Put up in 1990 on the Seventh Kirlichspitze by Beat Kammerlander, Unendliche Geschichte was back then the hardest multi-pitch route in the world. Despite the ongoing progress in other branches of climbing, it still remains a powerful symbol of its time; of the unique art of climbing, physical and mental strength and the rules that no one was ever even thinking of breaking. There was something mysterious about the line whose difficulties had overwhelmed even the author himself, one of the best climbers at the time. It took the Austrian a year to make the first ascent of his own masterpiece, which he still considers one of the milestones in his career. To Pietro dal Prà, Beat’s friend and climbing partner, the route meant what Action Direct still means for sport climbers. As he was spending a lot of time with the climbing community around Feldkirch, Pietro got also fascinated by the peculiar Rätikon style and particularly by Unendliche. The route had to wait a full 14 years for a repeat ascent and in 2005 the Italian redpointed it on his fourth day of attempts. As the years passed the line was still failing to gain popularity among climbers. Stories about completely blank slabs with long runouts still made people dizzy. And finally, to the delight of Pietro and Beat, the foot of the line welcomed a highly promising team…
Coming from Austria and Switzerland, Babsi and Nina, apart from being super strong, they are equally determined and motivated; they share the same values in life and approach to adventure; they have all it takes to play by Rätikon rules and put an end to the Neverending. Inspired by Beat himself, it was Babsi who first paid closer attention to Unendliche Geschichte and passed her vision to Nina: “The wall looks amazing and even while climbing some easier lines in the vicinity you just can’t help glancing in its direction. It was always my goal to get on it at least once.” Scary as it was at the beginning, the team started working their way up. And the more this psychophysical game of balance, movement, precision and nerves gave them a hard time the more alluring it became. “It’s pure climbing. No chalk, no visible holds or footholds and that unique, bouldery yet tricky style that makes you feel weak on 6b pitches”, says Nina. Apart from being exceptional in style and beauty, the route is also obviously difficult and can hardly be compared to anything else. The team spent hours on the first three meters of the 8b pitch trying to work out the right sequences but with no success. “We didn’t have any beta. One of my mottos is less information equals more adventure but after having been on the route three times we thought that maybe we should give up. However, every time we ended up saying ‘ok, let’s give it one more go, one final go'”, says Babsi. When they finally made it through, the following 8b+ pitch made them perform in a sort of yo-yo game: Nina and Babsi changed the lead five times, each of them trying to reach one bolt higher or find one more new hold. Eventually, their effort combined with some clues from Beat started paying off. After ten days of attempts they were able to send every single pitch individually and after a three-week break they were ready to come back for more. The girls met in Rätikon again and having discussed various options, they agreed upon the individual redpoint ascents. Not knowing what to expect but feeling that the route was within their reach, Nina and Babsi went to sleep.
The following day, Nina was supposed to go first but the icy cold aura slowed down the grand finale at its beginning making the first two pitches completely wet. And the longer they waited the more stressed she got. Initially, the goal of the attempt was just to recall some sequences but once the Swiss put her climbing shoes on everything changed. Focused like never before, open-minded and totally in her element, Nina was ticking off one pitch after another. Despite taking falls on 7b+ and 7c+ she stayed cool and motivated and the next thing she can remember is the summit. An awkward feeling that accompanied her constituted a mixture of happiness and a sense of duty. “It was the awareness that so far the mission had been completed only in 50%. Every time I sent a pitch Babsi got psyched, super happy and even more supportive. It was amazing to feel the energy she had. Now it was her turn and I wanted to give it all back to her.”
“Good teamwork is the one that literally pushes you towards your best performance and up to the top”, says Babsi. The pressure was on her and the game was on again. The following day, with the first two pitches wet and the sky full of clouds, Babsi made the decision to start climbing anyway. And it was the first 6b part that put her under greatest stress: “I took a different undercling and my both feet slipped. I could still stick to the holds and I think that was my luckiest moment on the route as I did the rest of the pitches on my first attempts. This is climbing in Rätikon – the worst moments often happen on the theoretically easiest sections.” Babsi entered the same machine mode Nina had experienced the day before: going for it and accepting all the risks in a state of absolute concentration. Their mission complete, the team spent the afternoon lying on the top of the Kirlichspitze watching the blood-orange sun setting over the Alps. Their long journey reached its end and they both had given everything to make it as perfect as possible. Together they went through what had always meant so much to them: the whole process of bouldering on a route, being scared and facing the unknown. Progressing step by step, in Rätikon style. ” Not to mention all the fun we have had together!”, adds Babsi.
Will the next generation follow in their footsteps? “One of the keys to success is the enjoyment of the entire process”, explains Nina, “At the end of the day it should not matter if you send a route or not. The awareness of the experience as such is what counts most and makes you the winner. With Babsi we treat our goals not as projects, but as dreams.”
text: Piotr Drozdz
Pictures: Robert Bösch