2002, DIRETTISSIMA/HASSE-BRANDLER (VIII+/5.12a), Cima Grande, ItalyThe Tre Cime in the evening light. © Michael Meisl

2002, DIRETTISSIMA/HASSE-BRANDLER (VIII+/5.12a), Cima Grande, ItalyStranded in a sea of overhanging, loose dolomite rock. 300 meters above the ground, Alexander enters the crux pitch of the direttissima. © Heinz Zak

2002, DIRETTISSIMA/HASSE-BRANDLER (VIII+/5.12a), Cima Grande, ItalyAlexander free soloing the Direttissima. © Heinz Zak

2002, DIRETTISSIMA/HASSE-BRANDLER (VIII+/5.12a), Cima Grande, ItalyLeft: Fear gives way to the necessary full concentration, the world is reduced to the fewsquare centimeters of the next hold. Right: Life hangs on to the fingertips.© Heinz Zak 

2003, OPPORTUNIST (X/5.13d), Schleierwasserfall, AustriaAlexander free soloing the Opportunist (X)at Schleierwasserfall, Tyrol. © Michael Meisl

2004, KOMMUNIST (X+/5.14a), Schleierwasserfall, Austria…on the way to the crux. Alexander free soloingthe Kommunist at Schleierwasserfall, Tyrol. © Heinz Zak

2004, KOMMUNIST (X+/5.14a), Schleierwasserfall, AustriaAlexander doing the crux move.  © Heinz Zak

2004, KOMMUNIST (X+/5.14a), Schleierwasserfall, Austria…the last hard moves. © Heinz Zak

2004, MESCALITO (IX+/5.13a), Karlstein, GermanyAlexander free soloing Mescalito, Karlstein. © Michael Meisl

2006, DENT DU GÉANT, South Face (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, Italy/FranceThe south face of Dent du Géant, 4.013m, Mont Blanc. © Franz Hinterbrandner

2006, DENT DU GÉANT, South Face (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, Italy/FranceAlexander free soloing on immaculate granite.

2006, DENT DU GÉANT, South Face (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, Italy/FranceNearing the end of the crux of the third pitch. © Franz Hinterbrandnerç

2006, DENT DU GÉANT, South Face (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, Italy/FranceThe crux of pitch 3. © Franz Hinterbrandner

2008, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceLeft: The east face of Grand Capucin. Right: The approach couloir. © Heinz Zak

2006, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceRight: The first difficult section. Left: The same spot asseen through the tele from the summit of Trident. © Heinz Zak

2006, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceThe Swiss Route mainly consists of crack- and steep face climbing. © Heinz Zak

2006, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceIt`s a good idea to stay focused on such compact granite... © Heinz Zak

2006, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceSelf confidence in both the physical and mental abilityof oneself is absolutely mandatory. © Heinz Zak

2006, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceBarely distinguishable... a small dot in the middleof the east face of Grand Capucin. © Heinz Zak

2006, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceThe Headwall of the Swiss Route high up on Grand Capucin. © Heinz Zak

2006, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceThe Headwall of the Swiss Route high up on Grand Capucin. © Heinz Zak

2006, GRAND CAPUCIN, SWISS ROUTE (VII+/5.11a), Mont Blanc, FranceAlmost on top. The last hard section on the Swiss Route.  © Heinz Zak

2008, LOCKER VOM HOCKER (VIII/5.11d), Schüsselkarspitze, AustriaThe route follows a natural line up the obvious crack. Alexander on the pitch 1 (VIII-/5.11c). © Michael Meisl

2008, LOCKER VOM HOCKER (VIII/5.11d), Schüsselkarspitze, AustriaAlexander on the classic, clean-cut rock of pitch 1 (VIII-/5.11c). © Heinz Zak

2008, LOCKER VOM HOCKER (VIII/5.11d), Schüsselkarspitze, AustriaNot just raw strength, but also good technique is mandatoryto keep the tricky climbing under control © Heinz Zak

2008, LOCKER VOM HOCKER (VIII/5.11d), Schüsselkarspitze, AustriaMaybe not steep, but featureless. Pitch 3 (VIII/5.11d) is thecrux and not to be taken lightly. © Heinz Zak

2009, MURCIANA (VII+/5.11b), Mallos de Riglos, SpainLeft:  The line of Murciana on Mallo Pison. Right: Continuously steepand difficult. Alexander free soloing Murciana. © Heinz Zak

2009, MURCIANA (VII+/5.11b), Mallos de Riglos, SpainA steep potato field. The conglomerate on the Mallos de Riglos offers some amazing climbing. © Heinz Zak

2009, MURCIANA (VII+/5.11b), Mallos de Riglos, SpainThe crux after 200 meters of climbing. © Heinz Zak




2002, Direttissima/Hasse-Brandler

Free soloing

the Direttissima


Words: Alexander Huber


Free solo is the purest style of climbing. No rope, no harness, no protection on steep rock. Free solo is the direct and honest face-to-face of man and mountain in an intensity not found otherwise.

There is no style in which the mental aspect is as predominant. Here, you can’t conquer the mountain with your physical power, because it is not the mountain, it is yourself that you overcome.

Free Solo. Two short words, which describe the art of rock climbing in its purest form. Imagining how my fingertips separate life and death carried me away, I became obsessed, and embarked on a journey into the yet unknown. I imagined how I would free solo routes I’d already done. And I dreamed about free soloing a big wall in the Alps. Still, before making this dream come true, I had to go through many formative years.
It was only the sum of the experiences I had and the many meters of ropeless climbing that brought me closer to making my dream happen.

In summer 2002, I decided to face the challenge for real: The Direttissima on the Cima Grande. Together with Guido Unterwurzacher from Tyrol, I had climbed the route on sight. After rehearsing the route a few times with Michi Althammer, I felt prepared.

As I started upwards, I felt the pressure, I had to fight those dark thoughts, and eventually down climbed. I’d never felt such intensity in the mountains! I tried to calm down and got myself psyched for another attempt - at least up to the first hard section.

I climbed up. Slowly, with every move, the pressure got less. My movement became fluid, free of the excessive pressure, the paralysing effect of my somber thoughts disappeared. Climbing provided me with the control over my fear. After less than ten minutes, I reached the “Point of No Return”. There, 80 meters above the ground, there was nothing but a short, barely noticeable break in my movement, and I climbed on.

I dove into the world of a free soloist, and lost myself in a maze of individual moves. As if my body was moving on its own, it took me upwards and it was only towards the end of the difficulties that there was room for other thoughts again. I got back to the surface, took notice of my surroundings, saw the depth below me, and the clouds above. The higher I got, the more calm I was - like a river that calmly flows in a wide open delta after turbulent rapids.

The first ascent of the Hasse-Brandler was done by Dietrich Hasse, Lothar Brandler, Jörg Lehne and Sigi Löw in 1958. At the time, it was considered the hardest rock climb in the Alps. It got its first redpoint ascent in 1987, by Kurt Albert and Gerold Sprachmann, and after that it was again one of the hardest alpine free climbs.

Because it is virtually unavoidable to skip loose holds and because several pitches are linked without real rests, free soloing the route certainly results in difficulties of 5.12d.

2003, Opportunist

Free soloing 5.13+


Words: Alexander Huber


Wednesday, February 19, 2003: I meet Michi Meisl at the Schleierwasserfall. The Opportunist is what I came for. If things line up well today, I will go for it. Michi brought his camera because I asked him to take a few photos. I didn’t tell him which photos exactly, though.

We sit on the red bench at the crag. I am calm, not nervous at all. I warm up by removing a couple draws from the wall that would be annoying on the photos. Michi is surprised.

I boulder around a bit. Michi takes photos. Another break. Then I get ready. Michi is surprised again when I ask if everything is fine. No more concentration time or anything - Michi can’t believe his eyes when I suddenly set off. Before he can think and find me through his tele lens, I have already climbed the first three meters:

»Just a minute before setting off, Alexander shares his plans with me. What follows is a classic Huber warm up program - which only consists of removing a couple draws that would be annoying on the photos. I waited in vain for the calm, focussing top climber that prepares himself for a special kind of rush. All I saw was a very stoked Alexander, whose main interest was whether or not he should wear a beanie with a stitched-on mohawk that I had brought along. The beanie was put aside and after a short inquiry if everything is fine on my side, he set off and before I had found him with the tele lens, the first moves were already dealt with. Through the limited viewing field of the mirror reflex finder, I saw him execute each move with incredible precision. He was fully there, and with each move it became more apparent just how wired he had this route. There was absolutely no hesitation at the crux at 12 meters. Even the upper crux, moving into the less steep terrain above the overhang was calmly executed just like the previous moves. After about three minutes the spectacle was over, the film on the camera was exposed and the beanie was again a good reason to fool around.«

2004, Kommunist



Words: Alexander Huber


The Schleierwasserfall remains my favourite crag: The climbing, my friends, the scenery. When I return home after my travels it’s usually within only a couple days that I touch the steep rock of the »Schleier« again.

Here, I know every hold and every move. I know the beta and the details. This is my style of climbing, which is certainly another reason why I love the place as much as I do. I feel at home, and this confidence provides the foundation I need to climb at my limit. Free soloing the Kommunist is at my limit.

A short description on the Kommunist would be: 22 meters, severely overhanging, physical climbing.  The crux is at about 10 meters, right above a large boulder. Enough to make a landing unthinkable.

I was consciously searching for the limit in what I could achieve in climbing. I knew that by free soloing the Opportunist (5.13d), I had not yet reached the limit. On the other hand I knew that I only had a short time left to reach the apex. Year after year, I focused less on sport climbing and I obviously was not getting younger - these factors took their toll on my sport climbing abilities.

My actual climbing ability is indeed only a slight bit above what the Kommunist requires. Consequently, the margin for error is extremely thin. Even after thorough preparation, I am not able to climb the Kommunist every time I try - it takes good shape, freshness, and good conditions. And even then it is a close affair. On the other hand, I have the experience and I know myself and how being sans cord affects my climbing. This enables me to reduce the margin for error to a minimum.

April 20, 2004. It is only 8 am when I arrive the crag. I want to be by myself, the only thing I brought along is a video camera as a silent observer. No one will disturb me, and I won’t disturb anyone. A little bit of bouldering around, and I know that my shape is good, and so are the conditions.

It’s 9 o’clock. I will set off. Just as I am at the base, a hiker comes along. Wait. Small talk.

After five minutes, I decide to no longer wait. I give my camera to the spectator to make sure he’s busy. Without knowing what exactly it is that he’s going to film, he gets ready behind the camera. I prepare myself and set off.

It’s cold, the skin is perfect, and as a result, the grip is fantastic. It’s only at the rest at about five meters that I chalk up exactly once. This is where the Kommunist leaves the Opportunist.

Three finger pocket, two finger pocket, undercling, crimp - it’s only a couple moves, the decisive five meters. The long reaches require powerful climbing, there is no room for thought - and no memory of any thought remains. I don’t even stay for long at the rest above the crux. The last ten meters of 5.12d - I want to get them done. I chalk up twice and move on. Fifteen more moves, and I reach the top.

What follows is a shout of excitement, a quick glimpse down at my concentrated camera man, and a fast descent down a neighbouring 5.10. We shake hands. »You’re a wild boy...« A big grin from me. I am pretty sure that despite this comment, he doesn’t really know what exactly it was that he just filmed.

2004, Mescalito

Short and gnarly


Words: Alexander Huber

Full on and merciless. Even though it’s only rated 5.13a, most people consider Mescalito to be more like modern 5.13c.

When it comes to free soloing the route, this hardly matters at all though. More important is the tricky, low percentage kind of climbing and even if the twelve meter route is quite short: From the base it’s another twenty meters to the ground.

Grade and difficult set aside - Mescalito is my hardest free solo.

2006, Dent du Géant south face


the »Giant’s Tooth«

Words: Alexander Huber

On July 27, 2006 I free soloed the South Face of the Dent du Géant.

I spent a total of three days on the route to rehearse it. I climbed the south face on sight for the first time with Marius Wiest, and a week later I climbed it again with the Tyrolean Guido Unterwurzacher.

The challenge of this ascent does not lie in its difficulty or length, it’s rather the exposure of the peak in the middle of the glaciated high altitude environment. The 4.000 meter peak Dent du Geant is one of the most striking summits in the Mont Blanc Massiv. The 200 meter south face was first climbed in 1935 by Burgasser and Leitz. It involves climbing up to 5.11a and is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and steep routes up one of the high summits in the Alps.

2008, Grand Capucin, Schweizerführe




Words: Alexander Huber


Because of the beautiful shape of this tower, which is unique in the Alps, I felt inspired by the idea of free soloing the hardest mountain in the Alps:  Climbing up a free standing tower without a rope, and then reaching the summit knowing full well that one has to down climb everything!

In early July I visited the Grand Capucin for the first time for this mission. I had a closer look at my plan with Werner Strittl and found a relatively moderate way with difficulties up to 5.10d along the Swiss Route.

But the problem wasn’t solved by simply finding a way to the top. I would have to get back down after my free solo ascent as well! My obvious first choice was to have a look at the way of the first ascensionists from 1924, which leads from the notch on the backside to the summit. A surprise was waiting: Just above the notch, a monolithic and blank sweep of vertical granite.

On the first ascent of the peak, the climbers managed to overcome this problem by using huge metal spikes, which they put into the wall every five meters. What probably used to be connected by ladders and ropes in the old days is nowadays no longer climbable by conventional means…

How would I get down then? A week later I had another look at the situation with Kurt Astner and it quickly became clear that there was no other solution: The only way down was the route I had climbed to the top: Back down along the Swiss Route!

The 400-meter-wall can be described like this: 100 meters of easy snow up a couloir are followed by 300 meters of clean granite. After my preparation ascents I knew the route, and more importantly the tricky bits, but I had to wait with my plan, that is, ascending this exposed summit without any gear. The snowy spring which was a lucky coincidence for the glaciers of the Mont Blanc Massiv made me wait. I had to be patient to make sure that the cracks are not wet or even iced up.

On August 5, everything was finally perfect. The sky was completely overcast, but the conditions were alright - the rock and all the cracks were dry and ice free.

At 10 am I transitioned from the snow couloir onto the rock, 59 minutes later I was on top. On the summit the usual mountain raves keep me company. While it is completely normal for the birds to leave the summit the way they came, I head down after a five minute break.

Of course, the descent was much more difficult than the ascent. You don’t get to see what lies ahead as well, the movement is much less fluid then when climbing up, and as an extra there is constantly necessary look down. This means full concentration, and after one hour and 46 minutes I am back at my crampon stash.

The following descent down the snow couloir and more importantly the huge bergschrund were very easy that day.  The constantly covered sky made for chilly conditions on the route, but also guaranteed rather well frozen snow on the way down in the couloir and on the bergschrund, providing safe passage through this last stretch, which can be very serious for a soloist.

2008, Locker vom Hocker



Words: Alexander Huber


When I was 16, together with Thomas, I climbed this route first done by Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Güllich.

Locker von Hocker is an outstanding climb because it follows such an aesthetic line. The first pitch in particular climbs a unique feature. All this creates a very special allure. I’d carried this »impossible« dream inside me for quite a while, until I was finally able to make it come true.

After a short preparation I free soloed Locker vom Hocker in the fall of 2008.

2009, Murciana



Words: Alexander Huber


There aren’t many places in the climbing world that left a similar impression on me. The little village Riglos below the vertical and overhanging walls of the Mallos.

It is between the cities of Pamplona and Zaragossa that you find these wild conglomerate towers in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It’s no more than 100 meters from the church to the biggest tower, the Mallo Pisón.

With a constantly slightly overhanging wall that rises for 250 meters, the Mallo Pisón evokes a similar feeling to the one I know from standing below the Tre Cime. And indeed: Considering the impression they leave, the Mallos are the Iberian version of the Tre Cime. While they are only half as high, they are just as steep as their famous sisters in the Dolomites. Moreover, the Mallos’ walls are sunny, which gives them a friendly appearance despite their steepness.

In fact the Mallos are a geological formation typical for the Ebro Valley. The big towers and the skinny needles consist of only conglomerate. A strange collection of large blocks, mid-sized stones, and little pebbles, baked together in mix of sand, clay and lime-like cementing material. Some of the blocks are so big that they easily stick out of the wall by a meter.

On a slideshow tour in Spain I got the chance to climb one of the classics, the Murciana on Mallo Pisón. The dream was born. I imagined how awesome it would be to free solo this route, especially because you have to down climb from this tower just like on the Grand Capucin.

In the beginning of 2009, I made it happen.


1. Direttissima/Hasse-Brandler



North face, 2.999 m

Dolomites, South Tyrol,  Italy



550 meters, 20 pitches 5,12a


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Wilder Kaiser, Tyrol, Austria



18 meters, 5.13d or 8b


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Wilder Kaiser, Tyrol, Austria



22 meters, 5.14a or 8b+


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Bad Reichenhall, Bavaria, Germany



12 meters, 5.13b or 8a


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5. Dent du Géant, South Face


4.013 m, Montblanc, Italy/France



200 meters, VII+ or 6c


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3.838 m, Montblanc, France



400 meters, 6b+ or 5.11a


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2.555 m, Wetterstein, Austria



8 pitches, 7a+ or 5.12a


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Mallos de Riglos, Spain



8 pitches, 6c or 5.11b

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