Nordwestwand, first free ascent up Wetterstein’s Schwarze Wand
This summer German climbers Xaver Mayr and Thomas Holler made the first free ascent of Nordwestwand, a 300m high route up the NW Face of Schwarze Wand above the Höllental valley in the limestone Wetterstein massif. The route was first ascended by Peter Haag, Jörg Lehne, Rolf Rosenzopf and Günter Schnaidt in July 1967 using a mix of trad gear, pegs and pressure bolts, and many pitches were climbed with the use of aid. With an overall grade of VI- and A, the route soon fell into disuse and stories of poor protection, old wooden pegs and hard climbing abounded.
In summer 2015 Xaver Mayr and his climbing partners checked out the line for themselves and were immediately enthused, more by the climbing though than the in-situ pro which they deemed unsafe since pegs and pressure bolts easily pulled out under their weight. After having received the all-clear they invested a couple of days making the route safe again. "It was important for me that the route maintained its original characteristics as much as possible." explained Mayr. "We added new bolts to the belays as these originally had pressure bolts. And we added bolts to some pitches where the first ascentionists had done so. We also added some pegs and removed a whole lot of old gear."
After waiting out the winter and the start of the rainy summer, this August Xaver Mayr teamed up with Thomas Holler to make the first free ascent of the line. Things ran smoothly and they sent all pitches first go, with difficulties up to VIII. Relaxing in the hut after the successful ascent they concluded "Perhaps we could have spent less days retrobolting the route, had we simply placed bolts at regular intervals. But for us it was really important to respect the work of the first ascentionists as much as possible and take advantage of all opportunities the rock offered to use trad gear."
TOPO: Nordwestwand, Schwarze Wand, Wetterstein