2 The video-still above shows the moment I was living for the last thirteen years. Getting this finish-jug for the first ascent of the "highlander" was the dream I was chasing since my very first day up there at Sustenpass. It all started in summer 2003 with me standing at the parking of „Sustenbrüggli“ and watching up to this big boulder named „Traumland“. I instantly realized a line of holds crossing the whole boulder from down right up to the far left. I asked Simon if this line already had been climbed. He laughed. He thought I was crazy. And well he was right. Later in the day I tried the "middle-part" of the line I had imagined. This is the classic "Traumland" and I was literally not able to do one move. Nice try. But I was attracted to this big piece of gneiss nevertheless. What I did not know at that time was that I would be back climbing on this line for every year for the following 13 years. It is the story of a long journey that shows that you can turn your dreams into reality when you are truly passionate, willing to go the extra mile and ready to test and push your limits. As I was not one of these super talents who crush their first 8C boulder or 9a route when they are 15years old I had to go more then once this extra mile. It all started when I did quit a possible professional career in soccer with 20 because I was really curious about climbing. At this time I was not even able to climb a 6a route in the Gaswerk-climbing-gym. If anybody had told me at this time I would ever be able to climb in the 8th-grades I would have laughed at him. 1 Soaking up the sun at Sustenpass, Switzerland To climb difficulties like that was just light-years away and I did not even dare think for a second about things like that. But this was never the focus anyway. I was amazed by the whole package. The climbing. The movement on rock. The lines and puzzles nature shapes and creates. All the areas you get to know. The travels. The drive to the crag. The coffee on the way. The walk to the boulders. Soaking in nature. During the day. During the night. With friends. Just by myself. I am getting 39 years old this year and I am still loving it. 3 Back in 2010. A first milestone with the first ascent of „Deadalus, 8B+“ Over the years I climbed lots of the classic problems up at Sustenpass. The big line, the "highlander-project" was always in the back of my mind. But I knew it was way too big. So first I climbed the middle part, the classic "Traumland". After climbing "le reve de faire", the second part of the "highlander-project" it was finally time to really go for it. But I had to bail out pretty fast. I quickly realized that it was still way over my head. Instead I opted to first top out via the easier and very classic "Traumland". This was already a hell of a fight. But I got it back in 2010 when I was able to complete this easier version of the"Highlander"-project. a nice line itself; "Ikarus" ends at the Traumland-finish and"Deadalus" toping out. Every year I was up there falling on the last two hard moves. Battling wet holds when I was in great shape, missing perfect conditions because of illness, bad skin, too much work, broken holds, blew my knee, blew my fingers. Once in the middle of the crux-section a foothold broke. Making it just a little harder. But it took me two weeks to get to the last two moves again. And then winter hit. At your limit the difference between possible and impossible it’s very small. 4 Trying everything to get rid of „cold fingers“... The most frustrating thing was to have really good tries, falling down at the last move and then coming back three days later and somehow not getting the first crux done anymore which is way lower in the boulder. And the craziest thing was that at the end of the day I still was able to climb all the hard climbing from just three hard moves in despite being super tired. My main problem though was (and still is) "cold fingers". Arriving in the upper crux I usually could not feel the holds anymore. Even in the middle of summer. This was not just "too cold". I somehow managed to press all the blood out of my fingertips. Resulting in numb fingers. That resulted in countless dry-fires off the crux-sequence. I tried everything to avoid this. Tried to activate blood circulation by running or putting my hands in ice-cold water or I tried to "shake out" quickly in between moves. This however just needed more power and the fingers on the other hand got cold because I had to hold on even more while "shaking out". It turned out that summer was even worse. Because of the missing friction I had to dig even deeper and pressed all the blood out of my tips. With decent friction I did not have to press that hard on the holds and did not get such "cold" fingertips. Then came 2012. This was one of the best and the worst year I ever had. In spring I was able to do the first ascent of "Der mit dem Fels tanzt, 8C" in Chironico (still just one repetition from Dai Koyamada). But despite great form I did not manage to send the "Highlander" that season. Last move. But that's not enough. 5 Another milestone in 2012. The first ascent of „Der mit dem Fels tanzt, 8C“. Chironico Switzerland. In late fall things turned very bad. It was a beautiful fall and I again I was close to stick was close to stick that last hard move of the highlander-project at Sustenpass. The weather forecast predicted one of the last days of the season. So I was up there one more time. It was a beautiful day with great friction and I felt super strong and did not have too cold fingers when arriving in the upper crux of the highlander-project. Very unfortunately I managed to rip of my hamstrings off from my hipbone while going for these last two moves. Quite the shock. Great pain. Complicated surgery. Eight months of rehab. No real guarantee I ever could climb (doing sports) again. For somebody loving sports and the outdoors not a nice outlook. Lucky me surgery and rehab went well. But I learned for sure some lessons! 6 My hamstrings got fixed with two permanent anchors in my hipbone - back to 99% today. Very grateful for this! Coming out from these eight months of rehab I was straight on my way into the next three months of rehab. While training indoors I managed to split my meniscus, which locked my knee. This second stretch was even harder to take. In the end 2013 was spent more or less in rehab. But I am very, very, very thankful that my hamstrings are back to 99% and also my meniscus fixed itself again. What is one year when you gain another 40???!!!! At the end of the year I even was back up at Sustenpass. Falling off the highlander on the last two moves again. Same same. In winter 2016 I sat down at my table at home. I knew I had to change some things. I was getting 39 years old. And I could just not "afford" to go down on that last move off the "highlander" for another six years. I knew I lacked crimp-power. The short "hangboard-test" back in 2013 and in fall 2015 had shown me the potential. So I decided to go for that again. Luckily my fingers managed to cope better this time. Still not a 100% but better. I reduced my workload at my job for better recovery (=more sleep!!!) and more flexibility to be at the crag when conditions were prime. 7 2016. The training starts to pay off. first ascent of the sds of heritag 8B/+ As the "highlander" is pretty long (around 30moves) I needed "endurance" as well. So I was three times a week at the Gasworks-Climbing-Gym for some 30minutes-non-stop-climbing-sessions. Very easy routes. Max 5a. It was all about active recovery and building up some basic endurance. (People were laughing at me doing these easy climbs. but I always was more interested in who laughs last. this was followed by some core-workouts, antagonist-training and stretching. the stretching was important as well as there is a crucial foot-move in the middle of the crux. with enough flexibility you do not have to pull so hard on the holds to replace your foot. last but not least and may the hardest part; I did cut my daily after dinner chocolate-intake from 50-100g to 25-50g and went for some light running/biking three times a week. this resulted in my weight going down from 72.5kg to 69kg. I could soon see the first signs of benefit from my new training-regime when I managed to make a (for me rather quick) repetition of the beautiful Carlo Denali boulder "Heritage" in Valle Bavona and adding a very nice sitdown-start to it. And I felt way better on "Big-Cat" in Chironico as well. 8 When the road is closed at Sustenpass - Go for a little 2hrs walk... Already in march we had some unusual warm weather up in the higher mountains. So off I was to Sustenpass to make use of the great spring-conditions. There was still a lot of snow. So I had to walk up two hours with my splitboard and shovel off snow for hours. But it was totally worth it. It’s truly beautiful up there when the road is closed. And thanks to some nice "foen-wind" the air was not too cold but super dry. Friction from hell. And I immediately could see the difference to the last years. The crux sequence suddenly felt super solid. Even easy. I finally managed to step up my game and leave that five-year plateau. I clearly was stronger then ever before. Already on my second day up there I managed to get through the crux move for the very first time ever. After falling off that move for six years this was a really surreal moment. Interesting enough I still could feel my fingertips. Despite just some eight degrees and bit wind. Bad thing was I had no pinky on the second last hold and did not catch the hold perfectly. With the last remaining power I was able to match the hold. I tried to bump my left hand into the little slot but missed it. One split second later my fingers did open their grip and sent me back onto the pads. Sitting down in the pads I did not know if I should be happy to finally have made it through the crux or be angry I managed (so martin like) to go down on the very last move. 9 Going for the first crux of the „Highlander“ Three days later I was back there. And sure enough it did not happen. I was failing three times super close on the crux move. Then bad weather hit. Snow again. Lucky me the following week I had some free days. Day one was spent with hiking up with my splitboard again. Shoveling the fresh snow off. Day two I was up there for climbing. This time ready to finish the business. First try was very good. I did stick the crux-move but lost my feet. I did hold the swing but dry-fired off in the very last moment. BIG bummer. This was a big effort and I was really tired. I needed over two hours of rest and lots of food. When I was somehow ready again it already was 7:30pm and getting cold at 2'000 meter above sea level. So I literally was running trough the sequences to be faster than the cold. Suddenly I was up there in the crux-sequence again. The move never ever went so solid. Perfect climbing. No error. I felt still strong and after a short rest did set up for that last sequence. 10 Setting up for the last moves of the „Highlander“. Easier terrain. But very physical. Gets the better of you when you are really tired. Went down once on the very last move. And again my pinky was not on the hold. But this time I managed to rearrange it and go for the final move. Then while going for the intermediate sloper I suddenly was empty. I was hanging there. But I could feel that if I would do something with my left arm I would fall down. If I would do something with my right arm I would fall down. I was unable to move and I was laughing at myself that I would go down with the finish-jug in front of my face. In an act of panic and desperation I bumped my right hand up out of the shoulder. Somehow it stayed on the second and better sloper. Now all I had to do was to lock with my right and go with my left to the monster-finish-jug. Easy. But watching my right arm in pure disbelief it just did not do anything. Then instincts and experience of twenty years of climbing kicked in. I flagged my left leg and kicked it hard twice. The resulting swing got my left arm to the intermediate and finally - thirteen years after I first tried this line - into the big finish-jug. It was done. I could not really believe it. May I still can't today. Arriving at the top I was so tired I had to sit/lay down for a few minutes. I literally was not able to stand. Sitting there on top of the boulder all alone in the middle of this natural amphitheater of big mountains I could see the moon rising. Nearly too much to take. After packing up and leaving the "highlander" I may have had my best moment in all this years up there. The ride and hike down at 9:30pm in bright full moon light with my splitboard was just amazing. Words cannot describe these moments. To finish this story I would like to say thanks to all my friends and people who I met and supported me during this journey. In the end I climbed it just by myself. But I am well aware it would not have been possible without all of you. Now I can finally quit climbing and start playing chess ;)   11 This may sounds cliché. But after spending so much time up there, putting a grade to the "highlander" seems totally irrelevant to me. When you spend thirteen years of your life to climb a line it really does not matter anymore if its a 6A, 7A, 8A, 9A, 10A... it simply does not matter anymore. All I wanted was to climb that line I had imagined all these years ago. The question was: would I climb it. Or not. For me it’s my hardest boulder for sure. I was not able to complete the highlander when I climbed all the other harder boulders I did in the past years. So for me it's in the 8C-area... - ("soft" - (because I am so strong) to swing with the mainstream these days). But then I was sooooo close again and again over the years. And it’s not really my style. So I am sure others will find this easier. May there is better beta (I will write another blog about this). And others will find it hard(er). Everybody has his own perception of difficulty. And that is totally ok. Grade-discussions about "norming" a grade for "everybody" therefore normally are pointless. You just cannot (literally) force somebody else to how hard a route/boulder has to feel for him/her. And if you climb a bit longer you may see one day that there is a lot more to enjoy in climbing then pointless discussions (in the internet) about grades. And honestly I don't really care. Climbing outdoors for me is not about others in the sense of competition. I don't want to be stronger then mister or miss xxx. That is not the reason why I went up to Sustenpass for thirteen years. But the question was not 7A or 8A or 8C. The question was getting up or not. Very simple. Finally I did get up. Very simple. This fact and the journey to that special day and the lessons learnt is all that matters. Even though I could have just walked around the boulder to get to the top. Very strange thing to spend that much (life) time for something you could get so much easier (getting to the top). But it’s very often the same in life. It does not matter too much what you do. But it does matter how you do it. Go for it. Whatever this may be for you. Good thing though: "There can be more then just one... "- ...And chess can wait... I am off to scramble on some rock... ;)
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