In December 2016 professional alpinists Thomas Huber (GER), Stephan Siegrist (SUI) and Roger Schaeli (SUI) made their way to climb one of the most bold and legendary routes in the Alps. Huber, who was fascinated by the unique history behind the climb, was quick to get Siegrist on the team to climb “Metanoia.” Schaeli was also on board immediately.
The three pro-climbers began their first attempt in the week before Christmas. They had to abort their effort about 70 meters left of the Central Ledge after their bivvy due to increasingly bad weather conditions. A second attempt on December 28th, 2016 had to be interrupted shortly after a storm set in. They commenced their climb on “Metanoia” on December 29th, 2016. They set their bivvy about 70 meters left of the Central Ledge again and continued onward the next day. The three alpinists reached the top-out of “Metanoia” in the evening of December 30th, 2016. They are the first to successfully repeat the route.
“Metanoia” was established in 1991 by the exceptional American alpinist Jeff Lowe in the winter in a solo effort. Lowe is known, amongst others, for his solo ascent of the south face of Ama Dablam in 1979. He also still holds the record for reaching the highpoint of Latok I. Lowe has ticked more than 1000 first ascents worldwide. He was involved in the development of the first ice screw as well as first cam. He also invented the globally recognized difficulty scale for ice and mixed climbs. He brought the Sport Climbing Championships to the USA and opened the legendary and well- visited Ouray Ice Park in Colorado, USA.
1991 was a tough year for Lowe personally. When he began his attempt to open a new, direct line though the north face of the Eiger. Lowe wanted to create a tribute to the pioneers of extreme alpinism who approached the greatest alpine walls with primitive equipment and techniques, without using bolts. Lowe says: “ So I also climbed with no bolts, hoping that Metanoia might serve as an example of what can be accomplished without them.”
Nine days later Lowe appears at the summit of the Eiger, defying adverse conditions. He braved severe storms and proved his mastery of climbing and his power of
endurance. In the life of Jeff Lowe this climb was somewhat a path to enlightenment.
He climbed out of the north face of Eiger with a whole new view on life. He named his route “Metanoia” which is Greek and means as much as “fundamental change of view, transformative change of heart.” Lowe says: ““Metanoia” rewarded me with a deeper understanding of my self and how life operates. As a result I have become more compassionate and connected to my family, friends, the climbing tribe, humanity, the planet and the universe.” In his route Lowe found his attitude towards life that still holds true today: to approach everything with courage and love. He hasn’t lost this attitude even after being diagnosed with a neuro-degenerative disorder 16 years ago that has tied him to a wheelchair.
Jeff Lowe was excited about the first repeat of his “Metanoia”: “Thomas Huber called us to share the good news that he, Roger Schaeli and Stephan Siegrist succeeded on “Metanoia”. I’m happy and gratified that they found the route to be hard, bold, beautiful and ‘visionary.’ Their confirmation of the quality of Metanoia is very gratifying and quite humbling. Best of all, Thomas understands what I was doing with the climb; which was trying to create an example of how alpinists can progress in an environmentally conscious way that honors the spirit of extreme alpinism.”
Thomas Huber Lowe’s ascent of “Metanoia”: “He was alone, he had never been in the wall before, he could only rely on himself. I tried to imagine myself in his place after every hard passage that lay behind me. His fight passed in front of my inner eye like a movie. What he accomplished is really just madness.”
Huber goes on saying: “With Metanoia Jeff was able to prove that you can accomplish impossible challenges just with your heart. He set new standards in alpinism with his ascent. This Metanoia, the new way of seeing the world and this new mind-set on life help Jeff today to approach his battle with his illness with cheerfulness, courage and love. This attitude is what inspires me in my life. We, Steff, Roger and I, are thankful to be able to live Metanoia.”
Stephan Siegrist is also impressed by Lowe’s achievement. He says: “He climbed that route in this hard wall alone with the gear they had back then! You can only survive that kind of hardship if you’re in a deep crisis.” The route itself is something special for Siegrist, too: “When I climbed the north face of the Eiger for the first time with about 20 years of age Lowe had already climbed “Metanoia.” The spectacular ascent and following stories in the media have followed me and have left me in awe ever since.” Climbing the route himself was something special for Siegrist: “After 37 ascents and three first ascents in the north face of the Eiger the “Metanoia” definitely put the crown on it all. For me personally this is one of the highlights of my 37 ascents on the Eiger.”
Roger Schaeli adds: “Climbing “Metanoia” was my biggest adventure on the Eiger with the coolest team with which I was allowed to climb on the north face! The route inspired me to find more alpine challenges. My highest respect goes to Jeff Lowe. “Metanoia” is really bad ass!”
Lowe climbed “Metanoia” in 1991 without bolts. Huber, Siegrist and Schaeli installed an 8mm bolt at a belay since they wanted to avoid the risk of the entire rope team falling. In addition they used a 10mm bolt in a pitch before the Hinterstoisser Traverse. It was probably drilled to support the film team of the documentary “Metanoia.”
Route: Metanoia, 7, A4, M6
Berg: Eiger north face, Switzerland
First ascent 1991: Jeff Lowe (USA), solo
First repeat 2016: Huber, Siegrist, Schaeli with 8mm bolt and cliff (belay), 10 mm bolt (from film production “Metanoia” documentary 2013)
Website Jeff Lowe: jeffloweclimber.com