Beat Kammerlander - Climbing By Fair Means
After months of meticulous preparation, Austrian extreme climber Beat Kammerlander succeeded with his latest project, a ‘clean’ ascent of ‘Prinzip Hoffnung’. The thin crack climb is located at the Bürs Plate in Vorarlberg, Austria. The rock has the texture of ingrain wallpaper yet Beat ‘free climbed’ the 40-meter vertical face relying only on ‘clean’ protection, i.e. cams and stoppers. ‘Prinzip Hoffnung’ ranks as one of the hardest naturally protected climbs in the world!
“The Bürs Face has always fascinated me.“ Says Beat Kammerlander. “Splitting this wall there is a small crack that practically phases out. The crux is six or seven meters of blank face climbing, to where the crack shifts diagonally. It is unique to find a crack on such a sheer and difficult face where it is possible to free climb with removable protection (5.13d/14a and E9-E10). The climb is very particular and uses tiny edges and footholds. If you try it to often you bloody your fingers and wear through the rubber on your shoes. It’s a battle climbing up there.”
Beat was born in Bürs’s neighbouring town Bludenz, January 14, 1959. He had his first encounter with the Bürs Face over a decade ago, in 1997, only a few months after his friend Marco Wasina (AUT) succeeded with the first ascent of the face’s lower half using bolts for protection. Shortly after, Kammerlander climbed the extension of the route, to the top, rating it 5.13d/14a. At this time he also used bolts for protection. “Interestingly enough nobody ever tried to repeat the route after I had first climbed it. About a year ago, I started to deal with this climb again. I felt the desire to remove the bolts and climb it clean, carrying the entire gear and placing all the protection from climbing stances. Climbing by fair means. To me it seemed to be the only honest way. But at the same time it seemed impossible. However, that’s what makes a project interesting, isn’t it?”
Beat Kammerlander trained all summer long to prepare mentally and physically for his project ‘Prinzip Hoffnung’. His biggest challenge was the protection. “It was a very long development process”, the Austrian remembers. “It took me more than nine months be mentally prepared for a first try. The micro-stoppers that fit into the thin crack normally hold 150 to 300 kg. In case of a fall the impact is a lot higher. So you basically know beforehand that many of your placements won’t hold a big fall. In the crux for instance, the climbing is super insecure and you cannot fix any protection at all. That’s what causes the mental block. The only way to succeed is to plan your climb meticulously. I knew to the very last millimetre, where each piece of protection would fit. However, the crux gave me sleepless nights. Luckily, I had the idea to use a second rope for protection. Securing this rope I positioned a close friend who had to run and reel in the rope, in case the first rope didn’t hold the fall. This approach helped me to overcome my fear.”
In winter 2008/2009 Beat Kammerlander finally started a first attempt. “The Bürs Face is a typical winter project”, he says. “You need temperatures between zero and ten degrees Celsius, otherwise your finger tips are too soft and rip and the rubber on your shoes won’t stick.”
The project didn’t succeed at first go. Kammerlander fell a few times between10 to 15 meters while on the crux. Each time he had to remove all his gear and start over again. On the day of the successful clean ascent he only had twenty minutes left before nightfall. Climbing with the intention to do just another training run he achieved the impossible. “During my successful climb when I reached the crux I had the feeling as if I was constantly falling”, Beat Kammerlander remembers. “I was so surprised that I still stuck to the rock, like a drop dangling under a ceiling. I felt that I was falling but I kept going for it. The primal will that I felt in this situation, coming from deep down in my stomach, is what I remember and what carried me through. When I climb such a route I don’t feel like I am 50 years old.”
Beat Kammerlander considers his route ‘Prinzip Hoffnung’ as one of the great highlights in his career as a climber. “In addition to ‘Silbergeier’ (5.14a, 250m) and ‘Unendliche Geschichte’ (5.14a, 350m) as well as free soling ‘Mordillo’ (5.13c), ‘Prinzip Hoffnung’ has an equal significance in my personal development”, he says. “Major climbing projects demand development inside myself and that was exactly the case here.”
Photos: Peter Mathis
Click here for the Prinzip Hoffnung Gallery.
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