Robert Jasper on Yeti
You’ve been familiar with the Eiger since the age of 16, when you tried to climb the classic 1938 route. What is the most important or distinctive feature of the North Face of the Eiger which makes this face so special to you?
The Eiger North Face is a very important part of my private climbing history. For me it´s the best and the biggest face in the Alps, and with very dramatic history.
I remember that Symphonie de Liberte was the tenth route you climbed on the Eiger. Was Yeti the eleventh one? Or have you climbed anything else on that face since 1999?
I climbed many more times out there. Up to now I have done the Eiger north face 15 times. Since the time I did Symphonie I’ve soloed a variation of the North East Pillar, I climbed Ghilini-Piola, Yeti with Roger Schäli and the classic route (guiding for IMAX Film).
You climbed Yeti for the first time last year. The Italians had made their ascent in capsule style, using portaledges. What was the style of your last year’s ascent?
Together with Roger Schäli I climbed Yeti in a one day push. We tried to onsight the route but had no luck because of the difficulties. We couldn’t redpoint it then either as there wasn’t time for a second try.
The ascent you did this year, on 16th July, was undoubtedly the first redpoint of Yeti. Was it also the first all-free ascent? I‘m asking because the reports about the 1998 climb were not clear about the style of the first ascent (there is no information whether the rest points were taken or not).
The Italians graded the last pitch A1, 6a. So for me it is clear that they didn´t free this pitch.
In 1998 I met these Italian climbers on the Kleine Scheidegg. They are very nice people! As far as I know they worked on freeing the lower hard pitches but they had some kind of accident. After their ascent there was another one made by Swiss climbers, but they couldn’t manage to redpoint the route either and they didn’t free the last pitch. I asked a lot of people and I am 99.9 % sure that we did the first all free and redpoint ascent of the Yeti route.
For me it was unclear, because I had a topo from the High magazine. It seems it was unclear for lots of other people, too, since Ueli Steck, who made the second ascent, was also surprised by the difficulties of the roof on the last pitch. He was also sure it was 6a….
In my topo from the Italians the last pitch is graded 6a+ and A1. For me it’s clear that they didn´t make it free. Steck and Siegrist, the second ascentionists, did not free this pitch, as Stefan Siegrist told me. But I was also surprised that this roof was so hard - harder than I had thought!
The Italians estimated pitch 14, the crux of their route, at 7c+ or even possibly 8a. You didn’t find it that hard but you gave a 7c/c+ grade to the last pitch, which originally had been 7b. So what is your general feeling about the grades of the hardest pitches?
In my opinion the fourteenth pitch is not 8a. I think it is 7c/c+. It is more like a complicated and difficult boulder problem at the first part of the pitch. I try to grade it as I would grade a route in the sport climbing areas down in the valley; maybe this is also a reason for the difference. But after some more redpoint repeats you will be able to establish the real grade. The last pitch was the hardest for me and in the topo of the Italians it was A1. And there is also a very hard boulder in the roof which, I´m sure, is not easier than 7c/c+!
In general the quality of the rock on that section of the Eiger’s North Face is much better, comparing to the main area of the North Face, situated on the left. You emphasised it in your reports on Symphonie de Liberte. Rathmayr and Ruhstaller, who made Deep Blue Sea in 2001, reported rock of good quality, too. Can it also be said about the Geneva Pillar where Yeti is located?
I can say that the whole face has parts of good and really bad rock. The very steep areas have mostly better rock. But this good rock is usually not as good as at Wendenstöcke or in South France, where the rock quality is really brilliant.
Even on these better parts there are holds that can break off. So it’s never really good quality, but for the nort face, where you think that all is loose, it may be a positive surprise. This is the reason why climbers often say in euphoria that the quality of rock there is very good.
Daniela commented some time ago: “If Robert says the protection is okay, you must understand that this is relative”. So probably it should be taken into consideration ;), but still I’m interested in your opinion about the protection there. If you mentioned something about the mantra ‘don’t fall’, I guess it cannot be that good…
On the Yeti route, up to about 6c, it’s very dangerous to take a fall. On most of the pitches there are only few belay points and long runouts between them. I didn´t test it but I think it´s better not to fall there! On the difficult pitches the protection is good and a fall is almost safe.
You’ve climbed Eiger so many times. Could you recommend any of the less known routes on the face to our readers?
For example the Piola-Ghilini directissima or the Eiger Northdihedral are very big rock routes with not so many ascents. But there are a lot of pitches with worse rock and bad protection. For me these are routes with a very high adventure factor. So you need to be areally competent climber!
Have you already got other goals on the Eiger?
Yes. For three years, together with Roger Schäli, we have been preparing to finish the first free ascent of the Japanese Direttissima. We have redpoined the technical crux, the so-called “Rote Fluh”, two times already. It´s some good climbing up to 7c+. But the top part of the face needs perfect conditions if you want to free all the pitches and stay alive.
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