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Hansjörg Auerand the Oetztal traverse on 12-13 February 2014
Photo by Hansjörg Auer
Hansjörg Auerand the Oetztal traverse on 12-13 February 2014
Photo by Hansjörg Auer
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Hansjörg Auer and the Oetztal winter traverse in Austria


On 12 -13 February 2014 Hansjörg Auer traversed the ridge line that leads from Gamskogel to Wilde Leck high above the Ötztal in Austria. A long traverse, first carried out many moons ago by the talented Austrian alpinist Reinhard Schiestl.

Suddenly the moment just comes. The urge to go climbing. To do what's been in the back of your mind for years. You can't plan it and, worse still, it's overwhelming. This is exactly what happened to Hansjörg Auer over a month ago. The Austrian alpinist woke up one morning and realised the time had come to solo climb a sustained ridge traverse he'd heard about as a child, one that had been climbed back in the late '80's by legendary Austrian climber Reinhard Schiestl in the backyard Stubai Alps.

Schiestl, one of the most talented Austrian climbers of his generation, is believed to have made his way from Gamskogel (2813m) to Wilde Leck (3361m) via the beautiful, 10km exposed ridge traverse. Auer's inner voice - the very same one that had moved him to make the first solo of the Fish route on the South Face of Marmolada in the Dolomites - convinced him that despite abundant snowfall the moment was now and so from 12 - 13 February, in a continuous 40-hour push, he completed the line. Testing conditions hampered progress and at the end of the ordeal he was accompanied by his brother Matthias who had made his way up the Sulztal valley to greet him. "This project simply pushed me once again to my limits and made me more humble towards my home mountains. The UIAA grade 4 can be easy or absolutely impossible, it just really depends on conditions and this experience shows once again how, at times, grade can mean not very much in alpinism" explained Auer, who offers the following insight into Reinhard Schiestl and to the reasons as to why he stepped into Schiestl's footsteps once again.


Reinhard Schiestl sadly died far too early and he was probably one of the most outstanding climbers of the 80s. His trademark were the numerous alpine ascents in the Dolomites and up the Marmolada, many of which have become now established themselves as true classics. Less is known though about his cheeky free solos. Equipped with only the essential did he climb almost all the major peaks of the Dolomites in record time and this is probably why Reinhold Messner invited him to take part in the 1985 expedition up the NW Face of Annapurna I. That same year he made the first ascent of "Exorcist" and introduced the 8a sports climbing grade to the Ötztal. Unfortunately little is known about his winter climbs around Längenfeld, where he lived and worked as an elementary school teacher. But his winter solo traverse across the Stubai Alps in the late 80s must have been a very intense adventure. At the time he devoted much attention to his sport climbing teams and he told them about his lone traverse from Gamskogel to Wilde Leck. Even today his description is engrained in the memories of his former proteges. When I first heard about Reinhard's special climbing adventure many years ago I knew that, someday, I would follow in his footsteps. But only this year was the time ripe.





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