Mario Prinoth: Silbergeier and the Battisti - Weiss
On 2 August 2011 Italian climber Mario Prinoth carried out a rare repeat of Silbergeier (8b/8b+, 240m) in the Rätikon, Switzerland, while on 25 May he had managed to on-sight the via Battisti - Weiss (400m, max 8a+) on Spiz delle Roe de Ciampiè (Larsec, Catinaccio, Dolomites).
In climbing there are routes which everyone creates for themselves. This free association and way of interpreting both climbing and the routes themselves reflect the experiences and the climbers themselves. Tell me which route you dream about and I'll tell you what sort of a climber you are... one could say. In this sense Mario Prinoth, with his story about the free ascent and on-sight of the Battisti – Weiss on Spiz delle Roe de Ciampiè in the Italian Dolomites and the repeat of Silbergeier on the IV Kirchlispitze in Switzerland's Rätikon, paints a clear picture of his personal search which drives him towards the "beauty" and very heart of rock climbing.
The first route, the Battisti – Weiss, is a true work of art, almost forgotten about, located on a just as little-known yet fantastic wall: the south face of Spiz delle Roe de Ciampiè. This authentic rock castle shows itself off in that intricate and extraordinary garden of towers and peaks called Dirupi del Larsec which acts as a magnificent neighbour to the more famous Rosengarten, the garden of roses, also called Catinaccio. Here in 1973 great Gino Battisti established, together with an extremely young Tita Weiss, a logical line of rare beauty over a period of three days. In doing so they testified that, in alpinism too, not everyone is capable of noticing shining pearls.
Then, in 1987, Marco Furlani and Mauro Giovanazzi made the first repeat, while that same year they also carried out the first winter ascent. In more recent times, namely in 2006, the first free ascent was made by the extremely talented Austrian mountain guide Much Mayr (with a client), and this has now been followed by the on-sight ascent at the hands of Mario Prinoth accompanied by the valley bear, the eternal Bruno Pederiva. Two important details: firstly, for those unaware, these two alpinists are Val di Fassa locals through to the bone and consequently lo Spiz is one of "their" backyard mountains. Secondly, in truth they originally simply planned to climb up and check the route out. So, armed with some pegs and wedges (the route and free ascents were carried out with the original pro) they set off to "hammer back in" some old pegs and backup some wedges. Except that, as Bruno Pederiva states: "Mario set off like a cat... and the free ascent soon came about as well as the on-sight... seeing that Mario never stopped." Neither on the 7c+ pitch on the L-shaped roof. Nor on the following crux pitch, an overhanging face split by a thin crack which suddenly peters out... making it a great 8a+.
The second route is the famous Silbergeier, the six-pitch masterpiece established in 1993 and freed a year later by Austrian climber Beat Kammerlander. Climbing it free in a day is still an important test for the very best. Prinoth sent the route on 2 August and needed three attempts to free the crux 8b+ pitch. This was his 10th time on the incredible Silbergeier and for him it is a dream come true, on a par with the Battisti – Weiss. Possibly because both brought him closer to the beauty and very heart of climbing?
BATTISTI - WEISS 1973 & SILBERGEIER 1993
by Mario Prinoth
I had the honour and fortune to repeat two true masterpieces in the space of 2 months. Two routes established with different ethics in different eras: the "Battisti-Weiss", first climbed with the use of aid back in distant 1973 and "Silbergeier", established in 1993 by Beat Kammerlander. Exactly 20 years separate these two routes of rare stateliness and beauty, both shrouded in a particular history which render them unique and special. I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about these two experiences which mean so much to me.
The "Battisti-Weiss" was established in August 1973 and demanded three days of effort off its first ascentionists, Gino Battisti and the extremely young – a mere seventeen years old - Tita Weiss (who tragically died in an avalanche in 1991). The route winds its way 550m up the "Spiz delle Roe de Ciampiè" via 14 pitches ranging from IV to A2. I'd originally considered attempting the line at least seven years ago, but I knew very little about it: all I had heard was about climbers who had attempted and failed. Last year I happened to meet the ace climber Much Mayr while cragging and this proved decisive: he told me he'd repeated the line with a somewhat unusual client and that the route had two difficult pitches, one 7c+ and one 8a+. After hearing this I was even more motivated to give this project a go.
On 25 May the original idea was to check out the route and its in-situ pro, seeing that talk of wooden pegs and that rather fragile Dolomite rock didn't leave much hope for an outstanding performance. Much to my surprise though things turned out differently. The route follows an exceptional line up the majestic, high tower clearly visible from Pozza di Fassa far below. But it is only when you reach half-height, there where during the first ascent Gino told his partner Tita "From now on it can rain for days, seeing that we're sheltered here" do you begin to understand the majestic nature of his rock face. Right from the outset the climbing is demanding and, above all, spectacular. I followed the odd peg and wooden wedges here and there and was immediately at one with the rock, so much so that I even managed to talk to it. I felt on form, didn't want to give up despite being aware of the fact that the pro was almost 40 years old.
I reached the end of the big overhang, breached the hardest difficulties and after having given it my all, after having succeeded in on-sighting these two pitches, immediately realised that I had achieved one of my most beautiful and satisfying things ever. From here three more pitches followed, graded 7a+, 6c and 6b+ respectively, and after 7 hours we reached the summit of this "Spiz". From today onwards, every time I look up at it from the valley below, I will feel this peak as being particularly mine. The satisfaction of reaching the summit of one of "your" mountains, close to home and with pleasant surprises in store such as routes as beautiful as this one, was certainly the thought which struck both climbing partnerships (Battisti-Weiss, Prinoth-Pederiva). Up there, in different moments in time, they shared intense moments.
The other route, "Silbergeier" (200m, 6 pitches max 8b+), is certainly and quite simply the most beautiful route I have ever climbed. It offers hyper-technical and varied climbing up incredible rock, something I'd dreamt about for years. To come to fruition my project required 10 attempts, some in the rain. I travelled to the Rätikon with various friends, but above all with my great friend Andrea Stenico, he too "madly" in love with those mountains.
On Tuesday 2 August (this time together with Davide Deflorian) I found myself beneath the great "Silber" slab once again. It was slightly too hot, zero degrees Celsius was estimated at 4200m. Yet despite the poor friction, I felt on form. I confidently dispatched the first 4 pitches (8b+, 7c+, 8a+ and 7a+) and reached the niche of the "silver vulture" with my fingers slightly trashed. After three attempts the ensuing 8b+ pitch, i.e. the one with the sequence which caused me sleepless nights, finally let me continue on upwards.
But even if you do that pitch it's still too early to shout for joy: what lies in store is another 7c+, 50m long and by no means easy with a section which, after some broken holds, I really wouldn't have been too happy to have fallen off! When I reached the final belay, up there on the summit of the 4th Kirchlispitze, it all seemed unreal. And while I belayed Davide I thought back about the entire path which led me to this result and enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction of this unforgettable climb.
These two routes were climbed in different eras and in different styles. I believe that "Silbergeier", for its incomparable beauty and above all for its psychological difficulties, can be considered the queen of multi-pitches. While the "Battisti- Weiss" belongs to those historic routes established by talented climbers belonging to a generation which, with little fanfare but plenty of desire to breach virgin walls which even today instil fear, sought not so much the extreme difficulties or a free ascent, but instead real adventure in an often hostile ambient.
After having had the chance to repeat different routes established with the use of aid, during which I attempted to put myself in the shoes of the first ascentionists, I realised that all of climbing's facets are important and that although we tend to do what motivates us most, we mustn't forget that our passion stems from these lines of incomparable value climbed in eras gone by. I hope this article will motivate those who, like me, enjoy climbing in all its forms.
Last but not least I would like to take this opportunity to say, in particular to all those who like me are or have had to deal with extremely nasty and difficult moments in life, to not give up. I hope they will find the strength within to react, to stand tall once again and achieve their aims, because whatever happens, we still have a life to live.
by Mario Prinoth