Belgian big wall specialists Sébastien Berthe and Siebe Vanhee joined forces last week to make the first ground-up free ascent of the 550m testpiece Fly in Switzerland’s stunning Lauterbrunnental.
Established by Roger Schäli with various partners between 2004 and 2008 and climbed over a period of 4 days in June 2014 by Alexander Megos, the route was repeated in 2019 by Cédric Lachat who, after having worked with Tobias Suter, pulled off the first one-day ascent.
Joined by photographer Julia Cassou, Berthe and Vanhee set off at 7:00am on 12 June in hope of a one-push ascent and 3 days later reached the top by an absolute gem of a route.
Sebastien explained more;
“Back on the wall for a double ground-up free-ascent of the FLY in Lauterbrunnen!”
“This crazy multipitch, opened by Roger Schaeli (2004-2008) and freeclimbed by Alexander Megos (2014) and Cedric Lachat (2019) was one of my main goals of this year 2021.
“On June 12th, together with the belgian viking @siebevanhee , we launched ourselves for a few days trip on the wall. Long of 20 pitches and 550m, and with the hard part really high on the wall, we decided to take enough food and water to stay 5 days.
“After 3 days of hauling, hard climbing and fighting, we reached the top with some bloody fingers having both free climbed all the pitches in their correct order. We swapped the lead in the 7th grade pitch and both led all the 8th grade pitches.
“On the first day, we climbed and hauled the first 16 pitches. I had a few falls mostly due to broken holds, but always went down to the anchor and climbed it again.
“On the 2nd and 3rd day, we worked and sent the 4 last hard pitches. Heartbreaking falls, bad skin, doubts, bad conditions: we could overcome all these factors with a good and supportive fighting spirit, and some good betas!
“By mid-day on day 3, we were at the top of this magnificent wall! Always great feeling to send a multipitch route at the limit.
“Thanks to Julia Cassou and Siebe Vanhee with whom this spicy adventure felt like a piece of cake. Cheering, support, good mood and laughs! What a privilege to experience a friendship-supportive climbing adventure again. Well accompanied, everything seems easier!
“Before the climb I was not sure I was ready for some hard climbing again, but right now I am sure I am hungry for more!”
“Friendship, laughs, nerves and support! I enjoyed this soo much! The perfect team for a good adventure.
“Swinging leads, climbing everything free and hauling our household with us we climbed up to the ledge below pitch 17. That same night, Julia joined us on the ledge and installed some static lines to shoot our ascent from above the following days. Next day Seb started off, he immediately onsighted the 8b (pitch 17) off the ledge. I was nervous but managed to quickly flash the route after my partner. Next was the cruxpitch (19), I took off first. Slowly I found the beta, brushed and marked all the holds. I managed to send on my third go! Day three, for me there was only one pitch left. Seb was in a more stressful position this time, having to still send the cruxpitch. First thing in the morning, he cruised the pitch up to the anchor. My turn again to work out the moves of the last, 8b+, pitch. A short, 15 meter slabclimb with one powerful move off a small flat crimp. We both managed to send this on our third go!
“Thank you so much to Roger Schaeli for opening this line and sharing some info with us. Thanks to Cédric Lachat and Tobias Suter for the info on logistics. And most of all, thanks to Julia Cassou for your amazing images and good vibes on the wall.”
Great work guys!