Alexandra Schweikart

Alex is one of Germany's top female climbers, having climbed big-wall trad routes, alpine test pieces up to 8a+ and sport routes up to 8b+. She was born in Schramberg, Black Forest, in 1982 and grew up in a climbing family. 

“My parents decided to become rock climbers, wore spandex leggings, cow bell-sized hexentrics and metal helmets," says Alex. "We went to Battert, Pfalz and the Dolomites and sampled adventurous family vacations.”

This early start planted the seeds for a lifetime obsession with climbing. The Frankenjura became the focus of Alex's attention and she started to work up through the ranks. In 2005 Alex broke into the magic 8a grade with a redpoint of Witchcraft. By 2007 she had redpointed 8b and made an onsight ascent of Phantom der Zinne (7c+) on Tre Cime, North Face in the Dolomites.

Most climbers have a favourite angle of rock and Alex is no exception; her preference is slightly overhanging and she excels at this. One of her hardest redpoints to date is Land of Confusion, a desperate and almost vertical 28-metre 8b+ in the Frankenjura, with micron-sized holds and spaced bolts.

Alex has climbed many of the classic test pieces in the Frankenjura, including the rarely repeated Kaum Zeit zum Atmen at Luisonewand. This was the original 8a+ in the northern Frankenjura and was first climbed by Wolfgang Güllich in 1984. The route did not come easily as Alex describes: “It has a crux on two single finger pockets where I fell about 50 times!”

Another memorable Frankenjura route was The Old One Needs a Cold One (8b), which she made the first female ascent of.

"It has hard moves where you skip one bolt," Alex explains. "I fell on that section and spun around as the rope was wrapped around my ankle. So I fell 10 metres head-first and swung back and forth…I thought I’d die that day. Fortunately I didn’t touch the rock at all and sent the route two days later.”

Alexandra Schweikart on pitch 31 (5.13a), the 'Golden Desert', El Corazón, El Capitan. © Johannes Ingrisch
Alexandra Schweikart on pitch 31 (5.13a), the 'Golden Desert', El Corazón, El Capitan. © Johannes Ingrisch

Alex also has penchant for long alpine routes. Highlights include the Ortler North Face (1200m of steep snow and ice and the highest north face in the Eastern Alps) and, at a more extreme level on rock, Via Camillotto-Pellesier, an 11 pitch 8a+/b on the North Face of Cima Grande in the Dolomites.

In September 2014 her and her partner, Christopher Igel, made the first ascent of Della Funivia (7c) a 300-metre, 13-pitch climb in Valle Bavona, Ticino, Switzerland. The duo climbed the line ground-up on trad gear, bolting only the belays and extremely blank sections.

During trip to Yosemite a few years before, Alex managed to make a one-day free ascent of the West Face of El Capitan—28 pitches up to 5.11c, all climbed onsight.

“When we did the West Face of El Capitan it was spring and we didn’t notice the snowcap on top," says Alex. "The snow melted down the route and turned some pitches into canyoning adventures! And the slabs near the summit were covered in ice in the evening. We forgot crampons and ice axes. I spent my coldest night 100m below the summit of El Capitan in wet clothes covered in pine needles. Frozen stiff we saw the most beautiful sunrise!!!”

In 2015 Alex returned to Yosemite with Christopher and the pair climbed the 31-pitch Huber Brother’s 31-pitch testpiece El Corazón (5.13b)  in a 12-day push. Alex followed this with an ascent of another Huber classic, Freerider (5.13a).

Climbing has taken Alex to many places around the world, such as Thailand, Malaysia, the US, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Norway. Her passion for trad climbing even lead her to North Wales; Alex cites the “tricky and scary” Warpath (E5 6a) at Rhoscolyn as one of the best routes she has ever done.

Her favourite crags are Siurana in Spain (“long, awesome routes, wonderful place, caves to sleep in, sun and wind”), Yosemite (“adventures”), Zillertal (“bouldery routes”), the Dolomites (“walls as far as the eye can see”), and of course, Frankenjura, her local crag.

On a recent visit to Siurana Alexandra climbed Zona 0 8b.This was particularly special as it went down on her very last possible try of the trip.

Climbing at these high standards does take its toll on the body—to ensure that she avoids injury and muscle imbalance Alex has developed a regular exercise routine. Check out this film of what she calls Alexercises. There is also a good interview of Alex on UKClimbing.com.

Outside of climbing Alex leads a busy and colourful life; she holds a Ph.D. in Nanotechnology and worked for several years at the Research Institute for Textile Chemistry and Textile Physics at the University of Innsbruck developing future technologies in technical and functional textiles. 

These days home is Dornbirn, Austria where Alex is the product test manager for different various outdoor magazines. She and Christopher also founded a company called Grip Research, which offers route setting, climbing courses, PPE inspection and talks and teaching on climbing safety. She has a keen interest in ecology and protecting the environment, and is also a fan of indie rock and punk music.

Check out Alex’s top tips for visitors to the Frankenjura in this special Destination Frankenjura film made during a DMM team visit in 2012.