James and Emily’s time was up, so they headed back to England for a fleeting visit before heading to Mallorca. As one party left another arrived and this time it was Paul and Nat who were getting in their first sampling of Austrian climbing whilst on their 6 month euro tour.

A plan was hatched and we would go to check out Niederthai. At the moment everything is an adventure because I have probably been to 1% of the surrounding crags and I really love adventure, so it’s safe to say I’m pretty happy everytime I head out. Walking in to Niederthai was a nice warmup, as a narrow path cut through a forest before revealing some “woah” rocks. I love that feeling of seeing something new, something amazing looking, and just getting inspired to climb, which is exactly what happened. We got stuck in and did some warm ups on the Black and White bloc before moving on to the Steiler Block. This is a pretty interesting rock and this photo gives you an idea of what it looks like;

What you probably can’t tell is that the routes are almost all manufactured. Does this mean they are bad? Well, the guidebook gives some of them 3 stars (out of 3) and after climbing on the wall I’d say they definitely climb well. So what is the beef? Personally, I don’t have any. I think the wall is amazing looking and having some routes up it is better than just having a blank piece of rock. Would I ever drill something myself? No, because I have better things to do than to drill routes… like just going rock climbing. At the end of the day that’s just what I like doing, I like going rock climbing.

Anyway, I was overflowing with PMA and once again I think I managed to convince myself of what I wanted happen would actually happen. I said to Paul that we’d go over and do the 3 star 8a Twilight Zone, then move on to one of the other harder routes. He seemed surprised by this, but I stood fast and said that I was in no doubt that it would get crushed. Sometimes I’m sure that I tell myself these things so much that I end up believing them and then they inevitably spill over in to reality. It’s happened many times before, and I’m sure positive belief in your own ability is the key to success. I think it’s something that all the top guys have and something everyone can and should adopt. Believe you can succeed and you will succeed. Or rather, believe you can succeed and you will have either the same or an increased chance in succeeding (when compared to the other option of doubting yourself!). I went up the 8a and got about halfway before losing my sequence and falling off. I then spent the next 30 mins working out the moves of the upper headwall. The bottom half of the route may be drilled, but the top half is natural and climbs an interesting crack. It took me a while to discover the sequence but when I did it turned out to be super. I don’t know if this kind of move has a name, but essentially you use your leading hand to layback the crack, then use your trailing hand as an undercut layback in the crack, allowing your leading hand to head further upwards. Some jamming, some pinching, some laybacking, and some thank god jugs all played a part in the upper half of the route. I came down and sent paul up it armed with a ridiculous amount of beta. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to find any of my beta very useful (which isn’t surprising when you consider I weigh nearly 50% more than him and love slopers) but after a while he had his own sequence figured out. Once he came back down I had my redpoint attempt. I knew the moves, I had the sequence, I just had to execute. As I set off I immediately felt like I was flowing, which I think is coming from simply feeling more at home on sport routes. I reached the crux, took the hold perfectly, felt strong, and finished the route off. I’d basically willed myself up this route. I was so convinced that I would do it that I think my body had no choice but to play catch up with my brain, and I was pleased to have done it as it meant I could have an ice cream on the way home.

The crux of Masada

After this route was in the back I jumped on the 8a+/b called Masada. I figured the sequence out quickly, and the route revolves around 1 hard move at half height which probably elevates it from 7c+ to 8a+/b. I rested whilst Nat and Paul had a climb and then got ready for a redpoint. I reached the crux, but had wasted energy getting there. There is, in my opinion, 1 bolt too many, and clipping it is a waste of time. The second redpoint was more successful but I just couldn’t muster up enough strength for the deep lock. The third go was better, I missed the clip, I reached the crux feeling good, muttering something like “you’re going to do this right now” under my breath, and locked as deep as necessary. I got the hold, and as I pivoted on the foothold my lower hand suddenly greased out. Damn it! I was happy because I knew I could have done this route, but disappointed that I fell off due to grease (or perhaps I relaxed a split second too soon on that hand – who knows). Night fell all too soon and there was no time for another go, so it got shelved for next time which will likely be sooner rather than later as I’m keen to head back to Niederthai and explore the blocs I didn’t get a chance to see.

looking up Masada

The following day we went the opposite direction to the Zillertal and climbed at ewige jagdgrunde. I felt a little tired to start off with, but some Landjager and karottenbrot got me moving upwards. The real motivation came after I did the warm up route as the rock here was excellent and this is always an inspiring factor for me. I felt suddenly good and decided to head off up a 3 star 7b called Sanyas 365. All was going well, until I suddenly couldn’t see the next hold, and I was off! Turns out the hold I missed was a jug and from there the route is over. Oh well. I came down to the ground and headed back up, cruising up it with the knowledge of where all the holds were. This reminded me just how hard onsighting is, and for me the difference in level between onsight climbing and redpoint climbing is simply gigantic. I am so impressed when I hear of the top guys and girls onsighting hard routes as I think it shows an amazing level of ability, from climbing to route reading to efficient movement. I have much to learn! Afterwards I headed up an amazing 7a+ called Stone Cold Sober. It follows an arête feature, up to a small roof, then further up an arête and face. It’s really great, but once again my foot popped as I reached to what turned out to be a jug after which the route is finished! Punter! I was a little annoyed, but not hugely so as the climbing was amazing. I headed back up it and glued my feet to the holds to make sure nothing silly would happen, and clipped the chains on one of the more interesting sport routes I’ve done and one I can definitely recommend. The final route of the way was Science Fiction, 7b+. You can guess what happened. Another stupid slip as I was reaching to a jug led to an onsight failure! I didn’t even go to the top of the route as I was so annoyed at making such a dumb mistake. I came back down to the ground, pulled the rope, and tied on again. This time I set off and made sure my movement was steadier, hit the jug, then cruised the rest of the way up the route. It turns out that it was probably the easiest route of the day, but that’s grades for you.

All the routes at Hauptwand (the bloc I’ve just described) and extremely cruxy. They all feature one move which is much harder than all the others, making the routes both easy and hard. Easy if you read it correctly, annoying if you don’t. I’d managed to screw them all up, but it was great practice and I was happy just to get in a bit of climbing in a new (and once again amazing) place. Next time I go up there I want to explore the other boulders in the area as there look to be some excellent routes on beautiful rock.

I wasn’t so sure I would get into this whole sport climbing thing, but the more I do the more I sense a stronger attraction. Finding a flow and climbing more than 4 moves is nice. I’m certainly not saying that the boulderer in me is being crushed, but I’m enjoying this fresh challenge a lot. Variety is the spice of life, and specialisation for the insects.