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Alex Huber’s Magic Summer

Alex Huber free soloing the Swiss Route (5.10c, 400m), Grand Capucin (3838m), Mont Blanc range, France. The ascent (and descent–he also down-soloed the route) capped Huber’s summer, which included two new ground-up 5.14a ascents in the Tyrolean Alps. [Photo] Alexander Huber collection

As reported in the September 2, 2008 NewsWire, this summer Alexander Huber laid siege to the Tyrolean and French Alps, beginning by establishing, ground-up, two 5.14a multipitch routes, Sansara and Feuertaufe, and ending with a free solo of the Swiss Route (5.10c, 400m) on the Grand Capucin.

Having opened Sansara in spring of this year, Huber returned to free the route in June. Located on the east face of the Grubhorn near the Tyrolean village Lofer, Sansara is a six-pitch sport climb characterized by three roofs. The most difficult feature is the first roof, 8 meters long and reaching difficulties of 5.14a, though the third roof (6 meters) includes a notable splitter finger crack. Huber redpointed Sansara on June 25.

A month later Huber, with partner Guido Unterwurzacher, redpointed Feuertaufe, a line on the south face of the Sonnwand that the two had opened the previous summer. Pitch 2 is rated 5.14a, though Huber says the greatest challenge is not physical, but mental: “On the crux you climb with the bolt more than 4 meters below the feet, and so a failure results in a fall of more than 12 meters.” Huber and Unterwurzacher had trained on Feuertaufe for three days this summer before successfully freeing the route, which Huber called “a first class adventure on the highest quality limestone,” on July 31.

And five days after his Feuertaufe redpoint, Huber made a successful summit of the 3838m Grand Capucin in the Mont Blanc range, via the Swiss Route. Huber had made a visit to the mountain earlier in July, scouting for the most feasible route to the summit, finally choosing the Swiss Route, which ascends a 100m couloir followed by 300 meters of granite. Huber began his climb at 10 a.m. on August 5, and having timed his ascent so that ice and water would not be present, he reached the summit from the top of the couloir within an hour (read the Solo Series interview with Alex Huber about free soloing in the July 16, 2008 Weekly Feature).

Perhaps most notable about Huber’s free solo on the Grand Capucin–beyond it being one of the most technically difficult summits to reach in the French Alps–is that he also down-soloed the same route. Lutz Bormann, an editor of the German mountain magazine Bergsteiger, noted that “Alex’s accomplishment in short is to have climbed the most difficult mountain in the Alps by the purest style that was ever put up in alpine history.”

Sources: Alex Huber, Lutz Bormann