At the beginning of the month, the Austrian Philipp Geisler managed an onsight ascent of the famous Dolomites route "Weg durch den Fisch" (8+/9-, 37SL) on the Marmolada south face. In an interview he talks about the ascent of the alpine classic.

The route Way through the fish an der Marmolada With its 37 pitches, the south face in the Dolomites is one of the most famous and challenging alpine tours in Europe. The route was first climbed in 1981 by the two Slovaks Igor Koller and Indrich Sustr in technical climbing without using bolts.

The first redpoint Heinz Mariacher and Bruno Pederiva succeeded seven years later, in 1990 Daniele De Candido made the first onsight ascent, followed by the South Tyrolean Roland Mittersteiner and Hanspeter Eisendle as well as Christoph Hainz in 1992.

In 2007, the then only 23-year-old succeeded Hansjörg Auer a free solo ascent in which he climbed the route in just 2 hours and 55 minutes. Normal rope teams need two days for the tour.

Philipp Geisler in an interview about the onsight inspection of the fish

When exactly did you climb the fish?

We got on the route on July 2, 2022 in the morning and got off on July 3, 2022 at noon directly behind the cable car station on the Marmolda.

Have you climbed all lengths in lead climbing or "only" the most difficult lengths?

Specifically, we basically made the route alternately, whereby I climbed the nominally most difficult lengths. For example, the "shallow intersection" just before the fish (7b) - unfortunately Julian was not able to red dot the route. I myself have climbed all of my lead lengths onsight and climbed the remaining lengths of the second climb without a fall.

What was the crux?

The crux for me was definitely the third length before the line or the third length after the fish. I think that you actually climb down there and then traverse far to the left to get into a crack. Of course I didn't do that, I just climbed diagonally from the last safety device - a Reudiger hook and a faded cord on an hourglass - to the left through the slab. On very, very bad shallow steps I was able to somehow balance myself by mono-tugging at the little finger holes and thus save myself a few meters from the last belay in the crack, which fortunately can be secured very well with Friends. It felt like trains in a 7c. The whole thing will probably be defused if you just read the topo and just climb down and traverse. They're just not very clear, these ultra-compact disks.

What was the key to success?

The whole preparation certainly helped us a lot. I think if you do a few tours that offer similar climbing, then you can pretty much adjust to the style of the fish. On tours like this, I think it's always important to have a rope partner you can trust and get along with. If you get on your nerves for 37 pitches of strenuous climbing and hanging stands, then you probably won't go climbing with that person anymore. When you're well-rehearsed, it's easier and the whole thing is a little less mental than it is already the case. And: A big plus was of course the chocolate croissant in the bivouac for breakfast, that we cried along and the cozy night.

Were there any unexpected events?

I found it relatively funny to watch the many roped parties on the "Don Quixote" route, four of whom shared the bivouac there. We were more comfortable there. And then there was the exit. You come out just behind the top station of the Marmolada cable car. When we emerged on the ridge there was a group of tourists on the observation deck, almost getting excited when they saw us at the transmission towers. Hopefully the gondola didn't stink too much after two days on the wall.

When are you coming back and climbing the Tour free solo? : )

I'll be back in Europe on August 30th and then I'll take a leisurely break for the time being. There are a dime a dozen projects. At the moment it looks like I'll go to the Rätikon in late summer/autumn and watch Silbergeier or Neverending Story. But back to your question: I absolutely cannot imagine doing the fish free solo. After just checking out, just getting on the route and trusting in your own skills shows to me what kind of climber Hansjörg Auer was. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet him in person. It would certainly have been exciting to talk to him about the fish. There is a small plaque with his name on it at the start of the route, and rightly so - the route will surely be associated with him forever.

About Philip Geisler

After a relatively unsuccessful competitive career, Geisler quickly drifted into alpine climbing, with challenging multi-pitch tours fascinating him the most. This is probably due to the fact that he is allowed to call the "Wilden Kaiser" his home area and thus had points of contact from an early age. Important routes in his career so far are the "Mythomania" and "Pumprisse" in the Wilder Kaiser (both onsight) as well as the "Modern Times" (onsight) and many other tours in the Dolomites.
Last year the young Austrian was able to record his most difficult multi-pitch route to date with "Parzival" in the Alpstein. Geisler lives in Innsbruck and works part-time as a software developer.

Hansjörg Auer on the free solo ascent of Weg durch den Fisch

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Credits: Artwork zVg