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Babsi Zangerl, Jacopo Larcher To Recount Their Eiger Adventures March 11

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Barbara Zangerl on pitch 20 (7c, 5.12d) of Odyssee (5.13c, 33 pitches), north face of the Eiger (3967m), Bernese Alps, Switzerland. Photo: Alpsolut Pictures

Arguably no wall in the world commands the same sort of respect from alpinists as the north face of the Eiger. 

Arguably no woman in the world is as strong a free climber as Austrian Babsi Zangerl.

On Thursday, March 11, Babsi and her partner, Italian climber Jacopo Larcher, will recount their efforts to free climb the Eiger’s hardest route, the 33-pitch, 5.13c Odyssee—in a day.

Part of the Teton Climbers’ Coalition Winter Speaker Series, the virtual event is free and open to the public. A $5 donation is suggested. 

Registration may be made here.

Overlooking the Swiss village of Grindelwald in the Bernese Alps, the Eiger (3967m/13,015 feet) has been the scene of countless tragedies, triumphs and epics, all of which have added to its fierce reputation. Nearly 2000 meters high—6,000 feet, or two north faces of the Grand Teton stacked one on top of the other—its Nordwand (North Wall) is cloaked in shadow, a magnet for fierce mountain storms, ominous and foreboding. And deadly: since 1935, it has claimed the lives of at least 64 climbers. Some refer to it simply as the Mordwand: the murder(ous) wall. 

While the Nordwand’s lefthand side is infamous for spiderwebs of snow and ice that hold its deadly rock in place, the wall’s right side is a different story. There, a mottled dark limestone, as impeccable as the fabled stone of France’s Verdon Gorge, has yielded to the modern free climber a treasure-trove of high-caliber routes on which to test one’s skills. Hardest among them is Odyssee, the free climb established in 2015 by Roger Schaeli, Simon Gietl, and Robert Jasper.

Babsi Zangerl was named National Geographic’s 2019 Adventurer of the Year for a reason. Initially a boulderer—in 2008 she became the first woman to boulder V13—she was pushed onto longer routes by back problems that precluded the impact common to bouldering falls. She hasn’t looked back. From 5.14b trad lines to 5.14d sport routes, she has consistently pushed herself to the forefront of the world’s best climbers. In 2103 she became the first woman, and third person overall, to climb the Alpine Trilogy—three testpiece, multipitch 5.14a routes, all bold, runout and established in ground-up style.

For the past eight years many of Babsi’s climbs were made in conjunction with her longtime partner, Jacopo Larcher. From his origins as a comp climber and Italian bouldering champion, Jacopo had, like Babsi, migrated to longer routes, climbing up to 5.14d sport and 5.14b trad as well as 5.14c multipitch climbs.

In 2015, the powerhouse couple set their eyes on the biggest free climbing prize in the world: El Capitan. Over the course of four years, they freed five of its routes: El Nino, for the route’s first female ascent; Zodiac, also for the first female ascent; Magic Mushroom, for the route’s second overall free ascent; and, in 2019, both the Pre-Muir Wall and The Nose. 

In 2018, the pair turned their attention to a route closer to home, redpointing Odyssee, ground-up, over the course of four days. On the summit, the idea was born: Could they free it in a single day?

They returned to the Nordwand in August 2020, positioning themselves for the attempt. Amidst storms that left up to a meter of snow, they worked out the crux moves in swirling mists and freezing temperatures. When the storms finally cleared, they launched, fighting through wet conditions on climbing up to 5.12d for sixteen hours until the summit was in sight.

A few easy pitches from the top, another storm rolled in. Pummelled by rain and hail, frozen to the bone, they had no option but to retreat, rappelling 31 pitches in a waterfall. 

On Thursday, March 11, Babsi and Jacopo will recount their return effort to climb, in a day, the hardest route on alpine climbing’s most notorious face.

The event, which is being sponsored by the Hatchet Resort, Black Diamond, Teton Mountaineering, Skinny Skis, Alpinist Magazine, Arc’Teryx, Access Fund, and The American Alpine Club, in collaboration with Coombs Outdoors and the Jackson Hole High School Mountaineering Club, will be streamed via Zoom.

The virtual event will open at 8:30 p.m. with a “happy half hour” before the main presentation. Babsi and Jacopo will begin at 9 p.m.—a 5 a.m. alpine start for them in Europe.

The event marks the third of the Winter Speaker Series, which was designed to provide the Teton climbing community a chance to “gather” in the midst of the pandemic. On January 21, Carlos Carsolio, the first North American to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks, shared his adventures on the highest mountains in the world. The recording of his presentation, which begins at Minute 49, may be found here.

On Feb. 18, George Lowe, Michael Kennedy and Michael Gardner made a blended presentation of climbing one of the great lines in world mountaineering: Alaska’s Infinite Spur. Their presentation, which begins at Minute 43, may be found here.

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