15 years ago today Hansjörg Auer set a major milestone in mountaineering history with his daring free solo of the Via Through the Fish on the south face of the Marmolada in the Dolomites
In just under 3 hours on Sunday 29 April 2007, 15 years ago today therefore, Hansjörg Auer set a major milestone in the history of alpinism with his extraordinary free solo of the Fish Route on the immense south face of the Marmolada in the Dolomites. A ropeless ascent which even today beggars belief: acting completely on his own (he had only confided his project to a friend and his brother), the day before Auer abseiled down the route and briefly checked out some of the crux sections, before spending the night at the winter bivouac of the Falier refuge. With nothing more than a pair of climbing shoes, a chalk bag, a windproof jacket and a helmet, at 9 am he started climbing and at 11:55 he reached the summit. 2 hours and 55 minutes. Below him lay the infinite smooth limestone slabs, an absolute void, utterly desperate moves and one of mountaineering’s most important, landmark achievements.
Auer’s ascent contains many interesting details, such as the fact that he returned a week later with his brother Matthias and friend and photographer Heiko Wilhelm in order to take the photos that caught the world’s attention. And also the fact that his audacious solo was witnessed by a German couple who, fortuitously, happend to repeat nearby Don Quixote. Auer had timed his ascent extremely early in the season, there was no one else about and even if he had free soloed Tempi Moderni the previous year, it is highly likely that many would not have believed him, since with this masterstroke he raised the bar beyond what was previously considered possibile. But reality defied imagination. And the rest, as they say, is history.
As is well known, Auer passed away in 2019 in a climbing accident on Howse Peak in Canada with David Lama and Jess Roskelley. Earlier on today, Auer’s parents visited the “placche d’argento”, the silver slabs in the Italian Dolomites where Hansjörg realised his most intimate dream. Most of the winter snow has melted already, there’s no one around, the sun is out and there’s a light breeze. Just like 15 years ago.
The Fish route – Via Attraverso il Pesce
First ascent: Jindrich Sustr & Igor Koller 2 – 4 August 1981.
First repeat: Luisa Iovane, Heinz Mariacher, Bruno Pederiva, Maurizio Zanolla Manolo, 1984.
First redpoint: Heinz Mariacher & Bruno Pederiva 1987