“Full Contact” Climbing at the Limit

March 24, 2020 / Posted by Rachel Swann

A first ascent that has it all: the Marmot ambassadors Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner master a challenging route made of ice and rock on the Gardena Pass.

In search of the perfect conditions for demanding ice climbing, our professionals Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner went on a trip to Italy. Ice formations had grown in some places in the Dolomites this winter, which are not to be found in this form in other winters. The trip from the Ötztal to Gröden was long and the alarm clock rings very early on such days, an excursion to the Dolomites is always a lasting experience and no effort is too high for this!

© Stefan Voitl

The two professional mountaineers have been preparing for their success for months and were closely examining the intended route on site: “On December 30, 2019, we noticed a line on a sightseeing trip to the Gardena Pass, which this winter features a multitude of icicles and glazes than usual”, recalls Albert.

“Born wild”

The two Marmot Pros could hardly wait for the return and it was already on January 5th: the arrival was brought forward an hour and the “number one” on the Val Gardena Pass was successfully secured. The route “Ironman” was soon climbed and with great interest they both switched to the new territory to be explored at their side. The ropes were brought quickly to the entrance about 100 meters away and it was already clear from below that it was going to be damn demanding. But it is precisely this effort, this new territory and the search for the wild, the original what has always driven them, because both are “born wild”.

© Stefan Voitl

Shortly after the start, Benni was already deep in a fireplace and scrubbed himself up without protection – “full contact” had occurred to him for the first time! A few ice glazes and delicate mixed passages later he made a stand. Albert came with the Eiger backpack and was completely stuck in the chimney and could only smile, which immediately turned into a laughter thanks to the bizarre ice glazes above. It was already late afternoon when the second pitch was set up as a crisp M8. Right from the start, the plan was to drill the stands and climb the pitches as cleanly as possible. But a securing in a genuine way in the key passages was prevented by the closed rock structures.

On January 9, the two warhorses returned with new energy to prepare the rest of the route. It is not uncommon to have to use more power for setting up from below than for free climbing, and on this day another four pitches were set up with great difficulty in steep terrain. The altogether 11 set hooks as intermediate protection in the 6 rope lengths promised more than just adventure!

Free climbing in the ice

On January 19, the time had come: the two members of the instructor team of Austrian mountain guides (VÖBS) were back at the scene, ready for their mission!

© Stefan Voitl

Already in the 2nd pitch (the crisp M8), the demanding cold was felt, but it could not harm our boys – they had the flagships of our collection with them: the latest generation of our Alpinist Jacket as well as the perfectly insulated West Rib Parka. Good to know if you don’t have to worry about the equipment.

Because this equipment was used for the route. Precise movements alternated with fluid processes in order to master the extreme efforts. After the third rope length came the key rope length: an overhanging intersection with ice glazes and wide stretches. Up to the crux, Albert and Benedikt continued to work steadily until a solution was found after a few attempts at small hooks on thin glazes.

With all his strength Albert climbed further into the ice and placed the screws in the ice. Then at the last moment he remembered the blending in the background and he braced himself with his whole body: full contact! After an easier length, there was an obligatory M7 spot to climb, just before the end pin was waiting. With concentration and determination, they both mastered the end of the route and both happily fell into each other’s arms!

With “Full contact” – a special composition of rock and ice

Length and difficulty: 180 meters / M9

First ascent: Albert Leichtfried & Benedikt Purner 5th, 9th and 19th January 2020

Story by:
Albert Leichtfried & Benedikt Purner

Albert Leichtfried & Benedikt Purner
March, 2020
The Send