Defying gravity: Rock climber becomes first woman to conquer fearsome Austrian route

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Climbing legend takes on unknown rock face near her Austrian home.

Angy Eiter has become a legend in the climbing world, the Austrian following up her 9b ascent in the back end of 2017 with a different test on home soil in Austria in 2020 as she tackled the unknown face she called Madame Ching. Here is all you need to know:

It took the 34-year-old from the Tyrol two years to build up the courage to take on a line that her husband Bernie Ruech had first bolted in the spring of 2018.

The route was free of traces, so searching for the holds and how the moves were going to play out was an exciting proposition for Angy who has been at the vanguard of her sport since winning her first World Cup event back in 2003 – despite a serious left shoulder injury in 2008 that needed surgery and nine months of rehabilitation.

Four World Cup titles and four World Championship golds later, the diminutive phenomenon drew inspiration from her redpointed route at La Planta de Shiva in Villanueva del Rosario, Spain which saw her become the first woman to achieve a 9b climb.

She said: “The Madame Ching line is similar to the 9b as it traverses from right to left up to the overhang. It was completely without traces and I had to clean the dirt from rocks and broken holds. The rock was really fragile and Bernie used glue to fix some holds.”

Angy had to train hard indoors to visualise the route and get ready physically as finger strength and body contortion would need to work in complete harmony.

She revealed: “Since 2014 I have been struggling with pain on the partly ripped hamstrings on my left thigh. Now I am struggling with another ripped hamstring on the right thigh too. Injuries challenge me to follow therapy daily and to do other strategies and techniques, so I can move without these muscles.”

Tough weather can trouble even a confident climber like Angy who completed four 9a redpointed routes from 2014-2019 in Austria, Spain and Italy.

She added: “The day of the ascent was quite strange. When I arrived, it was totally wet. Luckily, I waited an hour and used tissues to dry the holds and a strong wind came up – because a thunderstorm was uncomfortably near – and the wall dried off. I knew I had to do it then because otherwise it would rain heavily. About five moves before the top, I felt rain on my skin, but the last part was easy.”

It took Angy – who has been inspired by the likes of Lynn Hill and Beth Rodden before her – approximately 100 moves to reach the top, which could well have been easier for a taller climber with longer arm and leg length as she only stands five feet and one inch tall.

She explained: “I felt it would not be possible to complete the whole line, but Madame Ching was a Chinese pirate and she fought with a lot of strong nations and I fight with hard routes. I am not the strongest woman and I am very small, and I am happy that I can show other women that they can also do it.”

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