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Jacopo Larcher - Strange Heroes
Climbing ground-up and in a single push, Barbara Zangerl and Jacopo Larcher have repeated Odyssee, the difficult alpine outing up the Eiger completed in 2015 by Roger Schaeli, Robert Jasper and Simon Gietl.
The Eiger has always played a special role in the history of European mountaineering. The fame of its North face has intimidated and at the same time, attracted generations of climbers, us included.
For several seasons we had dreamed of trying to climb a route on the wall but for one reason or another we had never taken the initiative. Routes like “Paciencia”, “La vida es silbar” or “Odyssee” continued to intrigue us, so this summer we finally decided to go and try them out…or at least one of them.
The weather soon revealed to be the main obstacle; the scorching heat played in our favour, but the frequent storms certainly did not invite one to stay more days on the wall.
However, the desire to climb took the upper hand and so, in mid-August, we headed off to Grindelwald. To get round the weather problem, we decided to climb some day routes, bivying for a few days at the base of the glacier. Our first climb on the wall was “Deep blue sea”, probably one of the most famous and shortest routes on the Eiger. We were immediately impressed by the quality of the rock, which has nothing to envy of the more noble limestone walls. For our second route we chose “Magic Mushroom”, much longer and more challenging than the previous one, but still possible to climb in one day. Thanks to a little luck with the weather, we managed to free climb, both routes, a great start and a nice source of motivation to try something longer and more challenging.
After repeating these routes we turned our attention to the pillar of the Czechs, probably the most overhanging and compact part of the wall, where the famous “Paciencia” and “La vida es silbar” are located. Our goal, however, was not the latter, but rather the last born in that corner of the Eiger: “Odyssee”. The route, started in 2009, finished and then released in 2015 by Roger Schäli, Robert Jasper and Simon Gietl; is currently considered the most difficult rock route on the wall and still awaits a free ground up climb. Its 30 pitches with difficulty up to 8a+, protected by a mixture of bolts and traditional protections often very far apart, make it a challenging route that should be tackled in several days.
Given the difficulties, we had therefore planned to spend about four days on the wall, so as to have enough time for both of us to try to climb freestyle. Obviously the big unknown, as well as one of the main obstacles, was the weather. We decided not to monitor the weather predictions too carefully and we set off to attempt the climb.
We spent exactly 4 days, and nights, on the wall, during which we were surprised by several storms; luckily the right side of the Eiger is very overhanging and we had a single portaledge inside which we could shelter from the rain. To reduce weight we had brought only one portaledge, undoubtedly lighter, but also much more uncomfortable ... honestly we did not sleep much during our "stay" on the wall!
Reducing the weight of our footwear was very simple, as our choice fell immediately on a pair of Kataki. Given the style of the route, we needed a precise shoe, which would provide support during the 30 pitches, but at the same time was not too rigid to "slip" in adherence.
The first day we climbed the demanding first pitch, finishing the day climbing the crux of the route, a very short 8a + boulder. The second day was definitely the most intense; many pitches, up to 7c +, were completely wet and we fought hard to be able to climb them. What's more, our bivouac was soaked in water, which made our stay on the wall even more uncomfortable. We were still well under way and we did not want to give up. On the third day we then reached the last difficult pitch of the route, an 8a located a hundred meters from the top, where we bivouacked for the last time. The next day, frightened by the bad weather front that was approaching, we quickly climbed the last pitches, easy but never banal, before starting the long abseil descent. The forecasts turned out to be correct and a strong storm surprised us on the final descents; we arrived at the car soaking wet and exhausted, but at the same time very happy to have been able to free climb this spectacular route.
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