The legendary Eiger speed-climber Thomas Bubendorfer, 50, who blew everyone's collective mind in 1983 when he speed soloed the Eiger North Face in an astonishing 4:50, has been active again establishing hard new routes in the Northern Salzgurg Alps of Austria.
Previously unreported from this past January and September, in two outings, he, with Sepp Inhoger and Hans Zlobl, put the six-pitch Usual Suspects, the area's hardest line with pitches of WI 7 and M7. The line, says Zlobl, is "state of the art ... demanding with thin, fragile ice mushrooms to big overhanging mixed and aid climbing. The line was done ground up, with some aid to get in pro.
Equally impressive, Bubendorfer, also with Inhoger and Zlobl, ticked the FA of Triple A, also on the Alraunewand. This formidable six-pitch route tackles difficulties up to WI6 and M7, and was done ground up, onsight.
Bubendorfer grew up in Austria a "rather chubby child," and whipped himself into shape by ski racing, running marathons, doing 300 pull-ups daily, and to train his mind, read at least 100 pages of classical literature a day. At the age of 19 he became a professional climber and quickly went on to become the first person to solo the Alps Trilogy of the North Faces of the Eiger, Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses. Although Bubendorfer is largely unknown in the U.S., his achievements made him a European sports superstar, attracting big-name sponsors such as Porsche, Rolex and Sony. Five years later, however, he fell 75 feet during a commercial shoot and broke his back. A year later, Bubendorfer resumed climbing and went on in his career to rack up 70 first ascents, with solos in the Andes, Himalaya and Alaska. And, of course, the tally is still climbing.
Author of six books, Bubendorfer remains high profile in Europe where he is in demand as a motivational speaker, having given some 700 presentations. His Eiger record, which cut over an hour off the record then held by Slovenian Franci Kenz, stood for 20 years until 2003, when the Italian Christoph Hainz pared it down by 10 minutes. Today, Bubendorfer lives in Monte Carlo with his partner Christine and his two sons, both 12. Still in the limelight, he says he loves, "English cloth, Italian tailors, his Viennese shoemaker and French red wine."