On July 23rd, Barbara “Babsi” Zangerl sent The Path (5.14a R), in the Canadian Rockies. The nails-hard trad route, first sent by Canadian legend Sonnie Trotter back in 2007, has seen few sends, and until Zangerl’s none by a woman.
Zangerl got in touch with Rock and Ice from Switerzland’s Eiger, where she is currently working a few long alpine routes with her partner, Jacopo Larcher. “It is hard to compare this route [The Path] to other climbs I have done,” she said. “The rock is really special in Lake Louise. The character of The Path is pumpy, steep climbing on small crimps with small gear. It felt a bit similar to the trad climbing in Pembroke, Wales.” Zangerl used a small rack of ten cams and three nuts. “For the crux we used a .1 X4 cam and a micro nut… most of the gear is in between 0.1 and 0.4.”
It’s not surprising that Zangerl was the first woman to take The Path down. The Austrian trad superstar has knocked off a string of hard climbs lately, including her first 5.14d, Speed Integrale, earlier this summer. She is famous for completing the first female ascent of two dangerous trad routes, Prinzip Hoffnung (5.13d R) and Achemine (5.13+ R), but also carved a niche for herself with long free climbs on El Cap, such as Zodiac (VI 5.13), Magic Mushroom (VI 5.14) and El Nino (VI 5.13). In addition, Zangerl was the first woman to complete the Alpine Trilogy in the Alps, a trio of long, hard climbs first put up in 1994: Des Kaisers neue Kleider (5.14a), Silbergeier (5.14a) and End of Silence (5.14a). Excepting Silbergeier, which was sent by Nina Caprez prior to Zangerl, hers were the first female ascents of these routes, too.
A renowned boulderer before she ever broke into the world of roped climbing, Zangerl was also the first woman to boulder V13 (Pura Vida) back in 2008. She is known for pushing the boundaries of female accomplishments in the sport, and although she’s sent harder sport routes, such as Integrale, The Path is one of her hardest trad climbs to date. Still, Zangerl managed to blast up the route on her first lead attempt, after working it for two days on toprope.
“I was so nervous about the first hard sequence,” she said. “It felt really insecure to me…on toprope I had problems connecting those moves and this was not even the crux of the route. It was a really long move, tiptoeing on a bad, slippery foothold.
“Because there were long runouts on small gear…especially that first long runout felt scary to me. I didn‘t want to fall there,” Zangerl said. “From the last protection to the top it was a really long runout as well. You would take long whippers, but I think there is not a big risk for injuries.” She added, “that doesn‘t mean i wasn‘t scared.”
Her partner, Larcher, sent the route the day prior. “To be the first women to send the route is a cool bonus,” she said, “but not super important to me.”
Attempting to escape hot temps around their home in Austria, Zangerl and Larcher are working long routes on the Eiger, having recently completed Deep Blue Sea (5.12+) and Magic Mushroom (5.13a). “So the rest of the summer we will be around Switzerland, Chamonix or Dolomites,” Zangerl said. “We would love to climb another harder route on the Eiger. In autumn we go back to Yosemite…” -Owen Clarke