Alpinists Robert Jasper from Germany and Roger Schaeli from Switzerland have successfully free climbed the Ghillini-Piola Direttissima (5.12d) on the Eiger's iconic north face. Jasper and Schaeli had attempted the route seven years ago in 2006, and made the route's second ascent. "Today there is less than 10 known repeats," Jasper told Rock and Ice. But Jasper and Schaeli's "completely free" attempt was thwarted by a severe thunderstorm and the team had to spend two and a half days battling on the mountain before reaching the summit.
"After this adventure I spoke to Michel Piola and we decided to change the old, very rusty, self-made bolts because of the danger," Jasper told Rock and Ice. "But no less, no more, and all in the same place," he said of the new bolts. "The plan was to keep the alpine spirit high."
Despite the stormy 2006 conditions, Schaeli and Jasper had managed to free climb most pitches on the 1,400-meter ( 4,593 feet) route. "We weren't ready yet," said Jasper of their previous attempt. "But we dreamt of a free ascent, and a little later of the free, one-day ascent." Free climbing the Ghillini-Piola Direttissima--which was originally climbed in 1983 by Charlet Ghillini and Michel Piola at 5.10d A4--would be a "serious endeavor" according to Jasper, requiring high-end alpine rock climbing through the steepest part of the Eiger's north face.
"The whole route is scary!" says Jasper. "It´s the whole alpine exposure, the brittle rock and the often bad protection. Especially on the easier pitches. You have to climb absolutely safe without falling."
On August 2, Schaeli and Jasper decided they were ready for another attempt and set off on the route. The duo climbed the first "easier" 300 meters (985 feet) solo and unroped. After reaching the Stollenlach, Jasper and Schaeli roped up for the next 32 pitches of hard, alpine free climbing. Climbing for 14 hours on the Eiger's "often wet and slippery limestone," the alpinists topped out on the first free ascent of the Ghillini-Piola Direttissima (5.12d). "The perfect climbing day," said Schaeli of the ascent.
This ascent marks an impressive "hat-trick" for Jasper and Schaeli, who have now free-climbed three Direttissimas on the Eiger's north face. In 2009, Jasper and Shaeli made headlines for a free ascent of the Japanese Direttissima (1,800 meters/5.13b/M5) and in 2010, the alpinists returned to free climb the John Harlin Direttissima (1,800 meters/5.11d/M8).