Simon Gietl frees Can you hear me at UIAA 10 (F8a+/8b)
- Wednesday 3rd March 2021
South Tyrolean climber Simon Gietl recently free-climbed Can you hear me on the west face of the steep and intimidating Cima Scotoni in the Dolomites.
Together with his climbing partner Andrea Oberbacher from South Tyrol, Simon Gietl completed the ascent with 21 pitches, including sections at UIAA 10 (F8a+/8b) on 15 August last year. After numerous attempts and years of physical and mental training, he felt ready to climb the route in one push without falls. Simon Gietl climbed the route in memory of his climbing partner Gerhard “Gerry” Fiegl. Simon Gietl had originally planned to climb the route with Gerry before the Austrian alpinist was tragically killed in 2015, aged just 27 during an expedition in the Annapurna Massif.
The hardest sections of the route would prove to be UIAA grade 10; pitch six in particular, is said to be exceptionally challenging. A first look at the individual pitches left Simon frustrated. He realised that he was neither physically nor mentally capable of free-climbing the route. In the autumn of 2018 he tried to push Can you hear me to the back of his mind when he travelled with Thomas Huber to Pakistan.
A year later, in early summer 2019, Simon stood at the foot of the route again. The left side of the Scotoni face was still wet in places, due to the low temperatures and high rainfall. However, at this stage he was only interested in the tough sixth pitch. Once again, he failed. Gietl described the attempt: “The big roof band in the lower third of the wall completely shut me down.” As he had a further expedition planned to Pakistan in 2019, Gietl postponed further attempts on the route until 2020. He chose to tackle it with his climbing partner and mountain guide colleague Andrea Oberbacher.
At the start of August 2020, Gietl unlocked pitch six. By now, he was also able to climb all the other difficult sequences. For the final, top part of the route Gietl came back with Jakob Steinkasserer to take a more detailed look. Like Gietl, the young, ambitious climber from Antholz in South Tyrol was “fascinated by its steep, exposed nature.”
On 15 August 2020, after two years of working at it, Gietl finally succeeded. Conditions were excellent as he and Andrea Oberbacher walked in. The team had a long day ahead and started climbing in the early hours of the morning. However, things didn’t going according to plan. During the third pitch, Gietl experienced his first difficulties: “There was this very delicate and tricky chimney-like flake, it was impossible to climb with any kind of flow.” In the following pitch, things went from bad to worse. Pitch four requires solid climbing at UIAA grade 9. The climbing is delicate and falling not a good idea given the long run-outs, bold sequences and dubious rock. Gietl describes the climbing: “Several times my fingers slipped from the wet and slippery holds, I somehow managed to manoeuvre myself back in to the wall, otherwise I would have been off.” This pitch also saves its hardest move until the end, where Gietl had to quickly snatch from a slippery hole to grab the final ledge.
In an effort to shake off the negative thoughts before setting off on the crucial sixth pitch Gietl focused on the rock face ahead and, having cleaning off the holds, he tried the hardest sequences. His first attempt to redpoint the crucial sixth pitch came just before noon. Gietl again: “The pressure to succeed and the crippling moves seemed to fall away. For the first time, I started to feel to feel light and to flow.” Committing to the key moves on the massive roof Gietl made it to the final, thank-god jug.
Although they had now freed what was by far the hardest pitch they still had another 14 pitches to go to reach the summit. Although not as hard the remaining pitches still had difficult and in places very delicate climbing. Finally, when the one-day redpoint ascent was within their grasp, did they “gradually change from tense and hesitant moves to more flowing sequences.” Before the final pitch leading to the summit at 2,874 metres, Gietl checked his watch. “We had plenty of time for the final pitch. But our exhilaration was mixed with a special kind of humbleness.” On reaching the summit, they dedicated the climb to Gerry Fiegl.