Laura Tiefenthaler Defeats Doubts for Eiger North Face Solo

Alone at 3,970m on the North Face of the Eiger, Austrian alpinist Laura Tiefenthaler found herself in rare air. She had just become the second woman ever to solo the legendary wall. Tiefenthaler topped out the Heckmair Route (60°, M6, WI5, 1,800 m) on March 25.

She had eyeballed the solo for about a week leading up to the ascent. Unusually favorable weather had already helped her scope the route on March 8, roped up with Jana Möhrer. Shortly after that, Rolando Garibotti helped her dream up the solo attempt.

eiger north face

The North Face of the Eiger. Photo: Terra3 via Wiki Commons

Doubts, and an initial setback

She confessed on Instagram that at first, she doubted her ability to bring it up.

“Rolando Garibotti came up with the idea to go back to the Heckmair by myself,” the young alpinist wrote. “For him, it seemed like an obvious choice after climbing it with Jana had felt so good two weeks earlier. For me, it was not even a possibility, but when he mentioned it, desire immediately grew. Doubts about my abilities and too many people on the wall were on my mind. However, the dream was born, so I drove there to have a look.”

She proceeded to try the solo once unsuccessfully on March 24. Tiefenthaler charged into the task but got lost and retreated after a route-finding mistake.

“[M]y mind game was not the best,” she said.

Tiefenthaler recovers with a key mental adjustment

But Tiefenthaler didn’t give up. Instead, she descended to the Grindelwald train station and mentally regrouped. While there, she decided on the ground rules for her next attempt. One of them was to keep an open mind.

“I spent the whole day at the train station, watching tourists, recharging, and setting my mind in the right place,” she said. “The first rule was to get down safely, the second to have fun, not to have it feel like an exam, but rather go there with curiosity.”

The approach worked. The next day, she hiked out at 1 am with a recharged psych.

“I felt good. Doubts were magically gone,” Tiefenthaler said. “With curiosity as my main motivation, and knowing that up to a point, I could get down, it felt safe to go explore. As I progressed, confidence grew.”

Tiefenthaler didn’t rush the ascent. She slowed down to rope solo some sections where she felt less secure. She also strategically worked around other parties on the route to give the adventure the exploratory texture she sought.

The Eiger, solo with style and a solid mentor

“Reaching the Traverse of the Gods at 10 am, I knew that time was on my side. I slowed down, prioritizing safety over speed, and topped out at 4 pm, exceeding my expectations.

“I shared the climb with three other parties but mostly managed to stay a good distance away from them, having the type of experience I was looking for. What a trip! What an experience,” Tiefenthaler said.

tiefenthaler north face

On the Eiger summit with Jana Möhrer. Photo: Laura Tiefenthaler

 

The Austrian signed off with thanks to Garibotti, who stayed a phone call away throughout the climb. The two did share some hairy conversations during the process.

“Sorry for scaring the shit out of you, but it’s your own fault,” Tiefenthaler teased. “It is great to have a friend and mentor who believes in one’s abilities more than oneself without putting pressure.”

Probable second female ascent

Tiefenthaler likely became the second woman to solo the North Face of the Eiger and the first to do it in three decades. The legendary Catherine Destivelle first broke the glass ceiling on the iconic wall on March 10, 1992.

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.


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B.G.
B.G.
30 days ago

Didn’t Alison Hargreaves solo it too?

Jerry Kobalenko
Admin
30 days ago
Reply to  B.G.

According to mountaineering writer Ed Douglas, Hargreaves climbed the Heckmair route with Steve Aisthorpe in 1988.

B.G.
B.G.
30 days ago

Fair enough, the route not the wall then.

D.p
D.p
29 days ago
Steve Jones
29 days ago
Reply to  D.p

Alison Hargreaves soloed The Lauper Route on NE Face as one of her six Alpine North Faces.

Kevin
Kevin
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jones

So that does not count?
I read the link.
I always thought Allison did.

Kevin
Kevin
27 days ago
Reply to  Kevin

Is her route not considered North Face?
And I spelled her name wrong.

Praeriepantjer
Praeriepantjer
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jones

Alison soloed a variation of the Lauper route. It has always been considered as a north face solo, it was part of her “6 north faces in a year” project. Not too nice to ignore her fully while she was the second ever to solo the Mordwand.