After spending an epic adventure on the wall shooting footage and witnessing a truly extraordinary climbing achievement, I decided to put together a write up about the short time I spent in Switzerland’s Rätikon Mountains, located along the Swiss-Austrian border.
WoGü – A multi-pitch climb like no other
At the beginning of summer 2020, we set off with a solid team of climbers (Cédric Lachat and Nina Caprez), as well as a solid team of cameramen and photographers (Marc Daviet, 5 Elements Prod, and Jeremy Bernard) to spend a few days filming and taking photos of the big wall climb, WoGü.
WoGü is one of Rätikon’s legendary routes, and without a doubt one of the hardest multi-pitch climbs in Europe (350m, 8c max). This amazing line works its way across the wall. The first ascensionist, celebrated climber Beat Kammerlander, put up this visionary and committing route (6c, 6c+, 8c, 7c+, 8b+, 8b, 8b+/c, 8a+, 7c+) in 1997 to pay homage to his good friend Wolfgang Güllich (ie., “Wo-Gü”). The line is extremely hard, with two sketchy boulder problems on the 8c pitches.
The film project WoGü – Swissway to Heaven
The project to climb WoGü is the fifth and final opus in Cedric Lachat’s Swissway to Heaven project, and for which I’m producing a documentary film on the history of climbing and bolting routes in Switzerland. The segment in WoGü was considered to be a “small piece” in the overall Swissway to Heaven Project. The team decided to produce another film, directed and edited by Mathieu Rivoire (Illustroscope), which will cover the project in much greater detail, provide a behind the scenes look a big wall filming, and delve into Cedric Lachat and Nina Caprez’s backgrounds. The former couple has entered their names into the history books with their climbing film trilogy (which includes Silbergeier and Orbayu).
Big wall filming, a how to guide
To film and take photos in the very vertical big wall environment, you first need to know the ins and outs of the requisite rope techniques as well as have a good amount of experience alpine climbing. In addition to moving up and down a static rope on your own, when filming or taking photos of climbers you also need to know the best angles, plan for the best sections of climbing, avoid getting in the climber’s way during an attempt to send, etc. All of this requires practice, knowledge and experience big wall climbing, and a small window of time to acclimate to working day-in and day-out hanging from a 8mm static rope more than 300 meters (1000 feet) off the deck!
How exactly does one approach setting up this type of worksite? First, the climbers fix static ropes ahead of time on each pitch. This provides quick and easy access to those pitches they plan to work. Second, this allows the cameramen and photographers to move up and down the face with ease. And lastly, the fixed ropes provide an extra margin of safety if we ever need to call for a rescue. For the entire project, the 350 meter (1150 ft.) wall was fixed from top to bottom with static ropes. This required a few days of preparation before the climbers started to pull hard on the first hold of the route.
Next, if we want to take photos and video at the same time, we need two people on the rope. This means that those behind the lens fix certain sections of the route with two static lines. This means that entire endeavor requires much more time than simply climbing the route, especially when you need wide angle and close-up shots, drone footage, photos, video, etc.
Multi-pitch climbing styles
There are several ways to climb a hard multi-pitch route. Whatever the level of difficulty or style, it starts with the goal the climbers set from the beginning.
1 – This first goal is usually to free each pitch of the route (over several months or years if needed), not necessarily in order.
2 – Once freed and the crux pitches worked out, the climber tries to send the route in a single push, from bottom to top, and in a day when possible.
3 – At this point there are several schools of thought: either the climbers swing leads, in which case each climber seconds half of the route, still in an attempt to free every pitch.
4 – Or the climber wants to free every pitch on lead, and the other climber serves as belayer for the day. If the climber falls on the fifth pitch, they lower back to the anchor and try again (and do not lower all the way to the ground). The climber will make as many attempts as needed to send the pitch and continue.
5 – A no falls free ascent in a day is when the climber leads the entire route, from bottom to top, in a day, and without any falls. For the hardest big wall routes to free climb, this type of ascent is pretty rare.
6 – In the end, there are many other ways to climb a multi-pitch route, from free soloing, to a solo winter ascent, by way of climbing a route in the rain, etc. When it comes to finding ways to make a challenge ever harder, human beings never lack imagination!
Cédric Lachat – a no fall free ascent in a day
In the past, only Adam Ondra, Edu Marin, and Roland Hemetzberger had sent WoGü. The weather in Switzerland can complicate things. The Rätikon Mountains form a weather barrier and the border with Austria, meaning that all of the surrounding pastures in the are thick, lush, and greener than green. Since rain falls in such abundance in the area, the windows of good weather prove few and far between. For the project, Nina agreed to belay Cédric, which included ascending the fixed lines, coiling the rope, carrying the pack, etc. Nina also had plans to free each pitch. Cédric successfully made a no fall free ascent of WoGü in a day! And we were lucky enough to be there to film it all, which is also pretty rare for this type of project.
Trailer for WoGü
Here is some footage from WoGü. This short film was produced by Cédric Lachat, and offers the viewer a glimpse into this very unique aspect of climbing.
The film crew
- Cédric Lachat – Climber, producer
- Nina Caprez – Climber, producer
- Guillaume Broust – Director, cameraman, editor
- Marc Daviet – Photographer
- 5 Element Production – Cameraman
- Jérémy Bernard – Photographer
- Mathieu Rivoire (Illustroscope) – Director, editor