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M12 flashed in Kandersteg, Switzerland


by Kelly Bates

January 28, 2004

Camp4 - Climbing News Archive

Austrian climber and 2003 Ice World Cup champion Harald Berger became the first to flash M12—the world’s hardest confirmed mixed grade—in January, when he sent Robert Jasper’s radically overhanging Vertical Limits. Jasper put up the 115-foot dry-tooling testpiece at Ueschinen, near Kandersteg, Switzerland, last year.

Touring the crag with local Markus Stofer prior to Kandersteg’s annual ice-climbing festival, Berger “spied out” Vertical Limits, a 115-foot right-to-left traversing line in a limestone cave dotted with the occasional drip, and decided to give it a go.

Battling a wicked pump (he didn’t warm up) and a right boot loosened by the route’s excessive heel hooking, Berger survived a near-fall, one-point-of-contact swing and reached the relatively easy crack leading to the anchor. “But [the crack] doesn’t feel easy anymore,” recalls Berger. “Climbing has by now turned to torture.” Berger tagged the chains, but says, “Grades like M10, M12, etc. … are just a vague estimation, and cannot be compared with the grading in rock climbing.” Also a high-end sport climber, Berger has made the fourth ascent of Thomas Huber’s 11-pitch End of Silence (5.14a), in the Berchtesgadner Alps.

News from Rock & Ice. Story reported by Matt Samet.

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