If 2017 wasn’t already a historic year for climbing—especially for women—Austrian climber Angela ‘Angy’ Eiter broke new ground again as the first woman to climb 5.15b. Only two people have climbed at grades harder than 5.15b—Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma.
On October 22, the 31-year-old redpointed La Planta de Shiva (9b/5.15b) in Villanueva del Rosario, Spain. The route, which Ondra established in 2011, links a pitch 5.14b into a steep and crimpy extension to create a 45-meter endurance test-piece that’s only been climbed by Ondra, on the first ascent, and Jakob Schubert, who repeated the route last year.
“I didn’t really focus on a route in the 9b [5.15b] range,” Eiter tells Rock and Ice. “However, the occasion came spontaneously.”
Eiter’s inspiration to attempt the route arrived when she tried and completed the easier first pitch in October last year. “On the top I realized the multiple crimps of the second pitch,” Eiter says. “My husband Bernie encouraged me to check it out.” She tried the upper section twice and managed to work out all of the moves, but says that on some parts she wasn’t able to link more than two or three moves together.
“Jakob Schubert did the second ascent and said that sending the route had been the fight of his life,” Eiter says. “These words really intimidated me and I started to question whether I’d chosen the right route.
“I decided to focus on climbing the second part only, because the extension is hard enough. It’s certainly a lot harder than anything I’ve ever climbed before.”
In October of 2014 Eiter climbed Hercules (8c+/5.14c) and Hades (9a/5.14d) at the Götterwandl in Nassereith, Austria. Afterwards she aimed to work on a harder project, and that November, she sent Big Hammer (9a/5.14d) at Pinswang, Austria. The following year, she completed Era Vella (9a/5.14d) at Margalef, Spain. While she had three 5.14d’s under her belt before La Planta de Shiva, she was skipping a grade by going after a 5.15b.
During the past two years she has returned seven times to the route. When she finally linked the upper section, she “wanted to know what happens when I also add the first powerful pitch,” Eiter says. “Two days later I dared to give it a try and started from the bottom, but failed two times on the snap at the seventh quick draw.”
On that same day, Eiter made a third attempt and reached the anchor “totally exhausted.”
At home, Eiter was training in similar intensity of the route. “Joy and disappointment came along with me, as the whole process was plagued with frustration on some parts,” Eiter says, especially when two holds broke off or when she ripped her hamstring.
“I am sure that the support of my husband Bernie and my father were one key to my success,” Eiter says. “I appreciate to have them.”
Eiter retired from the competition circuit in 2013, after four World Championships in lead climbing, one shoulder surgery and 25 single World Cup victories. Now, she climbs professionally and coaches young athletes.
On her website, Eiter writes, “While I was fighting for the victory in a comp in earlier times, I am pushing myself in hard projects on the rock nowadays.”
While Eiter was charging hard for La Planta de Shiva, 19-year-old Margo Hayes sent the popular 5.15a, La Rambla, in Siurana, Spain to become the first woman to climb the grade. Only months later, Anak Verhoeven became the second with her first ascent of Sweet Neuf (9a+/5.15a) at Pierrot Beach, France.
“I really love it that women are powering forward, breaching barriers and pushing the limits ever upwards.” Eiter said in an interview with planetmountain.com. “It’s such an inspiration, both now and also when I look back into the past. There have been so many impressive female athletes that we can draw from, and so many new ones doing ground-breaking ascents all the time, it’s amazing.
Watch Jakob Schubert on La Planta de Shiva (9b/5.15b):