Many days have passed since a small group of climbers met in the charismatic shelter of Sant Benet, in the massif of Montserrat.
The peculiar morphology of the montserratine rock needs a lot of experience and expertise to protect itself with recoverable gear. But getting to dominate the art of traditional climbing in this place offers a level of incomparable satisfaction, and this was what the organizers of the Roca Nua meeting intended, that the participants knew the rock and faced it face to face, only with a handful of carabiners and tapes and their set of Totem Cams.
The objectives, which were to show the possibilities and techniques of protect in the stone of Montserrat, were reached. All participants climbed accompanied by a local climber who showed them where the routes were going and advised them on the different possibilities to protect. The level of satisfaction was very high for both attendees and organizers.
Soon we will have the opportunity to attend another meeting of traditional climbing to enjoy the unique feeling of ascending the rock without leaving traces, without leaving marks of our inability, without leaving remains, only naked rock, ROCA NUA…
Ethics and commitment by the hand of Genis Hernandez, Jan Casas and Marcel Millet. Experienced climbers with more than 1000 openings behind them, almost all of extreme difficulty (Non Expansion), (A5+, A6…) where the head and the Totem Cam play an essential role.
“Totem gives us the security that do not give us other friend-es, since it works with independent lobes. For extreme aid climbing this is ideal due to the placements are usually irregular and another type of friends would not give us that security”. Genis Hernandez
Words: Jan Casas
Climbing is a strange activity in which the relationship of the partners is very intense. First is friendship. Then it is the partner. Affinity is essential. This is how almost without realizing it we have formed a very cohesive team Marcel Millet, Genís Hernández and Jan Casas.
Marcel Millet belongs to a climber profile already in extinction. Marcel is more recognized than known. Their name will not say anything to most new generations. For the rest, Marcel Millet is a benchmark in climbing. In his long and outstanding career, Marcel has stood out for being always on the crest of the wave.
We stood for the 81 of the last century when Marcel already advocated for the rotpunkt and for minimizing the use of expansions. A long history of respected openings in any of the modalities of what we understand by rock climbing, from the iconic Brown Sugar of La Mómia, through Alternative 3 of the Banana of Devils or La Sant Josep Fuster -Agulla of Centenar-. We will not quote difficulties. Not for not being relevant, since they are always notorious, but we will emphasize the impeccable ethics in its execution. Now sexagenary, the brightness of the illusion has not ceased, sharing capital adventures to broaden his extensive repertoire of anecdotes that turn any bivac into a festival of laughter and unforgettable memories.
Genís Hernández was formed as a climber in Montserrat and in Can Tobella -Esparreguera-. Son of the golden age when the tribes colonized Sant Benet as their home. He drank of the most exacerbated purism. Represented by young people who found refuge in the walls of Montserrat sharing a passion for the difficulty that made them feel free. They tried to forget the rules of a perverse system. Its extensive history of openness is only comparable to the unwavering desire to respect the rock. Tireless in his endeavour to push the limits, he has become a symbol of a craft that is only reached after years of a long and strenuous learning.
Jan Casas collaborates in balancing madness and extreme madness with a bit of necessary sanity. Renowned route opener, it has a less extensive history, result of prioritizing the quality above the quantity. The scrupulous ethics poured in its lines have managed to impregnate a seal of quality and difficulty in equal parts in its itineraries. The veteranity has not prevented him from ascending the Captain -Yosemite recently with his son Miquel of 17 years, elevating to the category of challenge the verb to share.
Last but not least, Joaquín Tarrafeta Gónzforkis our link to the mainland. Unconditional and essential support for logistical, photographic and whatever need be.
The three climbers have common characteristics, but there is a common denominator that stands out above the rest: respect for the rock. In recent years, both Marcel and Genís already had a good history of push the limit of difficulty in artificial. Good example of this are “La histérica” -A6- and “El noi del sucre” -A6-. It is in this new adventure of 2019 that Jan Casas joins the NON EXPANSION team. Adventure that is interrupted by this pandemic that has forced us to postpone the culmination of the summit.
“Humans have become accustomed to adapting the medium to their needs. Climbers are nothing more than a sample of this practice.”
The NON EXPANSION team aims to provide a generous vision of climbing: to allow the repeater to climb as the opener did. It is nothing new. The new is to abuse the technical means to reduce the difficulty in the name of security and turn greed into a flagship.
Humans have become accustomed to adapting the medium to their needs. Climbers are nothing more than a sample of this practice.
Technical advances facilitate the difficulty. Totem with its cam devices offer unique features for the performance of the NON EXPANSION. Lightness, versatility, polyvalence, safety, resistance. A long list of features that make them indispensable companions for a clean climb and without using permanent gear. The conscientious and experienced use of the Totems make them ideal candidates to be used in this type of climbing.
They are the only cam devices that can withstand loads using two lobes. This gives them a versatility difficult to explain when the magnitude of the tragedy is unknown. When very little, it means a lot.
SELECCiÓN NATURAL is the name that receives the project that will soon give birth and that its name intends to be a cover letter. The difficulties reached are proposals of cotation that challenge the limits of this modality. It is intended with this brief article, to value the project and offer an appetizer of what is about to happen and of which we will inform extensively.
A totally new adventure started when Beat Kammerlander told me 5 years ago that I should check out Déjà. It has never seen a free ascent until then, although he has worked on it intensively between 1995 until 97. On my first glance onto the topo I found out it has been first ascended by my friends Michi Wyser and Andres Lietha (at that time I knew Michi, only).
I met Andres first during the winter 2018/spring of 2019 in Ticino. We spoke about Déjà and he directly offered to support me.
In the spring of 2015, I finally accepted the challenge and decided to analyze the crux sections of the route. After a time of dedication, I can finally find a method that allowed me to imagine for the first time the possibility of “redpoint” the route. The truth is that I have never had to work as hard as with Déjà to get to decipher all the movements of a route of these characteristics.
I went one season after another to Rätikon, often only to play and optimize the movements of the route. Shortly after starting to analyze it, I realized that I needed extraordinary conditions, since the type of climbing did not allow to climb on very hot days, because I would end up slipping.
In autumn 2018 I decided to dedicate enough time on my agenda to face the challenge with full commitment. I needed to plan in advance the training to take my physical level to the ideal conditions to face climbing.
It took me a lot to acquire the physical conditions I wanted, but finally on October 6 I was back in Rätikon. The truth is that even though the physical conditions helped me during the climbing, the type of route required a precision and such a technique, that I had to memorize all the movements again in order not to make any mistakes. The disadvantage was that I could never try more than 3 or 4 times the movements of the crux, since the crimps are so small that just break your skin.
I knew from previous years that the main priority was to have no any cut. Therefore, I always invested the first try in the hard pitch. After a couple of attempts I was going to concentrate on the rest, which also required a technical and expecial dedication.
“I decided that the ideal conditions for releasing the pitch were one day without sun and a temperature of -2 to 5 °C.”
Having worked all the pitchs I called a couple of friends to come with me to try to redpoint the route, but the truth is that the crux remained a difficult problem to solve. I studied the movements intensely and discovered exactly what time of day and at what temperature I should try. So I decided that the ideal conditions to release the pitch were one day without sun and a temperature of -2 to 5 °C.
The disadvantage of the last season was that it snowed quite a bit, which complicated the approach with my car. I will remember the day before the redpoint for the rest of my life.
We drove through heavy snow until my old car was completely stuck. Not worried about the situation, we made the backpack and went to climb. This would have been a perfect day to free climb Déjà. Unfortunately, the clouds entered and the wind increased considerably.
In the ninth pitch, wind began to stick strongly, which made it impossible for us to keep warm. I tried the pitch a couple of times, but I always ended up falling to the edge of hypothermia. We decided it was time to leave.
I ended up quite discouraged that day, but Andrés told me: “Don’t worry, we’ll come back! Today it is not worth trying.” He was right. While I was doing the rapel, I reflected his words in my mind and relaxed thinking I had all winter ahead.
On the day of the redpoint we made the appointment as usual at 7:42 at the Landquart/Graubünden/Switzerland train station. I got up at 6:00 am and headed to pick it up. That day I did not sleep well and got up with a lot of sleep. Fortunately, at the time I picked up Andrés my motivation increased.
“After four pitches without effort I reached the crux and I could climb it at the first try.”
I have never climbed as much in automatic pilot mode as in that day. After four pitches without effort I reached the crux and I could climb it at the first try. I was surprised that something in which I had worked so long could come out so easy.
I got to the last long and I knew that I only had a 6b+ to reach the top. I knew my story that was already 4 years old would soon end. I climbed the last long and dragged myself to the small rock cave. Andrés got into the cave and I realized that for me it was a story of four years, but for Andrés it was already 27.
I climbed the last easy pitch and crawled into a little rock cave. Andres jugged up into the cave and I realized it was a four year long story for me, but for Andres it was a 27 year long story which got finally finished.
Suddenly, Andrés pulled out a bottle of champagne. Apparently, He had more hope than I did on that day. It was a surreal moment to share the glass of champagne in this unique place. But it was even more the fact that Andrés was in that place 27 years ago to make the first ascesion of Déjà and now he was here after the first free ascent.
Thanks to all my friends for their support, without you it wouldn’t have been possible. 6a+,6c+,6b+,7c,8c+,7c+,6b+,6b+,7c+,7a,8a+,6b+
Facing with the situation generated by COVID19, Totem MT wants to express the following:
First of all, we would like to thank the climbing community for the support we have received throughout this time. We want you to know that we continue to working hard to achieve the goals marked.
On the other hand, we want to put on the table our commitment to the health and physical integrity of all the people who make up Totem MT: workers, customers, suppliers and of course the climbing community.
After the announcement in which the cessation of all non-essential productive activity has been decreed by the government, we inform our customers that the shipments are not temporarily available with the exception of online orders. We will make the shipments on Tuesdays and Fridays.
We would also like to convey a message of tranquility to all people who in one way or another maintain relationships with us. Although our productive activity and the shipments are temporarily paralyzed, we have established the mechanisms to continue receiving your orders, either via web or by e-mail.
To finish, we ask you, the climbing community, to act with responsibility. It is time to leave friends aside and take care of us.
Thank you for your commitment and collaboration. For any doubt, you can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently realeased at Mendifilm, (international mountain film festival), “Sense Retorn” tells the story of the Totem MT athlete Siebe Vanhee and his the project of opening and FFA of a new route on “Catalunya Wall” in Montrebei (Catalunya).
The film tells how the team, composed by our partner Siebe Vanhee and their friends Roger Molina and Jorge Solorzano, embarked on the adventure of opening a new route on a place where predominates the respect for the #tradclimbing and where the Totem Cam plays an important role due to the peculiarities of this incredible wall.
All of this supported on values like team work and the ethical vision of the mountains which are also the values that orient our activity.
one year to the day I was overlooking Wanaka lake applying for a
women’s adventure film grant: “The Travel Play Live Women’s Adventure
Grant is not about ‘Insta-worthy’ pictures of smiling women with perfect
hair or pink washing the adventure / outdoor space” – TPL. I was
submitting an idea for an all-female first peaks traverse and
accompanying first rock climbing ascent in Fiordland, New Zealand. The
fact that it was all-female was not really the hook, as very few people
venture into this region – man or woman – but it would increase the
visual presence of females following bold and exciting ideas in the
mens sports receive over 90% of traditional media coverage. This has
crippled the gender balance in the outdoor world by skewing females
perception of where they fit into it. It has created what might be
considered a self fulfilling prophecy. Exposure to athletes and mentors
through the media creates an environment that encourages, inspires and
pushes people to achieve bigger and bolder objectives. Females need
mentors they can relate to.
one year on the same view fills my vision. A storm is rolling over the
mountains and I’m wondering if in seven days Fiordland will open her
gates to us. Our three peaks ridge line traverse of Terror Peak, Mount
Danger and Lady of the Snows looks possible, if the weather plays nice.
It rains up to 8 metres a year there. To our knowledge no one has
attempted parts of the traverse due to the exposure and complicated
terrain. In saying, a possible first climbing ascent up a canine tooth
shaped peak in between Terror and Danger, unofficially named The Tusk,
is well on the cards. The only other person known to attempt it
tragically fell from its precipitous features – it is unknown if he’d
in the mountains is a challenge. Filming in them is double that. We
cannot go as light and fast as we’d like. Things take longer. Heavy
packs hinder movement, ropes will probably come out more often than if
we went light. Camera gear doesn’t like rivers, cold temperatures or
rain. The list goes on.
film will hopefully be a story about four female climbers brought
together by the spirit of adventure, a love of nature and the lust for
climbing untouched aesthetic granite lines in rarely explored regions.
United in their desire to push their limits, they dream to achieve
something that can inspire the next generation of females to be
explorers, adventurers, thinkers and eco-warriors – in a time when
urbanisation and industry is threatening the natural environment, and
humanity’s connection to it.
Text: Luka Lindic
Photos: Stefan Wiebel / Luka Lindic
I am still new to Berchtesgaden Area and after a long time following the winter around the globe I was psyched to explore the area that is offering incredible rock climbing potential. Together with my girlfriend Ines Papert, who is Living in the area for more than 20 years we spotted a good looking line on “Alpltalkopf” north face. We opened the route ground up mostly using cams and pitons with bolts being the last option. I was super happy to have Totem Cams on my harness as they are simply the best in limestone, where the cracks are often full of uneven features.
We needed five days to open nine pitches of the route to the flat top. After a day cleaning it was time for a fun part with free climbing the route. I managed to grab a red-point ascent quickly but the crux boulder in the most difficult pitch was causing problems for Ines. She managed to stay psyched and patient. It was a nice experience to be a support when someone you care about the most is trying to realize something close to the limit. After a short rainy period we walked up there together again and Ines managed to send the route as well.
It was a nice come back for us after a thought experience on our last expedition. Two year ago love brought me to Berchtesgaden area. I immediately noticed how proud the locals are of this truly spectacular place full of mountains and lakes with Watzmann being the highest mountain and Königssee the biggest lake. At the beginning our relationship was a bit of a target for the “sharks teeth” of some local people and after some time I started calling them Sharks of Königssee. I knew a name of the a new route we might climb one day was born. Now its there as a funny memory of our beginning. I am very grateful so many of the local climbers welcomed me so nicely and look forward to share climbing days in this magic place.
In the summer of 2018, our Totem MT team member, Fabian Buhl, went to Pakistan with the goal of exploring new rock climbing routes on the Karakoram Ridge. “The Big Easy” was the consequence of this trip, but this story is not only about alpinism. Fabian defines this trip like an inflexion point on his career, for sure, his words will help you to set new challenges!
Small, complex and very difficult was my universe when my climbing career as a Boulderer started. Nonetheless the last years I have dedicated a lot of time and energy into expanding my climbing universe into unknown and larger playgrounds of more and more alpine terrain.
I got totally absorbed in solo climbing and my goal for the winter and summer 2016 was trying to push the limits in this rarely played game. Like in bouldering failure did not put me down. It was only a source of energy to improve, because it showed me the weakness of my solo system. Exactly the rope handling and all the little details of the alpine trickery got me really involved, it fits perfectly to my methodical way of thinking.
Personally, I experience in alpine climbing additional things that keep me motivated to expand and try to improve this for my new universe, the physical demand can fully push you into a deep and satisfying exhaustion. In Contradiction to our world where we try to insure ourselves against everything and everyone, in alpine climbing you are absolutely responsible for your own action and have to deal with the results of it, most of the time very soon or you will feel it to your disadvantage. This leads to the most important and most satisfying part which I found in alpine climbing, absolute trust into your climbing partner. It is the only insurance you have during these long and strenuous days spend up on the mountains.
The logical consequence of my search to experience and learn more and more of the alpine world was the dream to go to the greater ranges. On one of our trips Alexander Huber and me came up with the idea to make a proper but small expedition in the summer of 2018. We just needed to define a goal, which fits both of our ideals. As we are climbers, we were searching a challenging goal which offers mostly good rock climbing. Alexander has been in Pakistan the year before and saw an amazing and elegant arete, located just above the Choktoi glacier.
The arete we declared our target with a length of 2200m and shines from first to the last daylight. It is one of the most prominent and obvious lines in the Choktoi valley.
In Skardu the outdoor adventure really began by driving with a classic vintage Toyota Jeep, along the spectacular gorge of the River Braldo to Askole. Quite impressed by the rough road 100m above the gorge, which is not a road to western standards, and the exceptional skills of our driver, we arrived in the beautiful village of Askole with the fading light. It is the last village up the valley, which is year round inhabited and surrounded by an incredible mountain scenery. Askole is the perfect Balti villages and shines in most picturesque nuances of green I can imagine and are in big contrast to the surrounding brownish sand and rock landscape with white majestic glaciers on top of the mountains.
Early morning of the next day we started our 4 days march to basecamp. I felt a bit weird, strolling leisurely with my day bag upstream the River Braldo, while the porters overtook me with 25kg backpacks. Soon I realized that already the altitude of 3500m takes it´s toll and it is better to take it easy and acclimatize proper and gradually.
The next days we hiked each day for about 6-7 hours and spending the nights in one of the camps alongside the way. We gained approximately 500m of height each day.
From day 3 on the march we saw our line and were fascinated by the elegance of it, it has shined all day long in the sun. After a short walk of day four we reached the place where we searched for basecamp, quickly we found a perfect place.
We established our spartantic but very comfortable basecamp and it offered all we needed. Luckily the weather stayed good, so there was enough time to rest and get a better acclimatized to BC level. The first gear transport was as scheduled to set up ABC at 5000m.
We knew that the weather will stay good for the next days we directly conducted one more material transport with the purpose of staying 2 days in ABC to get further acclimatized. Within this stay at ABC we climbed the first of the 3 big waves of our chosen line. Already after the first pitches we realized that the route will take much more commitment and energy as we thought.
After the bad weather, we had fully recovered and were super keen to go up the mountain and started to work on the main part. We ascended our previously fixed rope and climbed the whole middle part a quite flat arete until we established our Camp. The Camp was a jackpot, as it was the only flat spot on the entire ridge line and it is located perfectly for camping with an incredible panorama in 5500m with the Latoks and Ogres range just across. Even more excited we were about the perfect splitter cracks that we saw just above us. They are as impressive as in Yosemite and it is a gift finding this perfect rock and beautiful line in the heart of our route at 5500m.
The next day, as the terrain is flatter, waking up to the sound of snow falling on our tent, we knew it will not be a walk in the park and even thought about bailing. In the end we tried it anyways, because we knew it will be essential for our summit push. It snowed all day long a little bit but as the rock was anyway snow covered and we where on quite flat but tricky terrain, it was ok. Actually I liked the little alpine weather and constantly changing from crampons to rock shoes, it was the perfect contrast to the previous Yosemite-style day. It showed us once more how complex the route will be. Arriving below the headwall, it was clear it will be the crux of the route and is way steeper as we expected it to be, totally snow covered it looked frightening.
Unfortunately the weather got bad for nearly a week, we spend the days relaxing, reading and playing chess, but always being concerned about the head wall, because with this much snow and ice it will be really difficult.
The good weather came and we went up the mountain again, for its final push. Arriving in camp we made a little brew and went straight to bed, because already four hours later we where having breakfast on our terrace with an incredible sunrise. What a beautiful start of the day!
Soon we arrived at the headwall in order to climb the first 200m of it this day, as we expected the cracks where still totally iced up and the terrain way steeper as we imagined.
As we found no other bivi spot we needed to go all the way down to camp again. Anyway we knew that if everything works out we will make our summit push tomorrow, that is why we did not really care. The next day we climbed up to our highpoint again, from here we wanted to follow a corner system. The only downside, it was totally iced up, but it still looked liked the easiest option and so I got some really nice mixed pitches, before standing on the pre summit.
From the pre summit we needed to rappel to the col, which leads via long snow arete with some climbing to the main summit of Choktoi Ri. I wanted to belay Alexander directly, sitting on the summit, when I realized the summit is a big cornice. A little unsure about my stupid behavior, I went down and made belay that we both can safely go on the small main summit and have a little break and just enjoy the great view towards China and over viewing the Karakoram. As Choktoi Ri is the highest peak of the range we where really freestanding. Reflecting the line on the summit, we realized how fortunate we are, with being able to first ascent this prominent line, which took a lot of energy but the 2200m of climbing rewarded us with a great variety and always kept on giving new challenges. In the end we needed all our skills to complete “The Big Easy”. The most important is, that we have had an amazing time, with a lot of laughs and without any bad mood, in the peaceful and calm Karakoram, because we just did what we like and for what we live for. It clearly showed me the smaller the expedition the richer the experience!