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Interview: Angy Eiter on Her FA of “Madame Ching” (5.15b)

"Madame Ching was a dangerous female Chinese pirate and she fought with a lot of strong nations," Eiter told Rock and Ice. "I fight with hard routes."

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Angy Eiter continues to raise the bar: Last week the 34-year-old sport climber from Tyrol, Austria made the first ascent of a new 9b (5.15b), near her home in Imst. Eiter named the new route, which her husband Bernie Ruech bolted in 2018, Madame Ching.

“Madame Ching was a dangerous female Chinese pirate and she fought with a lot of strong nations,” Eiter told Rock and Ice. “I fight with hard routes.”

It is the first time a woman has made the first ascent of a 9b. The previous high-water mark was set by Anak Verhoeven, who in 2017 made the first ascent of Sweet Neuf, a 9a+ (5.15a) in Pierrot Beach, France.

Eiter has experience in the 9b realm. Three years ago, Eiter’s ascent of La Planta de Shivawhich came less than a year after Margo Hayes became the first woman to crack the 5.15 barrier with her ascent of La Ramblamarked the first time ever a woman had climbed 9b. Just this year, she was joined by two other women: In July, Laura Rogora, of Italy, climbed Ali Hulk Sit Extension Total (9b), Rodellar, Spain, and in November, Julia Chanourdie, of France, climbed Eagle-4 (9b), St. Leger du Ventoux, France.

For more on Eiter’s new route and the process of climbing it, check out the interview below!

Angela Eiter is seen climbing the "Madame Ching" route in Tirol, Austria in August 2020. // Raphael P�ham / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202012150392 // Usage for editorial use only //
Eiter on Madame Ching in Tirol, Austria, August 2020. Photo: Raphael Pöham / Red Bull Content Pool.

Q&A with Angy Eiter

Tell us a bit about Madame Ching. What is the route like?

This line is located near to my home region Imst and was originally bolted by my husband Bernie Ruech in spring 2018. The route starts at the right side of the wall and traverses left through an amazing steep part until it goes up again, ending after approximately 100 moves. At the time, I never had any interest in trying this route. Then, in Spring 2020, the coronavirus-related lockdown, without any traveling, forced me to find a project locally and it was the main driver for me to start trying the route.

What is the hardest part? Is it bouldery or more of a power endurance route?

The route is a power-endurance testpiece with three crux sequences for me. The first crux is a jump to a hole, the second one centers around a hard power move with bad crimps, and the third one is a miserable shoulder move.

How long did you work on it in total?

Altogether I worked on the route for about two months, training indoors in between attempts conditions on the route were bad.

You’ve had a hamstring injury for a while, right? Did that make things harder?

Since 2014 I have been struggling with big problems and pain due to a partly ripped hamstring in my left thigh. Now I am struggling with a  ripped hamstring on the right thigh, too. I can’t jump down from boulders anymore. Injuries challenge me to follow therapy daily and to use other strategies and techniques, so I can move without these muscles. It seems to work, thankfully!

Did you ever think you might not do it?

My first attempts on this route were more than humbling. I felt many times and I didn’t want to give this line any more trie. But after a while, my inner self longed for a final comeback. I was attracted by this untouched route; the wall was free of chalk, and searching for the holds and how the moves were going to play out was an exciting challenge.

Finally, I got excited about it again and I was in better shape. At a certain point, I wasn’t lost in each move anymore, and instead could successfully link some sequences and needed to hang on the rope less and less.

How does it compare to La Planta De Shiva? Harder?

Madame Ching is a similar traverse like La Planta de Shiva and requires similar power endurance. I would grade it the same. But, as I am the first ascentionist, I was just reling on my own beta—I don’t know if taller climbers can maybe bypass some hard sequences. I am much shorter than the average climber as I am only 5-feet-1-inch tall. I’ve been wrong about how hard things are several times in the past. Whatever the grade, any first ascents are an inspiring thing for any climber. That’s why it felt so wonderful to finish this route.

Pushing hard on an untouched line and naming it afterwards is a wonderful thing—it’s less about the grade for me.

What’s the story behind the name?

Madame Ching was a dangerous female Chinese pirate and she fought with a lot of strong nations. I fight with hard routes.

Do you think you can climb harder? Might we see you try a 9b+ sometime soon?

Actually the grade doesn’t trigger my motivation in trying a route and I don’t plan to try something harder. I even find “easier” routes that challenge me and it depends on whether a route’s moves fit me or not. All the different climbs I find throughout the world inspire me. Projects come up spontaneously, though, so who knows.

What’s next for you this winter?

Recovering from my current ripped hamstring! And getting fit again for 2021.