When newlyweds Luka Lindic and Ines Papert canceled their Alaska expedition this past summer because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they reconsidered what adventures they might find close to their home in Bavaria. The result was two first ascents of long routes–the 12-pitch Wolke 7 (aka: “Cloud Nine,” 5.13b, 380m) on the Hinteres Feuerhorndl near Reiteralm, and in late November, a mixed alpine route on the north face of the Sagwand Spitze in Valsertal, which they named Limited in Freedom (AI6 M6, 800m).
In a blog for Arc’teryx about Wolke 7, Lindic wrote:
We can practically see the wall [of Hinteres Feuerhorndl] from our hometown, so it was easy to keep an eye on the conditions…. When the rock was dry enough, we forged our line following very logical crack systems meter by meter from the ground up. It was eye-opening for both of us but even more so for Ines, living here for more than 20 years, to see what the local mountains have to offer if one is prepared to explore….
After completing the route with sections of aid, the pair then worked the route as a free-climbing project, which Lindic ultimately managed to redpoint. He wrote:
When we were up in the mountains working on our route, life felt normal. Back in town we faced new rules and regulations on a near-daily basis, as well as news about tension, chaos, and violence coming from all over the world. Despite all this, we kept our spirits high and decided to get married in Bad Reichenhall from where one can clearly see the walls of Reiteralm. With this backdrop the name for our new route was born–“Wolke 7,” the German word for cloud nine….
Ines tried hard, too, and made good progress but wet holds in the crux were too big of an obstacle. I managed to climb the whole route that day, despite a big fight with heat and dehydration. Being unprepared for such a long day it was a relief to make it to the top. A violent storm arrived just moments after I climbed the last meters to the summit….
The route is equipped with quite a few bolts and pitons for protection as well as for belays, but it also requires a rack of cams.
“Even though we used some bolts…we used them for a good reason,” Papert told Alpinist in an email. “This summer a friend from Slovenia very sadly has lost his life on the same mountain, after having a long fall and ripping out all the gear that he placed. Limestone is not [hard like] granite but fantastic to climb….” She went on to express that they equipped the route to make it safer and more enjoyable for repeat ascents.
While opening the route, we followed the style of other difficult routes on this pillar by using traditional protection as much as possible and bolts only where necessary. Next to all the belays that we equipped with two bolts, we only placed 17 bolts in 12 pitches. One of these bolts we placed as an additional measure after the first free ascent in the 11th pitch, to lower the risk in case [a key] flake…broke off. We also left in place all the pitons that we used so the repeaters only need to bring a set of cams. In saying this, it’s important to note that one needs to know how to place the cams well in limestone to stay safe on this route.
Limited in Freedom
Regarding the pair’s next big climb, in late November, Lindic told Alpinist in an email:
Valsertal, Tyrol, in Austria where Sagwand is located, is just a two-hour drive from Bayern where we live. We have quite a few friends living in Innsbruck. They were already active in the mountains of Tyrol this season and encouraged us to come for a visit. After an easier but also very nice warm-up climb on Hochferner we decided to check out the walls in Valsertal. We knew that the mostly north-facing walls in this valley offer some of the wildest outings one can experience in the area. We also knew that conditions [were decent] because there was…some activity already this season….
As reported on PlanetMountain.com, Martin Feistl and Sven Brand completed the first ascent of 24 Hours of Freedom (WI4 M6 X, 300m) on Sagwand’s north face in mid-November. It is a direct start to the original 1925 route on the face and shares a section with a route that was climbed by Hansjorg Auer, David Lama and Peter Ortner in 2013.
“The place got more attention in [recent] years mostly thanks to David Lama who climbed here very often in the winter,” Lindic told Alpinist. He continued:
None of us [had been] in the area before and we really didn’t want to underestimate the mountains in a full-on winter coat and during very short days. We also heard that descents can be quite tricky. So we decided for a good old-school style approach. Pack your pack, with some extras in case you need to stay longer than planned, and see what looks good and motivates you. With this free-form objective mindset, we dropped our heavy packs at the base of the Sagwand’s north face. Just a day before, our friends had showed us on a photo of the wall where the existing lines are. Without discussing we both knew which line we wanted to try: the ice stripe/gully in the central part of the wall.
We spent an additional “active rest” day in the valley by walking all the way to our car and back because our gas cartridge was leaking. The two nights in the Geraer Hut’s very nice winter room enabled us to be well rested and in a good mood before we started. We decided to bring bivy gear with us on the climb because the days are really short in this part of the year and we also didn’t know the descent…. We finally started climbing up perfect alpine ice in the morning of November 26. [The] first pitch was straightforward [but] in the following four pitches we needed to find the way in between many small strips of ice. Most of them offered enough ice for climbing but the protection, which was mostly possible only in the cracks [next to the ice] was non-existent in some places. With some zigzagging we managed to find a relatively good way up, and more importantly, solid belays on rock.
A lower-angled gully led us to another steep step. Two pitches of superb climbing on thin alpine ice, sparse protection and even a small roof brought us to the gully that starts halfway up. There, we moved on the rope together [simulclimbing] for about 200 meters. We knew that this section had been climbed before by some parties [to bypass the steep and compact section of] the Central Pillar route to the left. At the end of the gully we climbed one pitch of mixed terrain to gain a little snow ridge on the Central Pillar route. There we spent the night and followed the Central Pillar route for three pitches the next morning [before branching off] to the left to reach the summit ridge.
We topped out around midday and soon realized how nice it is to look for a descent with the daylight and not with a headlamp. The descent down the west side took a reasonable amount of concentration with all the new snow. We managed to navigate a good way down and found an existing belay for the only rappel we did… Back at the car, we ran into a nice surprise of two cans of beer that Fabian Buhl left us before he and his partner [went to] the hut to repeat our line in the following couple of days.
Fabian Buhl posted on Instagram December 4:
Sometimes you need to be at the right place with the right people! A few days ago [Felix Sattelberger] and [I] went to visit the Valsertal in Tirol. We intended to try a shorter mixed climb, but already during the approach we [were told] that the ice [was] totally detached on our objective, but we also knew that Ines Papert and Luka Lindic forged a new line directly up in the center of the Sagwand…. Already by my first visit, I thought it would be the best line! Congrats guys…. After calling Luka to see what kind of gear they used, we decided that we basically [had] similar equipment, minus the good bivy gear…. The beautiful line voted the marginal bivy equipment out. This decision only works with a good partner and a positive vibe! The climbing is all the way great and has all the time interesting parts. The bivy was cold but just amazing. We enjoyed the tracks and every single pitch. Amazing start to the season.
“In past years the beginning of winter (November-December) has offered the best conditions for alpine mixed climbing in the Alps,” Lindic told Alpinist. “It almost seems that this is the prime season now for this kind of climbing.”
[This story has been updated to correct the location of Lindic and Papert’s hometown and the Hinteres Feuerhorndl, both of which are in Germany, not Austria. Alpinist regrets the error.–Ed.]