Berchtesgaden, Germany

PHOTOGRAPHY: Timeline Production — Hannes Mair

Four Huber classics on the home wall: with "Siddhartha", "The End of Silence", "Monstermagnet" and "Firewall" Thomas and Alexander Huber wrote climbing history on Feuerhorn. A story that still isn't finished because young climbers still flock to this rock face with its high-end routes.

Barbara Zangerl and Charly Fritzer recently hung in there.

"... Feuerhorn north face — these are high-end routes of similar grade to Yosemite, just with a home advantage." — Alexander Huber

Out of Berchtesgaden

Legend goes that Thomas Huber dragged a door up Feuerhorn. A door? Up the rock face? "Yes, that's right," says Thomas. But it wasn't a house door, it was the door of a cupboard and he used it to build a platform on the 350-m-high buttress. It was in 1994 that he spent many days trying his route "The End of Silence". There simply wasn't a convenient ledge to work from, he says. He set himself up a comfortable platform on the steep rock face with a couple of fixed ropes and the old door. "Then I was able to take a break, have a drink and look down into the amazing gaping emptiness below me," he says in reminiscence.

The Feuerhorn near Reiter Alm in Berchtesgaden, Germany: that's where the Huber Brothers wrote climbing history with four severe routes on the compact north face:


It all started with "Siddhartha"; Alexander Huber was just 18 when he made the first ascent in 1987. It was the first free climb in the area. Alex named his project after the book by Hermann Hesse: "Siddhartha didn't choose to follow the normal route, but he still arrived." This gave him courage not to take the easy route: "If I had done that then, today I would be a physicist," says the climber. Even back then, these twelve pitches followed the Huber philosophy: "We wanted an athletic climb without too many bolts. It was about climbing a route with minimum use of fixed protection," explains Alex. In addition to managing the difficult climb, it is also essential that you are able to place protection yourself.

Today, "The End of Silence" is still one of the most important routes for Thomas Huber: "That route matured me, I grew up with it," he says. Since childhood he had big plans for ascending a route on the grey-black overhanging Feuerhorn north face.

He started back in the 80s, it was a long project: "I kept on having to climb back down and the redpoint took quite a few years to complete." Completed in 1994, "The End of Silence" belongs together with "Silbergeier" (Beat Kammerlander) and "Des Kaisers neue Kleider" ("The Emperor's New Clothes" by Stefan Glowacz) to what is known as the Trilogy, the three top routes in the Alps that are celebrated and discussed by the climbing scene as well as by their first ascentionists. In addition to athletic placement of protection and challenging climbing in grade 8 and 9, "The End of Silence" also presents a special challenge in terms of endurance: the climber doesn't reach the crux, which is grade 10, until the top of ninth pitch — small underclings, side pulls, tiny edges and subtle footholds in the overhanging rock make completing the route all the more difficult. Even today the climb is rated one of the most difficult alpine free climbing routes.

In 2003 "Monstermagnet" and "Firewall" were used as training ground for the first free ascent of "Zodiac" in Yosemite Valley, USA. In spring the Huber Brothers had attempted the big wall on "El Capitan", but failed due to excessively high temperatures. Alex and Thomas then returned in summer to the cooler Feuerhorn north face: "Here we've got routes of similar difficulty to Yosemite right on our doorstep," says Alexander. They completed "Monstermagnet", which Alex first ascended ten years previously, but had not yet red- pointed, followed by "Firewall". "That was the best preparation, that got us in shape," says Alex. Spurred on by Feuerhorn, the Hubers then added the big wall project "Zodiac" to their list in autumn 2003.

The four mighty "high-end" routes around Reiter Alm continue to attract new challengers, such as Barbara Zangerl, who last summer was the first woman to climb "The End of Silence" and Charly Fritzer who repeated "Monstermagnet". But that doesn't mean that the Feuerhorn story has yet come to an end.


"Monstermagnet is sheer rock face where it's easy to put a foot wrong. I bailed on a number of occasions." — Charly Fritzer

He makes it sound rough: "The monster is a total brute," says Charly Fritzer. The route through the plates of rock is very difficult to find, the first pitch is really a moral challenge: a traverse that takes you 15 m away from the protection, and there is the crux just before the top, which is extremely difficult to crack.


He had always admired the overhanging 400-m-high Feuerhorn buttress from the road: "You drive past, look up, and think that's totally awesome," says Charly. That's just got to get any climber's heart racing, says the 32-year-old from Carinthia, Austria, who some years ago found his second home in Berchtesgaden, Germany. As he says, "Huber routes always have a few surprises in store." And because he loves adventures with a degree of unpredictability, he chose "Monstermagnet" as a project. This was one of the four classics that had not yet been repeated. And Charly had heard from the Hubers that this route is also an extremely tough mental challenge. Because there are the bare minimum of bolts and whole sections of rock where it is impossible to set protection, the climber risks taking long falls. He had been warned.

In autumn 2011 Charly started by taking a couple of "Monster" flying lessons: "There was one foothold that broke away just below a safe bolt where I dropped twenty metres, past where Mario Walder was belaying me," explains the pro who earns his income as a climber and had already climbed other alpine classics of grade IX (7c). Mario lost his climbing shoe during the fall, so they passed one of Charly's back and forth on a rope. "That day we were extremely relieved to reach the top." A repeat ascent, but not a redpoint — but however, it didn't stay that way.

In 2012 Charly returned to Reiter Alm: the time was ripe for the 12-pitch "Monster". To check out the difficult upper pitch (IX+) and the crux he abseiled down the rock face from above a couple of times. Finally he was sure and asked his friend Matthias Wurzer to partner him on the rock. And then: "It all went very quickly in one day."


"A really wild route with very few bolts - falling twenty metres is completely realistic." — Alexander Huber


"The quality of rock is super, totally compact, and there are only holds where you need them." — Barbara Zangerl

On the 9th pitch she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown: "It looked really bad, I could manage the individual moves, but linking them together seemed impossible," remembers Barbara Zangerl. The 24-year-old had put "The End of Silence" right at the top of her wish list for 2012. You need to have one big project every year, reckons the climber from Tyrol. In June she headed to Berchtesgaden for the first time with her climbing partner Emanuel Falch. The year had started well with her claiming "Super Cirill" (8a/8a+, 9 pitches) in Ticino/Switzerland and "Delicatessen" (8b, 5 pitches) on Corsica.

The first contact with Feuerhorn turned out to be a complete flop. Following a two hours approach with heavy backpack — climbing kit and provisions for three days — and a bad night at the foot of the wall, Barbara started climbing: "I thought that quickdraws would be sufficient for an alpine sport climbing route." She found out that they are not enough on the 3rd relatively easy pitch: "A neat crack dihedral where you could place good protection, if only I'd had a couple of Camalots with me." With poor protection set on the five pitches behind them Barbara and Emanuel decided to bail. They lugged the heavy backpacks back downhill.