Silvan Schüpbach and Peter von Känel, August 19-24,
2023, EX, 7c? (7a mandatory) 1220m / 820 vertical meters
from Stollenloch, 30 pitches.
From August 19 to 23, Peter and Silvan open a new route on the north face of the Eiger. In doing so, they follow their ideal of not using bolts. During five days of climbing on the wall
of walls, the two alpinists remain in uncertainty of whether they will make it to the top at all in the chosen style. A great adventure and a milestone in the climbing history of the Eiger comes to an end on August 24, when the two alpinists stand on the summit of the Eiger.
The first ascentists climbed the bold and elegant rock route free, except for two short passages. They did not use any bolts and left 8 pitons in total. A repetition of the Route is an adventure and a pleasure for all those with a preference for trad climbing on big walls. The predominantly excellent rock is beautifully structured and allows the use of Cams, Nuts or
pegs in many places. A repetition of the route may require 2 – 3 days.
The route overcomes the „Rote Fluh“ on its right edge and leads, after a short ledge passage
(possible bivouac), relatively directly through the compact, partly overhanging wall to the right of
the Tschechenpfeiler. In the uppermost part, the route follows the Ghilini piola for three pitches and
finishes on three independent pitches straight up – leaving the north face to the west ridge at 3480m.
In proximity of the route there are several sheltered bivouacs, but most of them offer only a single
place to sleep. Therefore, for a repeat, it is recommended to take a portaledge.
The lack of pitons gives the route a remarkable originality and seriousness. The route cannot be
simply consumed, it demands commitment. On the other hand, this increases the adventure value
massively, because also repeating the route would feel as a first ascent. In addition to a solid
climbing level, the route requires a practiced eye, both for the climbing line and for placing mobile
Thoughts from Silvan
In recent years, many new climbing routes have been established on the north face of the Eiger. I
climbed many of these routes and I am fascinated by the quality and beauty of these climbs, which
were first climbed with a lot of sweat and skill. These routes all have in common that they were
made possible with the help of electric drills and bolts; that the rocks of the Eiger are climbed, but
the protection is „guaranteed“ with modern machines. I do not find this reprehensible, but a logical
development of the climbing sport.
I have been wondering for a few years whether today’s climbing skills can be applied to the Eiger,
but with traditional protection (without a drill)? This seemed to me a fascinating challenge.
Chance, luck and skill combined for us from August 19-23: One of the last untouched parts of the
Eiger wall allowed us climbing in our style – on the occasion of a weather window of several days
with high temperatures and no precipitation.
We would be pleased if in the future more young mountaineers and climbers would again rely on
traditional climbing – and herald a renaissance in trad climbing on big (and small) walls.
Thoughts from Peter
Silvan originally discovered this terrific line and worked it out with great effort. As a team, Silvan
and I harmonize very well and we complement each other excellently. We also have a similar,
slightly offbeat sense of humour and share various culinary preferences such as plenty of
mayonnaise and butter.
My climbing level is solid, but not outstanding. On the other hand, I am able to access my climbing
skills even in mentally demanding situations, e.g. high above a sketchy placement. Particularly for
trad climbing, this is quite useful.
Silvan and I have been working intensively on bolt-free climbing in limestone for several years.
Looking back, I perceive our joint first ascents on the Stockhorn and on the Dündenhorn as
intermediate stations that finally made the „renaissance“ possible for us.
Before Silvan initially hooked me on climbing without pitons, I used pitons for my first ascents of
alpine multi-pitch tours. Thanks to self-imposed rules, e.g. setting up from below, no piton ladders,
no cliff holes, etc., this type of first ascent gave me many great adventures, but my appetite for
piton-free climbing grew with increasing experience with mobile belays. I have more or less
reached my maximum possible climbing level, so I see trad climbing as the next stage in my
personal development as a climber. It is obvious that the climbing level is important in trad
climbing, too, but it’s not the deciding factor. Rather, it requires a balanced mix of different skills.
Looking back, I feel that the first ascent of the „Renaissance“ is my apex in this process so far. The
combination of climbing, reading the rock, setting mobile protections and continuously balancing
the risk allowed me to move efficiently and with a good sense of control. This was despite the fact
that the climb pushed me to my limits several times. The thought of climbing into a virgin wall with
mobile protections on the harness makes me nervous every time. However, when the time comes
and I start climbing, the nervousness gives way to an almost hypnotic focus and clarity. These
moments are intense and are among the unforgettable highlights of my life.
The rock quality on site surprised us positively. Several pitches of this tour find the way into my
personal „Hall of Fame“ of the best rock I have ever climbed. I hope very much that the line will
remain free of bolts and thus provide repeat climbers with similarly intense moments for the photo
album of life as it did for us.
Silvan Schüpbach, 41, is a mountain guide, coach, speaker and biotechnologist. When he is not on a
wall, he is responsible for promoting mountaineering in the swiss alpine club. He lives in Thun with
Peter von Känel, 50, is a mountain guide, paragliding tandem pilot and aeronautical engineer. In
addition, he gives presentations, among other things on how to deal with risks, and is the author of
the climbing textbook „Steep Frozen.“ The father of two adult daughters lives with his wife in