Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Free Solo Masters

I've been wanting to write about this odd and unique event since quite a while but life got in the way. 
A fellow mountain guide from my home town Lienz in Austria,  Peter "Luna" Ortner, had this idea years ago and this Summer he finally made it happen. Most folks probably know him as an Alpinist, among many other big outings, he did the first free ascent of the east ridge of Cerro Torre with David Lama just a few days after the bolt chopping saga. 
This spring he focused on building this foldable, 16m high! climbing wall (EP in Canmore is 14m high). It can be easily transported on a truck and can be put up pretty much anywhere within minutes with the aid of a big crane. Then you blow up the 4m thick air mat (14x14m foot print), crank up the tunes and the competition can start. The rules are simple, climb on sight until you fall off. What counts is your high point and you got 3 minutes to finish the business , but all competitors either topped out or fell off prior to that. After a first and second round there were semi finals for the top 20 and then the finals later in the evening. 
What surprised all of us the most that the event turned out to be an absolut spectator magnet. By the time the Semi Finals rolled around the main square of Lienz was filled with more than 2000 people.
The last time I've seen such a crowd there was at the Carlos Santana concert in 1988.
Some good friends talked me into participating and although I had big concerns I really had a good time and I would not want to miss out on it. 
When do you as a rock climbers ever get a chance to fall from such a hight without hurting yourself? Although everybody knew that nothings gonna happen, it was still a huge adrenaline rush.
Wouldn't this be a good one for Canmore too?


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