Heiko is one of the most innovative and creative climbers around. His drive for first ascents is truly astounding and, thus far, his passion for exploration shows no sign of abating.
Home is Gräfenberg, right in the heart of the beautiful Frankenjura in Germany. He was born in 1981 and started climbing at the age of 14. Heiko was initially absorbed by classic alpine routes, but after a few years the lure of bouldering and sport climbing became too much. He found that the intense fingery climbing of his local area suited him well; as Heiko puts it himself: "My thick fingers fit the Frankenjura pockets perfectly!"
Spotting and climbing new lines is a particular talent of Heiko's and has lead him to establish a staggering number of new boulder problems and routes in the Frankenjura. At last count the figure was around 2500 new boulder problems and 350 new routes. Heiko likes to search out new projects when he is travelling too—his tally of first ascent boulder problems abroad (particularly at one of his favourite places, Ticino, Switzerland) is equally remarkable and currently stands at around 250.
"Ever since I started bouldering I am looking for new projects, new lines, new first ascents,” says Heiko. “I started with sport climbing and bouldering and have been moving on to trad/clean climbing and highball bouldering. My motivation for setting up new routes is also to leave something of value behind, to move into the unknown, to create and establish routes and boulders worth repeating."
Picking highlight problems from his vast roster of first ascents is difficult but some lines can be seen as extra special. For example, Natural Speed (8A+), Griffpuzzle (8A+), Claude Monet (8A+) and Wenn er fällt dann schreit er! (8A) in the Frankenjura, and Conquistadors (8A+) at Tessin in Switzerland. There are many sport routes too, including Spannung im Zylinder (8b+), 21 Days (8b) and Freitag der 13 (8b), again all in the Frankenjura.
In recent years Heiko has shifted his attention to a more adventurous aspect of the climbing game, namely highball bouldering and traditional bolt-free routes. In 2010 he made the first 'clean' ascent of Magnet, a bolt-free 7c+.
This trend continued through 2011 and 2012 with ‘greenpoint’ ascents of Chasin’ the Train UIAA 9/7c at Krottenseer Turm and Kurt Albert’s Magnet, Germany’s first grade 9 from way back in 1982. He even climbed an entirely new trad route, Dragon Mouth, an E7/E8 with a physical standard of 7c/+.
On the highball front he has climbed top-quality lines, such as Im Zeichen des Highballs (7A) and the impressive and bold Guardian Angel (8A).
Remarkably, given his frenetic output, Heiko is not a full-time climber. He has his own climbing school and does stints of freelance instructing, taking kids either climbing or caving in the Frankenjura area. He also trains climbing instructors. The flexible hours give him plenty of time to hit the crags and explore new territory.
"There is no move too crazy, too hard, too complicated,” says Heiko. “Go for it. Try it. Over and over again. It's about the journey, the time you spend on a project together with a bunch of good friends. At the end of the day I try my very best to be open-minded to tackle new challenges and new styles of climbing."
NB. In the Frankenjura many of the routes feature pockets, and sometimes these can seep, rendering them un-useable. The local climbers have developed an ingenious trick to overcome this problem. Check out this film of Heiko where he shows how it’s done.