On October 15, Swiss mountaineer Silvan Schupbach released a new multi-pitch route line in the Bernese Alps. Baptized Tradition and rated 8b (5.13d), the route crosses eight pitches of compact and colorful limestone and is considered the hardest multi-pitch trad line in Switzerland.
In a remarkable nod to the ethics of leaving no trace, Schupbach and his co-conspirator Peter Von Kanel established a traditional multi-pitch climb over a limestone formation. Limestone is notoriously inhospitable for the secure placement of fall protection equipment. This is perhaps the most impressive (and heartbreaking) takeaway from this climb.
The long-distance trad of the Bernese Alps in all its splendor
In the spring of 2020, Schupbach and Von Kanel discovered an intact limestone wall on the west face of the DÃ¼ndenhorn (2,862 m) in the Bernese Alps. Swiss mountaineers began to test the potential of this undeveloped area, climbing various lines graded up to 6c (5.11a).
Then, a year ago, the couple fell on the draft line. It was steep with overhanging elements and a system of cracks. It took them a day to work on the prologue pitch. Then they progressed into the penultimate seventh pitch, using the straight-leaning crack system to speed up progress in part of the climb.
But due to bad weather, Schupbach and Von Kanel were only able to equip the course with fixed ropes last September, with the help of several friends. With the fixed lines in place, Schupbach determined the crux of the final pitch.
In mid-October, supported by Von Kanel, Schupbach redoubled the eight sturdy limestone steps, establishing the final step on dispatch. The exploit pocketed a first free ascent and the first ascent of Tradition in just one time.
Limestone trade is rare
When exposed to the elements and repeated human contact, the dense, hard limestone quickly takes on a polished finish. This problem is not as common with harder climbable rocks like granite or sandstone, which retain their texture despite exposure. This durability gives traditional rock climbing a more granular sedimentary rock: the texture helps secure and grip traditional equipment such as cams and nuts.
Also, it is not as common to find a bombardment crack in a limestone formation. Due to the silty composition of the rock, a crack often only occurs when the limestone is poor and crumbly – and no one wants to place equipment or bolt a pile of stuff.
But it is there Tradition defies trad (and limestone) standards. It’s a colossal testament to the boltless ethic, showing that a limestone route can not only do without bolts, but can also continue in this manner on eight untouched locations. It can take the challenge up a level or two, but maybe all it takes is a climber willing to figure it out.
Following his dispatch to the Bernese Alps, Schupbach offered his knowledge of climbing without permanent equipment:
[I]It seems to me that in recent years a lot of routes have been built on the model of a climbing hall, and I hope that there are and always will be places where it is the mountains that dictate s ‘there are pros and how it is. I think if you make as few traces as possible and if the – small – in situ gear is easy to remove / replace, a route retains much of its original wilderness and can be ‘discovered’ over and over again. .
Read Schupbach’s full report on his website, slack-line.ch.
About the Author
Jilli grew up in the rural mountains of southern Colorado before moving to Texas for her college education.
After seven years in business consulting, she learned about sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue a life focused on the outdoors.
She now works as a material contributor, editor and tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network.
She is based in Austin, Texas where she settles in with her climbing gear and blue one-ear heel, George Michael.