Fabian Buhl’s story is as curious as interesting and admirable. This young 24-year-old German climber has a long and wide career as an ethusiastic boulderer. His boulder curriculum includes the sent of Dreamtime 8C at Cresciano on spring 2013, as well as almost a dozen 8B+ lines in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and South Africa.
A series of ankle injuries forced him to be away of boulder for a while. Instead of complaining, he made a surprising turn in his climbing career. His amazing achievement was the ascent of Prinzip hoffnung, the demanding trad route of 8b+ by Beat Kammerlander at Bürser Platte.
Apparently, he began to like playing with gear and decided that the next step should be going into multipitch. And what could be better than doing it with another creation of his admired Beat Kammerlander? So he went to the Rätikon and bagged Silbergeier (200 m, 8b+). The last step forward was made by him last week at Loferer Alm, where he completed the second ascent of Nirwana, route created on 2012 by Alex Huber. With a cotation of 8c+, it’s one of the hardest multipitch routes of the world.
How have you noticed Nirwana and what made you finally go to try it?
I first noticed Nirwana, when I was on Alex Hubers homepage, when I flipped through the impressive pictures. This was in Spring after I have done Prinzip Hoffnung and was searching for a new challenge in form of a multipitch project. But I was scared while watching the topo and I thought Silbergeier, is maybe a better start. After getting used to multipitch climbing, I was keen to try it in the middle of summer. Actually this was a bad idea, it was really hot and we slipped from the jugs in the first pitches, this day left me with a lot of airmiles 😉 behind I did not even reach the top of the wall. The beauty of the line impressed me and I was keen to come back.
But I first wanted to do Silbergeier, after sending it in fall, I had to go to university again, so Lofer is closer and I anyway thought about trying it some more, in order to prepare it for spring.
How much time did you spend on it until finally sending it?
I spend around 7 days in the route, 3 off them I was alone with my Micro Traxion and worked on the crux pitch, to find the best possible solution for me and study them over and over. I think it might not have been many days, but for sure I have never spend more hours on trying the cruxes over and over. Most of these days I walked to the top rappelled into the crux and spend like 5 hrs there.
I think this is the only reason why could climb it, because I was tired after the first boulder out of three, but my body knew what to do and I just let do him the program. I did not even realize it until I was standing in the las runout to the belay.
How would you describe the line?
Nirwana is on the Sonnwendwand at Loferer Alm, it is a big cliffline, which is pretty steep and formed by superb limestone. The first 4 pitches are around 7b+ and there is most of the time only one bolt per pitch, so you have to use trad gear and climb long runouts. In the beginning it is steep and yellow rock, but very solid and pure joy to climb it. Then you have an 8b which is short, but it has one very dynamic boulderproblem in it, which is very unique for a multipitch. You are above the bolt and have to jump like 1.5m up and hold the tension, it is not a jug you are going for.
Then the rock gets perfectly grey and is vertical, here you have the 50m crux pitch which consists out of 3 boulder cruxes, with the haredst beeing at the top. In between the boulders you either have powerclimbing on pockets or you have a technical section. The complexity of this pitch is amazing.
For the finish you have a roof with a crack in it, which is very unusual for limestone and I had do learn how to climb it. It is a very nice end to a great route.
The whole route has 2 bolts on the belays and is 200m long, in order to protect the 7 pitches, Alex used 17 bolts, So it is not only physically but also mentally demanding.
Do you agree with the grades?
I have only done 8b+ and 8c boulders but never done a 8c+ sportclimb, I just tried a few in this grade region and they feel similar. So I am not the one you judges over the grades. But I can tell you that I had to put a lot more into Nirwana then doing Silbergeier and I had to try hard to find my beta for the really hard boulder problems. I think it is my style of climbing, I like small holds and technical climbing, but nonetheless it felt hard.
I think it can hold the grades and Alex has so much experience in grading that I think he is right. I also think it is one of the more challenging multipitches in the world.
Actually we know you as a boulderer, and we have been surprised by your ascent of Prinzip Hoffnung and now Nirwana. How does this change come?
Breaking my ankle twice was actually good in the long run, I was not allowed to jump down so I just searched for other challenges. I found this in Prinzip Hoffnung, and I wnaned to test myself and see if I can handle my head and climb also free on traditional protection. After my ascent I wanted to go into the mountains and try a multipitch. I grew up in the mountains, so I really like to spend a lot of time there. When trying Silbergeier I started to realize that I can control my mind pretty good and also that I can handle long working days. I really started to enjoy the long days working on a route together with friend or alone. For me it is so much more then going bouldering a day and I had an amazing time in the mountains this year. Nirwana was just the logical step for me, it is more difficult, was worse protected, so it had more to offer for me and I was ready to try my best and accept the challenge.
So the change was one small step after the other this year bouldering strength was the perfect base for me, and I hope to improve a lot as an allround climber in the next years. I just try to have as much good days in the mountains as possible, no matter if it is while bouldering or multipitch climbing. I think going with the season is the best and you can improve your bouldering shape and also push your multipitch climbing.
And whats about Sportclimbing?
Thats actually a good question, I do not know but somehow I had not been attracted to it so much this year. I was sportclimbing a few days and also worked on some projects, but I never got as syked as on other climbing styles. I think I miss the mental challenge, but I hope to get more into routes as well, because it would help my multipitch performance as well. But I think for multipich climbing you need a good maximum power to climb over the boulderproblems because the pitches are not so resistant then climbing a long endurance sportroute. But we will see…