On 6th August 2022 Alex Luger realised his long-held dream of climbing Seventh Direction free in a single day. A sentence that doesn’t capture the years of effort and commitment behind that achievement.
Alex chose to establish the seven-pitch route ground-up, not knowing if it’d be possible until reaching easier ground in September 2018. Over several sessions in 2020 and ’21 he worked the route and by July 2021 had managed to redpoint every pitch, with difficulties up to 8c on the overhanging east face of the Drusenfluh.
Below Alex shares the background to Seventh Direction and a personal insight to completing the line in 2018, and how the challenge of being able to redpoint it in a day became a possibility.
Words by Alex Luger:
"This wall is impossible, there is no way I can climb that steep wall” I said to Flo, when we were climbing together on a first ascent project on the neighbouring wall to what would become Seventh Direction. However, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the climb and we kept returning to the same conversation - how rad would it be to climb it. But just that thought, while standing below the wall, with the idea of a ground up free ascent, brought a feeling of nervousness and disbelief.
While we were climbing together, my mind kept switching to the wall beside me. The yellow colour of the rock surface indicated that it could be of bad quality and the overhanging angle of the whole face quashed any notion that this could be doable. In general, I have an optimistic approach on handling the unknown but in this case I was not simply questioning the success on this project, I was convinced that it´s not possible for me. In retrospect it was this feeling of disbelief, that lit the spark to attempt the first ascent.
In the summer of 2018, I found myself in front of this mega face with my friends Hanno Schluge and Flo Wild, well prepared to start my ground up free climbing journey. I had the strict ethic to climb ground-up in free climbing style, I had huge doubt as to whether I could climb the route, and I set my chances at about 1%.
During the first ascent I experienced peak physical performance as well as some super low days, where my body and mind were overstrained. I had days with good progress and regressing days, where I couldn't climb past a section of the route and months of work would end abruptly.
During all those highs and lows on the climb, there was one consistent thing – that I was up there hanging on this wild wall with the company of good friends. They built me up when I was down, they made jokes when things got too serious, their vast climbing experience helped me make decisions, and they pushed me to my limits. And I am convinced that without them I would have never climbed this wall.
After months of work it came down to the last pitch. Alex recounts:
Accompanied by my father, there is only a few metres of steep climbing before the low angle 3rd class terrain. Until this point I’d been able to climb the wall without any aid climbing. Just four meters separated me from finishing this dream. Four meters to end this two-year project. Four meters for closure. Four meters to rid me of my mental chainmail, where I store all fear and doubt.
Below my feet is nothing but emptiness and sheer exposure. On my harness dangles a selection of climbing gear, one birdbeak and a couple of carabiners. I take a few deep breaths - as I always do before a demanding task - my lungs fill up with air, fuel for the last four metres.
I crimp a small three finger hold with my left hand, trying to get as much surface area of my fingers onto this knife blade hold. While placing a high right foot I reach for a sidepull with my right hand. I look up and contemplate the blank wall ahead of me. Focusing on a small slopery two finger hold I reorganise my feet. Then I push for a two-finger hold with my left hand. I scream as I as transform all of my tension into powerful movement. I bring up my right hand on the two finger sloper then jump to the rail jug, the final hold before the low angle terrain. Within seconds I am able to mantle up onto a flat ledge with great caution as it is littered with TV sized loose blocks. I sit down on a flat spot still holding on to the wall with my hands. Everything is gone, I feel empty, I feel redeemed, I feel excited and sad. I’ve lost something. Belief isn’t needed anymore as uncertainty and doubt fades away.
On reflection I realise that the biggest motivation to start this climb was come to terms with my disbelief but also the necessary belief I could do it, both real and true at the same time.
If I had known from the beginning that there was a high chance of success, then I think I would have not been drawn to it, and put in the work. The motivation was fueled by my belief. The belief I have in the world and myself, the belief that I am able to create and keep an open mind, on what is to come, instead of attachment to the imaginary picture of safety and all-around control.
Alex on Seventh Direction. Photo: Ray Demski
On the 6th of August in 2022 I climbed the first free ascent of Seventh Direction in a day accompanied by Pio Jutz.
“Western culture speaks of four directions. Native American cultures throughout the continent recognize seven. There are the cardinal directions of East, South, West, and North, directions that correspond to our life cycle of birth, youth, adulthood, and time of being an elder, respectively. Then there are the directions of Earth and Sky. These Six directions are easy to locate. The Seventh direction, however, is harder to see. It is the direction within us all, the place that helps us see right and wrong and maintain the balance by choosing to live in a good way.” (J. Bruchac, Earth and Sky 1996)
Facts: UIAA 11-, 7 pitches, 220 meters
Pitches: 1. 6; 2. 6; 3. 10; 4. 10+; 5. 11-; 6. 10-; 7. 10
Location: Drusenfluh Ostwand, Lindauer Hütte, Rätikon
First ascent by Alex Luger with Hanno Schluge, Flo Wild and Christoph Luger over the summers of 2018.
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On 6th August 2022 Alex Luger realised his long-held dream of climbing Seventh Direction free in a single day.