The Austrians Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner have established what is possibly the world’s hardest traditional mixed climb. Senza Piombo is located in Val Lunga, in the Dolomites of northern Italy and is a naturally protected five-pitch M10.
“Our dream of the first M10 protected with natural tools came true,” writes Leichtfried. “We were able to focus all the hard mixed climbing and ice climbing from the previous years, for this single point.”
Purner sent pitch three onsight, and Leichtfried took the sharp end on the route’s crux fourth pitch. Encountering steep rock with marginal protection, Leichtfried took two gear-ripping falls where his cams “dropped out of the shallow crack,” leaving him at his “wit’s end.” The team retreated, leaving the fourth mixed pitch and the final ice curtain for another day.
The Austrians started climbing Senza Piombo on January 27, beginning with “bizarre ice formations” and difficulties up to M6 and WI5. Arriving on a ledge at the end of the second pitch, the team encountered the first crux of the route.
“From there on the character of the route changed dramatically and in front of us we saw an overhanging rock face with very little structure,” wrote Leichtfried. “[W]e thought this might be it and we couldn’t maintain our clean style. I was very impressed that even though it didn’t seem to be possible, Benni [Purner] climbed on and left all the pitons and bolts at the belay.”
Returning three days later, Leichtfried fired the fourth pitch, and then swapped leads with Purner who climbed the final ice curtain, which was “rather scary” due to warm weather. Senza Piombo
(M10 WI5 140m) is possibly the hardest traditionally protected mixed route in the world.