 Austrian alpinists Hansjörg Auer and Much Mayr made the possible first winter ascent of the N Face of Hahlkogel (2655m) in the Ötztal Alps.

Austrian alpinists Hansjörg Auer and Much Mayr celebrated their Christmas a day early with what is believed to be the first winter ascent of the North Face of Hahlkogel (2655m) in their home Ötztal Alps. On 23 December Auer and Mayr climbed the classic NF route via a three-pitch variation in the centre in search of thicker ice in circa 6 hours, reaching the summit at 14:00 before abseiling off the West Face. "Conditions were really dry" Auer told Planetmountain "and we encountered relatively little ice along the circa 500m line. The climbing itself was really interesting and three pitches in particular were first-class. We protected the route with trad gear and three bird beaks, no bolts."

While the 2655m peak may not be a household name, it certainly is an important reference point for the Ötztaler Alps. Auer confirms "Yes, the NW Face is the first rock face in this valley where climbers consciously began to push themselves up into an alpine terrain. The first routes were put up by the likes of Reinhard Schiestl, Karl Falkner and Darshano Rieser at the start of the 1980's and the face is one of the few in the Ötztal that is high enough for alpine multi-pitch routes."

Auer's ascent comes after having put up three new ice lines in the Ötztal together with his first-ever climbing partner, Karl Dung. On the 15th of December the two established two lines above Tumpen, the first 3 pitches high past a crux slab and thin smear, the second 2 pitches high up poor quality ice. On the 19th they then travelled to Habichen where they established a new six-pitch line that boasts a tricky mixed crux to reach the ice. "All three routes were protected with trad gear and bird beaks, no bolts." explained Auer "and the climbing was pretty tough, towards the upper end of the scale. In truth, on their own none of these routes are exceptional, but as a whole they have shown me once again that with the right creativity and motivation new things can be done even in your backyard mountains. Perhaps even really challenging. And right there, where many believe that everything has already been explored before."

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