This piece covers my thoughts on Arete du Cosmique, when I found myself a few meters above the last belay in loose rock and under the attentive eyes of the tourists on Aiguille du Midi.
The climb as such is perfectly covered in UKC (see here). After reading this article I was not really scared of the climb as such. I just wanted to look like a pro when arriving at the terrace. Forget about equalized anchors, a good rappel or anything like that. Just look as if you knew what you were doing.
First of all, there was no snow on the ridge (which we know from speaking with fellow climbers in the Cosmique hut). This made it somewhat straightforward, although I from time to time ended up in minor difficulties finding the way – I still believe we totally went the wrong way at the first gendarm. After starting out with over-engineered belays, I finally picked up speed in the last part of the climb. The crux is a section almost at the end of the route, which I did not lead. After that I received the gear and was supposed to go for it, believing that it was merely a walk to the famous ladder leading to the terrace on Midi. Well, it wasn’t.
After being exposed on the ridge for quite some time, I wanted it to be a walk. At that time I was not longer motivated and just wanted to get over with the ridge. Eyes set on the finish line and still some meters to cover. This made me, against better knowledge, go further than I would have in other cases. Friends and slings were all but one gone from my harness, dangling on the harness of my buddy, a few meters below / behind (as the part was kinda flat). Suddenly the rock was not longer as solid as we experienced it the whole day. No gear left, loose rock and an exposed section to come.
Everything that came to my brain that second was: „Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t. WHY ME?“
I am from the northern part of Germany, we do not have any mountains at all (Bungsberg does not count as mountain). People go sailing there, ride their bikes along the Kiel Canal or have barbecues on the beach. How could I end up in Chamonix, leading this?
This is why: My brother and I watched too many episodes of german television’s show „Wildbach“, covering the work of a mountain rescue squad in an imaginary village somewhere in Bavaria (just youtube it). This can really have an impact on a child of nine years…
Another piece in the puzzle is the „climbing wall“ that starred every street festival of the nineties. Here is a so far unpublished shot of me mastering the incredible wall (rated at least 6a – at least it felt like 6a back then).
Years later in Regensburg I joined the mountain rescue myself. Finally being there, walking in the footsteps of my childhood heroes. Left the mountain rescue after I spent more time with my girlfriend than at lessons and trainings. Today I know I should have done it the other way round in the first place.
After my pupil’s exchange to Kyrgyzstan I felt like moving to the mountains and so I did in 2004. Instead of joining the army the civil service turned out to provide me with a sound training in mountaineering (conducted by my colleague Valentin, who also taught me how to ski). One day we ran up the Tegelberg just before starting work, which was a great tour and my first encounter with mountain running.
We agreed to start at 5, but he woke me at 4, telling me that he calculated the time again and we should get going. We reached the summit, went back down and worked in the kitchen for the rest of the day. I loved it!
Here is the photo of me learning how to ski at 10pm (these are my skis, old Kästle ski with a silvretta steel binding):
This was just the start. I just kept going, logging in more and more summits. Assessing this gives me a clear picture, how I ended up on that ridge. Conducting the next logical step for a few years can in fact get you on that ridge, the summit of Montblanc or to leading a 4c in 4000m on Dent du Geant…