In mid-March, the 52-year-old Italian managed one of the most difficult free solo ascents in climbing history with Panem et Circenses (8c). We spoke to Alfredo about his exploit.

The Panem et Circenses route on the Muro di Pizarra is an approximately 15-meter-high and slightly overhanging route near Arco. Alfredo climbed the route for the first time in December 2019 - at that time still with rope. Why did Alfredo decide to climb the route free solo? Was there a tricky moment during the ascent? We spoke to Alfredo Webber.

Alfredo Webber during the free solo ascent of Panem Et Circenses on the Muro di Pizarra. (Photo Roni Andres)
Alfredo Webber during the free solo ascent of Panem Et Circenses on the Muro di Pizarra. (Photo Roni Andres)

The interview was conducted by Dominik Osswald (translated into German by Silvia Gerber)

Why did you decide to do an 8c free solo?

For me it wasn't so much about climbing an 8c route free solo, but climbing a route on the Pizarra freesolo - a wall with a unique aesthetic. There are also people who criticize the rating of “panem et circenses” with 8c, but I don't care. The rating is relative to the climbing style that prevails on the Pizarra. For me personally, climbing there (on the Pizarra) means more than just climbing; there is something much more intimate, almost ascetic about it. It's like a journey inside, especially without a rope.

For me personally, climbing on the Pizarra means more than just plain
climb. There is something much more intimate, almost ascetic about it.

Alfredo Webber

Was it dangerous, or was there a difficult or dangerous moment during the climb?

I wouldn't say it was dangerous, but it was certainly potentially risky. The advantage of this route is that the rock is of good quality and incredible strength. That's why you have great confidence in the handles and kicks. In addition, there are no dynamic trains in the route, the trains are all static and controlled on bars. This is the climbing style that I like the most.

There are some parts of the route that are tricky. From the fourth hoe on, you can only climb up and then falling would be pretty suboptimal. But I want to emphasize that my freesolo ascent should not be compared with the freesolo ascent by Beat Kammerlander (Mordillo, 8a +) or that of Alex Huber (communist, 8b +). Both routes can be classified as much more dangerous.

What was going through your head when you climbed the route free solo?

I just focused on climbing. When you climb without a rope, you are much more focused. You have to be precise and calm, even on passages that you would manage with a rope without any problems, but which are suddenly no longer so easy without a rope. When I was up, I grabbed the good exit handle. Once there, I realized that I had made the climb and that was a unique moment of happiness.

At 52 you are still fully fit. What's your secret recipe?

I don't have any secret recipes. I can only say that with passion, constancy (in training), patience and sacrifice you can achieve good results even at my age. Of course, it also takes a little luck; In the 35 years I've climbed, I've never had problems with my fingers or tendons (due to injuries). With a climb like mine, however, the mental attitude and self-control are more important, the physical preparation is more secondary. But what has certainly helped me is my weight (I weigh 56 kg and I am 162 cm tall).

Can you still improve in climbing? What are your plans for the future?

My real goal is to be able to continue climbing with the same mental attitude and enthusiasm as when I was 20 years old. Bringing work, family and climbing under one roof has become a lot more difficult compared to when I didn't have any obligations.

At Pizarra I still have a few ideas that I would like to realize.

Alfredo Webber

I still have a few ideas for Pizarra that I would like to implement, but it remains to be seen whether it will work out. Above all, I first have to recharge my mental energies. Otherwise I would like to climb the route "Pure Dreaming" (9a) (with rope, of course), I set up the route in 2017 in the Pueblo (Arco). This route is my "black sheep"; I've already invested more than 300 attempts.

The route Pure Dreaming is my "black sheep". I've already invested more than 300 attempts.

Alfred Webber

It will probably stay with a dream, but that's part of it. You also have to respect your own limits. What advice do you want to give the young climbers on their way? I can only tell the boys, follow your dreams, even if it doesn't seem that they are realizable. And don't postpone your dreams until you can realize them today. One of my favorite proverbs is that the journey is the destination.