12 Saxon Kinglines Free Solo in one day

At the end of May, Anton Schröter climbed 12 difficult climbing tours in one day - all of them so-called master routes - in Saxon Switzerland Free Solo. The psychological impact of this undertaking is difficult to grasp and even made Saxons like Bernd Arnold or Robert Leistner swallow empty. We spoke to the 24-year-old about his monster solo effort.

The Saxon Switzerland is not only considered the cradle of free climbing, but is also known for its strict climbing ethics. In GDR times, a classification system was introduced to motivate climbers, the so-called master paths. 12 of these 92 selected high-end climbing routes had to be climbed in order to achieve the master standard.

Anton Schroeter has a dozen of these exquisite lines within a day at the end of May Free Solo climbed. The Saxon climbing pioneer Bernd Arnold speaks to Emontana of "an incomparable climbing performance at the limit of current physical and mental resilience". But not without the addition that hopefully there won't be many imitators.

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The Saxon thoroughbred climber Robert Leistner has a similar situation. He appreciates the performance as "very outstanding", especially from the psyche: "Mentally I hardly know a stronger performance, since highballs in Bishop are a joke against it." At the same time he finds the action quite glaring. You can do one of these tours free solo, but to take this risk twelve times in one day is awesome.

Video: Anton Schröter climbs 12 master routes in one day free solo

Interview: Anton Schröter about his free solo of the 12 master paths

Tell me Anton, how does one come up with the idea of ​​free soloing 12 of these legendary lines in one day?

I've been climbing in Saxon Switzerland since I was a child. I grew up in Brandenburg, but as a family we often went to Saxon Switzerland in the summer. This weekend was a very intense experience.

Two years ago I did 12 master trails in one day with my climbing friend Martin Driver. I love long climbing days where you have to climb efficiently and quickly.

I remember sitting on the last summit full of energy after 16 hours on my feet and knowing that I had found what I love: projects that push you to the limit.

Anton Schroeter

But I still had a lot of energy in me, which is why I thought that even more was possible on the last summit that evening.

And what happened next?

For the last two years I've been free soloing in Saxon Switzerland from time to time. Either because I spontaneously didn't have a climbing partner or I needed time for myself. After one or two free solo ascents of master trails, the project took shape. I now started to see which of the 92 master trails are rope-free.

Many are very high friction, brittle and just not good for free soloing or widely distributed in Saxon Switzerland. Eventually I got my list together and started soloing all the trails. When I was done, I knew it was time for action.

"The master paths are almost all kinglines." Anton Schröter at the Teufelsturm. Photo: Johanna Fricke
"The master paths are almost all kinglines." Anton Schröter at the Teufelsturm. Photo: Johanna Fricke

What distinguishes the master paths?

The 12 ways are almost all kinglines. Routes that simply have to be climbed. When you stand among them, you feel respect and recognition for the first climbers and want to experience a little adventure on these routes yourself. Impressive what the mountaineers climbed back then with chest binding, knitting and barefoot.

When you stand under the master trails, you feel respect and recognition for the first climbers and want to experience a little adventure on these routes yourself.

Anton Schroeter

How did you approach your project strategically?

The strategy in such a project is at least as important as the fitness. The routes would have to be in my comfort zone since I wanted to climb 12 in a row. They would have to be relatively close together so that you weren't just busy hiking. And the most important thing was the orientation of the walls.

The days were long, which is good for big activities, but also a heat battle inevitable. It was really hot that day with a clear blue sky. So I tried to do the south faces very early or in the evening and mostly climbed in the shade, but this wasn't possible for all routes.

Whenever possible, Anton Schröter tried to climb the master trails in the shade, like the Bergfinkenweg here. Photo: Reinhold Geipel
Whenever possible, Anton Schröter tried to climb the master trails in the shade, like the Bergfinkenweg here. Photo: Reinhold Geipel

For example, I boarded the direct west edge of the Falkenstein at 15 p.m., where the sun shone fully. But I had to make a few compromises and that was also the challenge with such a large project. 

What was the biggest challenge for you, what did you have the most respect for?

Originally I thought that there is only one way that will show if I have it in me: The valley side at Schwager (IXa), a 50 meter straight crack with two sandy crack roofs and a delicate finger crack at the beginning.

But the challenges started a few days earlier. The nights before the project I was only able to sleep a few hours. I think it was because I was very excited that the time had come after a long period of preparation. The first challenge that day came with the third path, the Urban Traverse.

The 50-year-old rated his brother-in-law, a 24 meter long crack with two sandy crack roofs, as the greatest challenge. Photo: Mika Jacob
The 50-year-old rated his brother-in-law, a 24 meter long crack with two sandy crack roofs, as the greatest challenge. Photo: Mika Jacob

In what way?

I climbed this only once 2 years ago and only dimly remembered small, sandy, slightly brittle ledges without steps. On these you had to shimmy three meters horizontally to the left, your feet were practically on nothing.

The handles crunched and sometimes I had to blow sand off them first as the trail isn't done often.

Anton Schroeter

Not exactly a trail one likes to solo, but with 12 trails I had to make a few compromises. But I had good finger strength and was able to master the first challenge well. The second challenge came unexpectedly in the eastern cracks at Dreifingerturm.

What exactly happened?

I had specially waited for the sun to come out of the east face around noon. But of course the rock was still quite warm. Even the lower crux, where you don't have to attach such good friction grips, was greasy. After this it is only steep with good hand clamps.

I thought to myself after the crux: great, the hardest thing is done. Now just climb up. I remember getting a good hand jam with my right hand and going for the next good hold with my left, but I couldn't get there.

Anton Schröter in the passage in the Ostrissen at the Dreifingerturm, where he was just able to avert a fatal crash. Photo: Mika Jacob
Anton Schröter in the passage in the Ostrissen at the Dreifingerturm, where he was just able to avert a fatal crash. Photo: Mika Jacob

I think my right hand clamp was set 10 cm too low. So I wanted to climb down a meter again to clamp a little higher with my right hand.

Suddenly my left ankle came loose. I now only had my right hand clamp and right foot in the crack and no contact with the rock on the left. So the door opened.

Anton Schroeter

Before anything could happen, I grabbed a permanent sling that was lying in the crack. I don't know if I really needed them. But better safe then sorry. A ohhh shit slipped out of my mouth. A deep breath and we continued to the summit. At the summit, I briefly thought about why I was in the situation.

And despite this delicate situation, did you carry on?

On the one hand, I thought about quitting, but also about the 12 master paths and that I now had to do a 13 master path, since the east cracks no longer counted. But I didn't want to make the decision until after my brother-in-law.

I could tell my morale and that of the crew had dropped a bit. So I suggested hiking to the next peak first and taking a few hours lunch break in the shade. I decided to climb another route after the relaxing break. In this I felt good despite the bad conditions. A sign for me not to give up now.

Anton Schwager in his brother-in-law's sandy roof crack. Photo: Reinhold Geipel
Anton Schwager in brother-in-law's sandy cracked roof. Photo: Reinhold Geipel

And I was standing in front of my brother-in-law. The weird cracked finger had never felt so good, but it went in really well that day.

On the second roof, you had to set hand clamps in the sandy rock at the very back of the crack, where almost your entire body weight was hanging on. Here, too, I got stuck in the wrong places and climbed down a bit again.

Anton Schroeter

Re-evaluating the situation and relaxing through breathing exercises, I climbed over the roof with ease on the second attempt. Now only a strenuous fist and shoulder tear to the summit.

I was beginning to feel exhausted. We were awake from 3:30 a.m. and at 6 a.m. I entered the first route. It was now 19 p.m. I was still in good shape and I've been ambitious since I could walk, so I decided to do the 13 way as well.

How did you manage to be in the right mindset until the end?

The last four paths were associated with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I climbed almost everything differently than checked out, which is why I often had to intuitively trust my climbing technique. On the other hand, I still had a lot of energy and felt up to any challenge.

I climbed the last two routes in the moonlight with a few meters long beam of light from my headlamp. I was full in my little bladder. The air was muggy and on the penultimate peak the horizon was dotted red.

On the one hand, I climbed almost everything differently than checked out, which is why I often had to intuitively trust my climbing technique. On the other hand, I still had a lot of energy and felt up to any challenge.

Anton Schroeter
Anton Schröter climbed the last two routes in the light cone of his headlamp as if in a bubble. Photo: Mika Jacob
Anton Schröter climbed the last two routes in the light cone of his headlamp as if in a bubble. Photo: Mika Jacob

A couple of my friends had already climbed to the last peak and were waiting for me. Once at the top, the visible burden that was on everyone that day fell away and we hugged and celebrated life.

The exhaustion was now spreading. More in the head than in the body. Joking around and chatting on the ground and then completely relaxed climbing a path solo again is mentally very exhausting.

You always have to switch between a relaxed day with friends and full concentration with a high degree of consequence in the event of mistakes and that 13 times with 2 hours of sleep beforehand.

Anton Schroeter

In any case, the decisive factor was good preparation. I always like to say: without sense, but with common sense.

On the last and thirteenth peak, the tension drops. Photo: Gregor Schroeter
On the last and thirteenth peak, the tension drops. Photo: Gregor Schroeter

What goes through your mind when you climb free solo?

When I climb free solo, I have nothing to limit me - no rope, no thinking, where can I put the next loop, how far am I above the ring, can I still fall? All of that falls away. You just dance over the rocks and leave nothing behind. The only thing that matters is the next hold or kick.

You have to overcome problems quickly and safely. You can't make a mistake. All of this is quite intense and feels incredibly real.

Anton Schroeter

During my studies, I can fail an exam several times before I have to pass it. There is insurance for everything, so that in the event of a problem/accident you can simply pass on the consequences and not be held responsible yourself.

It all feels so lax at times that I enjoy free soloing with its clear rules and consequences in this world where you're hedged against anything just to gain some freedom that I feel tends to be lost.

Anton Schröter climbed these 13 master routes in one day free solo

  • "East Wall" VIIIc at Teufelsturm
  • «Talseite» VIIIb at Teufelsturm
  • «Urban traverse» VIIIb at the Ostervorturm
  • "Lineal" IXa at the Meurer Tower
  • "Route Ten" VIIIc at the Meurerturm
  • "Direct West Face" VIIIc at the Meurer Tower
  • «Ostrisse» VIIIc at Dreifingerturm
  • "Direct western edge" VIIIb on the Falkenstein
  • «Talseite» IXa at the brother-in-law
  • »Talweg« VIIIa at the rococo tower
  • «Bergfinkenweg» VIIIb at the rococo tower
  • "Community path" VIIIb at the Wilde Zinne
  • »Direct west edge» VIIIc at the Wilder Kopf

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Credits: Cover picture by Gregor Schröter

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