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QUEEN OF THE ALPINE TRILOGY

  • Barbara Zangerl, the Boulder Queen has rediscovered herself.

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What do you do if you have planned a nice big project, done it, and then find out to your surprise that there are still plenty of good climbing days left in the year? Take time to chill? Not if your name is Barbara Zangerl.

Originally, completing the Alpine Trilogy was not on her list, but now she is the first woman to have repeated all the Trilogy routes. Three routes that still count as the most difficult in the Alps. Three routes that up until 1994 only four men were able to write in their diaries.

The first ascenders are particularly impressed. "The Boulder Queen has rediscovered herself," says Beat Kammerlander. Thomas Huber agrees: "Babs is one of the greatest in the Alps." Stefan Glowacz goes even further, speculating that she is the protagonist in a new era: "There has been nobody like this since Lynn Hill."

That is why the Austrian had put the “Silbergeier” route on her to-do list for 2013, the Beat Kammerlander masterpiece in Rätikon. Babs had already attempted this route with Nina Caprez in 2011, but had to drop out due to back pain. Nina went on to claim the first female ascent while Babs had to suffer "the waste" of six months forced rest.

In 2012 she came back with a vengeance, snagging Thomas Hubers jewel “The End of Silence” - part one of the Trilogy. It was with mixed feelings that she returned in 2013 to take on “Silbergeier”, but this time everything felt so much better. She topped out on 28 July, sooner than planned, which is why a few days later hikers on the Wilder Kaiser heard the echo of a women cussing very loudly. Babs was yet again hanging on one of the most difficult routes in the world. This time it was the 8th pitch of Stefan Glowacz's highlight “The Emperors New Clothes”. Even she was stunned at being able to somehow fight her way up the final pump moves as she grabbed the lifesaving hold at the top of the crux. "My nerves had all but deserted me and I was holding back the tears," she says. By 7 pm she was standing on the summit with her climbing partner Jacopo Larcher.

What does she look like when she is happy at winning a battle like that? Just watch her film “Same same but different”!


INTERVIEW WITH BEAT KAMMERLANDER, STEFAN GLOWACZ AND THOMAS HUBER

Beat Kammerlander: “Silbergeier” on the 4th Kirchlispitze in Rätikon (CH).
Stefan Glowacz: “The Emperor’s New Clothes” on Fleischbankpfeiler in the Wilder Kaiser (AUT).
Thomas Huber: “The End of Silence” on Feuerhorn in the Berchtesgaden Alps (GER).


THE MEANEST HANDHOLD?

Beat: “This one-finger pocket grip on the 5th pitch. Because I am relatively small, I had to overstretch on this one and then, from this position, move my foot up to almost shoulder height.”

Stefan: “A tiny undercling at the crux on the 5th pitch, which was always damp. You have to stick your fingers right in and then immediately grab the next move with a slimy hand. No time to rechalk.”

Thomas: “A small, vertical crack that you have to finger-jam at shoulder height before reaching over to the next hold on the right."

The toughest pitch?

Beat: "The 5th is especially challenging because you have to maintain the pressure for a very long time."

Stefan: "The 8th is the most difficult technically. There is a foothold, which your feet just do not want to stick to."

Thomas: "Two metres around the crack on the 8th pitch is the crux of the route. I have even dreamt in my sleep about these two metres.”

How did the idea for this route evolve?

Beat: “It was an open project by Martin Scheel from 1986. It was a no-brainer since I come from that area. ‘Silbergeier’ became my milestone, the most beautiful route I have opened up.”

Stefan: “It was Wolfang Müller's idea: he used to belay for me when I was training for competitions and in return I said I'd partner him on the ‘Emperor’. I was so impressed that we spent the whole of summer ´92 there to set up the route."

Thomas: “As a young climber I had a summer job at the Traunsteiner Hut. I had already been climbing and dreamt of doing the first ascent of exactly this route. From the first point of contact to redpoint it took me more than eight years. I had other objectives meanwhile, but always came back to Feuerhorn.”

What does the name of the route mean?

Beat: "That is what Martin Scheel called the route - it refers to the light-grey, silver shimmer of the rock surface."

Stefan: “‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ is about a new dimension in performance, new rules to the game, a new grade of difficulty."

Thomas: "I was virtually a prisoner on this shady wall for hours, days, months at a time. When I finally nailed it, I had conquered a new world and won back my freedom. It was also the end of the silence."

What were you most frightened of?

Beat: "The never-ending runout on the last pitch was certainly scary. Especially because I had already bailed there once and had heavy rock contact during the flight."

Stefan: “The landlord at the Stripsenjoch mountain hut. He often used to let us ride up the mountain on the goods cableway and have a laugh by switching the cable car off when it reached its highest point leaving our nerves in shreds."

Thomas: "The beautiful summer in 1994. It was simply too hot to be able to grip the handholds."

What should repeat climbers bring with them?

Beat: “Courage or a 200-metre rope.”

Stefan: “Good calluses on your fingers and an understanding for some old-school climbing.”

Thomas: “A couple of Camelots and nuts maybe. People say that we have skimped on bolts on the easier pitches.”


2014 THE TWENTIETH BIRTHDAY

Three climbers, three routes, one objective: raising the bar in sport climbing. 1994 signalled the start to a “new age in alpine climbing” with the euphoric celebration of three first ascents. “Des Kaisers neue Kleider” by Stefan Glowacz on the Wilder Kaiser (9 P), “Silbergeier” by Beat Kammerlander in Rätikon (6 P) and “The End of Silence” by Thomas Huber on Feuerhorn (11 P) still rate today as some of the most challenging routes in the Alps with an upper 10 grade of difficulty.

Even after 20 years, the number of repeats can easily be counted on two hands. For all three routes – the complete Trilogy – one hand is enough. So far, only five people have repeated all three climbs: Stefan Glowacz, Hari Berger, Ondra Benes, Mark Amann and, as the first woman, Barbara Zangerl.