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Des Kaisers neue Kleider (8b+)

/ Climbing

Finally! We’ve done it! These are the first words that come to my mind. Since September last year when we felt we could conquer the last pitch, we’ve been anxious to visit the Clothes. We couldn’t make it in June, in July we didn’t even start. Finally we grasp a few days off in August. The forecast for Wilder region – rainy, as always!


We are riding for conquest (not knowing yet we are going to conquer) in the last years’ lucky team including Justyna and Marek. Then we completed End of Silence, so how about Clothes now??? Having re-packed the car in Katowice we made a decision to travel to Arco. In Austria we wait for a change in weather. Since we’re here, let’s not waste time...

Wow, what a week! Something was on everyday and each of these days affected the next. The decisions were made in accord, quickly and spontaneously.

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Day 1

We approach the summit of Monte Brento to see how the boys are basejumping but most of all to see where the end of Brento Centro route is. We want to try to rappel and make the three last pitches (8b, 900m). We have not seen the jumps due to strong winds and the route we managed to find after a few hours’ search. It is too late to try anything tonight.

Day 2

The same thing over and over again. The wind is as strong as the day before, but it seems some simply don’t mind. When approaching a small mushroom rock we hear an excited voice performing a countdown, preparing for a jump. We have only managed to step over to the edge and we can see people flying away in their wingsuits. Mindblowing! On the spot we all state that we would order the same treat anyday…
Well, time to pack our things and set off. A pity that it has just started to rain. Before we descend, we wait under a roof for a bit. Unfortunately, more clouds approached, the rain was getting heavier, no perspectives for a weather gap. Sh*t! So, we make our  way down in the drizzling rain, setting a new Guiness record as far as a number of swearwords used in one descend is concerned. The next day though greets us with sunshine. No changes in Wilder though – raining cats and dogs all the time.

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Day 3

Having analysed topo of Brento Centro, we remark that from rappel only 2, maybe 3 pitches can be patented. Before that, the route goes in traverse, which makes getting acquainted with the line there impossible. It’s not enough for us, we really need to get our asses kicked properly. We feel an urge to finally touch the solid, vertical rock, not only look upon it from its base. So we choose a 420-metre route called Vrai Plaisir 8a+, which is commonly known as “Pampers” and is situated on the face of Piccolo Dain. The permanent protection is poor at best. I come to notice that to the full extent at the 2nd pitch were call an option for a flight with a hold staying firm in my hand as opposed to it being stuck to the wall, where it belongs. On my way down, I manage to hit a ledge, hurting my heel. I lose my drive and rappel to anchor. Jaca takes the lead. He manages to reach the spot I fell off from and… it starts to rain. F**k!!! Drizzle becomes downpour. The rock is slippery. We decide to fall back to the first anchor and wait. One hour later the situation is the same, so we return to the base of the wall. A retreat. Again we swear our path down the slope. In an act of pure despair, we perform some rock climbing in Masone. Better this than nothing. Still no changes in Wilder.

Day 4

We call a day’s rest, so on the next day we may approach Piccolo Dain again and drive back to Poland on the day after. We did not take Clothes under consideration. Lazily strolling through the village, I get an sms from Jaca which went something like this: “a ridge of African high pressure in Austria for the next 30 hours”. So there’s no time to waste on thinking – an evening’s climb in Masone to give our blood a pumping, a rest and off we go to the Clothes.

Day 5

This was to be the first day on which we were supposed to get a good nap, rest, the only effort being commuting to Wilder Kaiser in the evening. Taking a stroll along the Garda shore, our minds were already crossing the wall, overcoming pitches and sequences. We then have lunch at base-jumpers’ landing zone, so we can give the jumps from another viewing angle. Everything looks very safe, until open-chute on his way down, one of the jumpers touches a tree. Just a little later another two chutes are opened, but only one of them falls softly to the ground, while the other seems to hover in the air. We become witness to an air hair-raising drama. The second jumper has crushed into the slope. The rescue team is dispatched immediately in a helicopter. Everything is happening very fast. The rest of the jumps is put on hold, as everyone waits for the events to unfold. The chopper lands but only a body wrapped in a black bag is carried out of it. We are shocked. For a while, a piece of beauty turns into a nightmare. This makes us reflect on our own lives. But life is as we know it, and on the next day another dispatch of jumpers will visit Monte Brento and we will be climbing a wall far away by then. So I make a quick philosophical regard to my partner in words: “What the fuck, man! Tomorrow we must be on our tiptoes.”

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The day we’ve been waiting almost 12 months for:

We rise and shine at 5.30 – we must reach the wall first. In June we slept longer and had to pass a German team hovering on an anchor. The point was convenient for two, but had to room four. Hardcore! It takes us an hour to set off from the parking. Everything goes as planned. Its chilly but sunny. On our way, we hit the bushes and defecate, so we travel light :) So far on our way up, we don’t see anyone. Jaca climbs the first, easy pitch. The second 7c+ goes through a very insecure face, where one false move ends in a fall. I’m tense, very tense! I cannot discard those irritating thoughts that this is our only and last attempt this year. I climb very slow, but effectively and in full control over my body balance. Never have I fallen off this pitch and manage not to fall this time too.
But now the real test starts. Jaca ascends the 8a+ - meaning exactly how hard that pitch is. It once was 8b, but they lowered it half-a-step. In the meantime many holds have eroded and fallen off, but the rating stayed the same. Now we shall see what my partner is made of. No warm-up for him, so he will probably first use quickdraws, then descend and try again. Wrong! Watching him do it, makes it look like a piece of cake. He holds his balance on footholds like a true master, rests the perfect amounts of time and relentlessly exploits every fault of the rock. He beats the crux in the first attempt and finishes the pitch. I spread my eyes in amazement, barely stopping my hands from applauding him. This can be said for sure: my climbing partner is in perfect shape, concentrated, focused on the aim he came here for.

The second test is 8b+ going through a massive overhang. We must complete this pitch fast, cause the anchor we currently are hanging from is very uncomfortable. We also are aware this pitch is most vulnerable to soaking. We can see a lot of wet spots, but perhaps the holds were spared? I cannot relieve myself of tension. So it simply had to end this way – in my first attempt, I fall off in the first hard spot available. In my second attempt, the stress doesn’t go away and I fall off once again in the middle of the pitch in the second hard spot with my limbs swollen from the effort. I climb the rest of the route from one quickdraw to another, marking the key holds. Had I even managed to climb this, I would have fallen off the top from the leaking underclings. I use almost a full toilet paper roll just to have them dry. Jaca lowers me to the anchor. I feel very ashamed for climbing like a pussy. I give myself a little break and try again. This time I can finally feel the flow. The movements are fluid and certain and I have cast my previous tries into oblivion. It is here and now that are important. Having passed through the second bould, I jam my knee into a crack and give thumbs-up to Jaca, signalling all is good and have still strength reserves left. I finish the pitch, scream in pure joy and feel light-hearted.

Another stretch constitutes a very long 8a demanding great stamina. I suggest Jacek to use the quickdraws so to remember the sequences but he shakes his head. Seeing him pass the hard spot with such an ease makes me comprehend I actually might have offended him. Again, all I see in his climb is pure calm and focus. He reaches another anchor in great style.

At 3 p.m. we reach a convenient shelf under the last pitch on the route (6c+ - but who’s counting such a formality). We are feeling elated, we rest, eat our food reserves. Success is at hand. We remembered all the sequences from our last year’s June attempt. Jaca makes a sample tryout – attaches the quickdraws, cleans the holds, reminds the sequence himself and for me. I make the first attempt. I lose my way at the ascent, but I manage to approach the crux and there I fall off. I try again instantaneously. And one more time – to the same result, as I seem unable to switch my feet on a hold. Jaca tries as well, and he falls off, too. I notice that moving from the crux, I can’t statically place my leg but must kick it to the next foothold. Doing it in a sequence makes it come out differently every time and that is the reason we fail. We have to try something new and more predictable. I come with an idea to put the leg in more statically but that makes us use more force on the holds. Jaca adds a hand sequence to the new footwork. He tests it and remarks everything is easier. We start to think this might work. A few hours have passed since we have reached the shelf and we are getting more tired with every minute. I try the new concept out. I approach the crux, exploit every remaining bit of the energy left in me, I pass it and… fall off the next hold. Unbelievable!

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I tell Jacek, I will rest for a while and try for the last time. Same story. I fall off exactly the same spot. I get cramps and can feel my body not responding to my command. It’s been 12 hours on the face already. Jacek concentrates and attacks, him being our last hope. This is simply beyond belief – he falls right off the same spot! The fatigue has created yet another this time it seems unpassable crux right next to the one we managed to vanquish. I am ready to retreat, yet a strange thing happens. Jacek states he will not move out until this route is complete. “- Are you bullshitting me? This is over, man” – I thought. So, Jacek approaches the spot and looks for an easier move sequence. I belay him, head low, hopelessly looking forwards. I can feel him struggle and then I hear him shouting: “- I got it! This is the way!” And to prove his point, he shows me not one but two ways to get it done. Shit, this does look easier.

Johny – he says – let’s rest for a moment and then do it in one go! We can do it!

So I decide to concentrate yet one more time, against my own wits. This will be my 7th attempt at this pitch, not to count yet another three on the 8b+ below. So it comes down to the very same thing. I pass the first crux and approach the second – it’s time to test the new idea. I search for the marked foothold, put my foot on it and… it’s working!!! I reach the hold and can rest. Now it’s time for the second section of route, being about 7c+, requiring lots of strength and stamina. I can’t afford to fall off this bit. There is not enough strength left in me, can’t hold on but I have the drive to pull this off in this go and reach the next anchor. This time that suffices.

Now comes this magic moment, only two of us can fully comprehend. The true, pure joy, excitement, elation that we have truly done it. That day we were the champions of the world and reached our Everest, transcended to yet higher level of our skills. Doing our best that day proved not to be enough to vanquish the Clothes. We had to do more than that…

Łukasz Dudek (Portal Górski, 8a.pl)

Check out Jacek and Lukasz blog if you’d like to read more on their battles with the Alpine Trilogy.
Gallery from the Alpine Trilogy can be found here.
We would also like to invite you to read the blog of Łukasz Dudek on Mountain Portal.

Łukasz was helped by a new to Polish market rope brand – Cousin Trestec.

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