Alexandra Schweikart and Christopher Igel have established an impressive multi-pitch route, with difficulties up to 8a+, in Val Bavona, Ticino, Swizerland. The ‘dream pitch’ is a 40° 8a roof protected mostly by cams. We asked Alex and Chris to tell us more about the ascent and the story behind it.
It has taken you two years to complete the route, all 11 pitches free in a day. What drew you to the project?
The big magnet for us was the gigantic splitter roof crack, visible from the ground. When we first spotted it, we knew we had to find a way to try this beauty—which became the third pitch. Later we found out that the sixth pitch further up was even harder. Until 2020 our ambition was to find out whether it was possible for us. Our thoughts on this changed daily: unclimbable-climbable-unclimbable-climbable. When we had figured out all the moves, we knew it would be super hard to link all those sustained pitches in a day. At the end of this October we’d decided it was ‘climbable’. What can be climbed must be climbed, right?
Describe the cliff for people that haven’t been there. Are there many other routes on it? Is it popular?
We first noticed the wall on a cable car fly-by back in 2014. The wall is in the very back of the Bavona Valley (Switzerland) and hidden from the street. However, it is only a 20-minute walk from the main road and faces north-west. It is a super impressive, 250 metre high wall with big parts of it overhanging (gneiss rock). The name Bavona Valley doesn’t ring a bell to most people, though it hosts top quality climbs of every discipline that will be familiar to lots of climbers. It is home to Coup de Grâce (9a), Off the Wagon/sit start 8B+/8C+ boulder, and Super Cirill (8a+ multi-pitch). We did the wall’s first free ascent in 2014, Della Funivia, 13 pitches up to 7c, following the logical line of the crag. And with one down had built up our psych to try harder and find a way through the overhanging part on the left, which is now Space Force. It still hosts great potential for even harder climbs.
Did you equip/inspect the route from the top down? What were the challenges of equipping such a route?
We equipped the route from the ground in several days during three trips to Ticino. Interestingly, aiding up the wall on gear and skyhooks while freeing some easier sections was not so much of a problem. But when it came to working the route and the moves, we were very surprised at the difficulty of the climbing. So, we had to figure out where to put the bolts to make the route climbable. In the end we needed to memorize every move and every piece of gear on every single pitch to be able to climb it.
It’s a mixture of trad and bolts. What would the trad parts equate to in E grades?
The pure sport climbing grade of the hardest moves is 8a+ on bolts, however there are sections of 7c and 8a where you climb on gear. It’s way harder than Grave Diggers in the Llanberis Pass for example but safe at the same time. We think it would not make sense to give this one an E grade (E grading above E6 is tricky anyway we think).