Chiara Hanke has become the first woman from Germany to climb 9a (5.14d), with her recent send of Sever the Wicked Hand in the Frankenjura, Germany.
The 26-year-old Hanke began climbing when she was 13 years old, following a shoulder injury from wakeboarding. One year later, she started going to regional competitions. Since then, she has distinguished herself within the German climbing scene, and has competed nationally and internationally in addition to pursuing outdoor climbs. Over the years, she has sent several 8b+ and 8c routes, including Wallstreet, Odd Fellows, and Klondike Cat, in the Frankenjura, an area known for its shorter, powerful, pocketed routes. The area is also home to Action Directe, first ascended by Wolfgang Güllich in 1991 and recognized as the world’s first 9a.
Hanke’s previous toughest send was the 8c+ (5.14c) Battle Cat, also in the Frankenjura. That route comes with its own legacy: just three years ago, Lena Herrmann sent Battle Cat and in doing so, became the first German woman to climb 5.14c. Before Herrmann, the previous record for German female climbers was held by Marietta Uhden, who claimed the first ascent of 5.14b Sonne im Herzen in 2001.
On Instagram, the film and photo production company White Van Media shared that Hanke rose at 6:00 in the morning and “dragged her mother-in-law to the crag” before completing the climb.
Hanke’s own Instagram post described a prescience concerning her completion of the climb: “I felt it the whole night and it has robbed me of sleep.” She also thanked her husband Christoph Hanke—a competitive climber himself—for his support. “Such a great feeling to climb a route like this!” she wrote.