Climbing The Triglav North Face


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Trad climber
the pitch above you!
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 28, 2005 - 12:36am PT
"'When Felix Schickse and Ludwig Sinek arrived one August afternoon at the Slovenian Aljaz Hut intending to climb the Triglav North Wall, the landlady who early in the morning had seen the young Viannese mountaineer Wagner set off with the same intention, due to return that evening, said "It's a sin that you are not afraid of going onto that great wall. The one who set off this morning was young and blond like you," she told us with a motherly concern in her broken German', Sinek writes in his Triglav report. 'The evening was already casting its shadows over this wall, which we had studied for such a long time and observed in reverent amazement. Wagner did not return.'

Let us leave it to Ludwig Sinek to give us his own account of his experiences on the Triglav North Wall.

'Perhaps he left his return too late or changed his plans and wanted to reach the Triglav summit via another route; we thought it certain that he had spent the night up there in the Deschmannhause. It was strange, but why did I keep thinking about the fact that he was young and blond?

Both Felix and I were feeling, as many a mountaineer might feel before such a difficult undertaking, that mixture of emotions, enthusiasm and a certain excitement, when we sought out our mattresses in the hut. We were intending to set off tomorrow at 3am.

We are the only guests in the hut. The silvery light of the moon streams through the window into the sleeping quarters, throwing a great dark cross in shadow onto the brightly lit floor.

Outside, dressed in its night coat, our huge wall towers above. It is all we think of: again and again our thoughts turn to the steep pillars, glide over narrow ledges, floating higher and higher up to the point where the Triglav Glacier shines in the pale light. Will we be successful? I carry this question over into the strangest dream I have had in my life: the last rays of the evening sun light up the Triglav Summit, while the wall is already shrouded in dusk. We are prepared for the ascent. Then the young mountaineer, just returning from his rock climb, appears with a friendly greeting, puts his arm around me like an old friend and shows me the route up the wall, pointing out particularly clearly the starting point. "You should not set off climbing into the middle of the wall, from there it is impossible to get over to the great gorge. Take the gully to the left, you see, the climb goes up this to start with and then slowly moves out to the right, up to the highest section of the wall." He bids us goodbye with a strange, friendly, yet melancholy smile and leaves us again, making his way slowly back along the path from which he had come, from the innermost corner of the valley.

Thus it was that I dreamed that night about our mountain journey on the Triglav North Wall. But Felix stirred quickly from his sleep and woke me. Had I not heard? Outside, it seemed as if Wagner had just returned! We both listened intently, but our ears had deceived us. Only now the wandering moon was no longer casting its light and the shadow from the window onto the floor of the room. Pale and silvery, it shone directly over us, bathing us in our fitful sleep as we thought only of the great wall and the morning. I was not yet fully conscious of the puzzling and mysterious nature of my dream; only later did it really take hold of me. It cannot be self-deception, nor the retrospective transfer in my memory of something that I later experienced.

At 3 o'clock in the morning, by the light of the moon, as Felix and I slowly made our way through the mysteriously quiet Vratatal to the start of the wall, I told him of my dream, describing exactly to him how this unknown climber had looked. Even now I can still remember every last detail, the facial expressions and the clothes, yes even the red symbol of the Austrian Alpine Club in a particular place on his coat, the unique grey pattern of which I had found particularly noticeable. As I was later to experience, it could not have been a trick of the senses.

"This valley feels like a cemetery today," I suddenly say, and my companion looks at me, surprised at my words. Even more silently, we continue our ascent. The cold grey of morning has devoured the silvery magic. We are at the foot of the wall. Felix maintains that this is the start of the route. "No, it is further to the left." We begin to argue loudly about it but I refuse to give way. The sketch of the route I had seen yesterday afternoon had been clear enough--and my dream confirmed it. Our experience on this mighty wall was rich in impressions and well worth all the effort of the day, yet we encountered no great obstacles on the magnificent climb. Gust Jahn's splendid sketch of the route led us up the best line on the huge rock wall and I was more than a little proud to lead my friend, who had complete confidence in me at that time, up the climb without the slightest mistake, even though the route finding on the wall was in parts quite difficult. In spite of this it still took us eight hours to do the climb. Mist surrounded us on the highest part of the cliffs and we were threatened by storms while still on the steep rocks just beneath the Kugy Ledge. We were lucky.

We reached the valley again before dusk. We were the third party to get a glimpse of the secrets of this magnificent wall, something that seemed terribly important to us young, vain fools at the time. And we had not found the slightest trace of our predecessor.'

A week later the body of the dead Wagner was found on a narrow ledge above the foot of the wall. It was no trick of the senses. Down to the very last detail the reality agreed with the picture from Sinek's dream."

"'High above the scree, the cliff hangs in a series of fearful slabs. In between, strangely rotten and pitted, the snow-filled cracks flash brightly, and further up, where the eye would expect to see the open skies, wall upon wall is piled, linked in a wild chaos of interconnecting pillars and ridges, horn-smooth panels set alongside weathered red rocks.'

 Hans Reinl

"'From the very start I was most attracted by those mountains, those walls, those ridges which have something mysterious about them, a quiet, hidden world of the unknown, and the scale of the mountaineering task usually meant more to me than mere difficulty along.'"

"'Others will continue to climb the highest walls, as long as the desire and the strength of youth in the mountains continue to woo the Blue Flower of the Romantics."

 Ludwig Sinek

...from "The Big Walls" by Reinhold Messner

Sep 27, 2012 - 06:19am PT
Hello! BTW, this is my first post. Thought an illustration is fine. Enjoy !
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Missing photo ID#265261

Trad climber
Sep 29, 2012 - 01:35pm PT
Welcome Borut!

Thanks for the photo.

Oct 8, 2012 - 11:14am PT
Thanks eKat. I'd like to add that the story in the OP goes back to 1908.

Edit: another pic of the north face.

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Missing photo ID#267780
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