Lately, climber Jacopo Larcher, hailing from Tyrol, Austria, has been toying with the peculiar line between trad climbing and bouldering. His most recent ascent fits right into the concept.
At first glance, it looks like bouldering is the opposite of roped climbing. Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that’s far from the case. Now, premier trad climber Jacopo Larcher appears bent on blurring the lines between the two — and climbing super hard lines to do it.
Bernd Zangerl’s “Into the Sun,” in Murgtal, Switzerland, is a route that goes up what you’d call a boulder. It’s a giant boulder — a little over 50 feet tall. The route, however, is about 10 feet longer than the boulder is tall. And there’s no protection until about half-height.
How hard is it? 5.14c, which would make it easily one of the world’s most challenging trad routes. But to get to the part you’d call trad climbing, you have to clear a sustained, 30-foot boulder problem with two V12 cruxes.
What is it, then? No one really knows.
“At one point, you lose the safety of the crash pads,” Zangerl explains in the first ascent video. “This is not a highball anymore, actually.”
Even if it were, it would be quite “high.” The ground looks miles away as Zangerl locks off on a flat sloper and hauls up a few cams on a bight of free-dangling rope.
“I have no idea what it is. But it has a start, it has an end, and I used gear because it was too big to fall [off of],” Zangerl said, laughing.
Larcher Climbs ‘Into the Sun’
Enter Jacopo Larcher. Last time we heard from the Italian, he’d put up two new hard trad lines in Valle Dell’Orco — one, “Shikantaza,” is strikingly similar to “Into the Sun.” Though significantly easier (5.13b as opposed to 5.14c), it requires thoughtful gear placement and the lurking danger of a ground fall high off the deck.
Why not put in bolts?
For Larcher, that would spoil the fun.
“Lately, I’ve been particularly interested in exploring the different aspects of trad climbing,” he said after making the second ascent of “Into the Sun.” He added, “[W]ithin the same discipline, there’s a wide variety of styles, often completely opposite, which makes it so interesting to me.”
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Larcher would need all his psych reserves to finish the route. Putting in sessions between a hectic indoor route setting season, he often encountered less-than-ideal conditions. It also looked like his marginal weather window would close shortly after he started work on the project.
“The biggest struggle, apart from the hard climbing, were the conditions,” he said. “Due to the fog, the starting holds and footholds were mostly damp, so you had to try to climb the rest of the boulder with wet climbing shoes and hands.”
Fittingly, Larcher topped out the climb on the last day before snow closed out the season.
What Is ‘Into the Sun’?
Jacopo Larcher is a savvy climber. So before the big question about Zangerl’s route inundated him, he pre-empted it in a statement. At least, he attempted to:
So now the big question, which everyone is asking me: What is “Into the Sun?” Is it a trad climb or a highball? How can we describe it? Honestly, for me, the biggest question is another one: do we need to give a name to everything and fit it into a box? I personally don’t think so!
For me, “Into the Sun” is Bernd’s vision of how to climb a nice piece of rock. It was the way he challenged himself and got back to climbing after an injury, which according to the doctors, wouldn’t allow him to climb anymore. He managed to overcome this huge challenge and set a new one for other climbers.
I took it on, found it really hard, and I really enjoyed the process. That’s what I believe climbing should be. Someone else would have bolted, someone else would have chipped it, someone else would have free soloed it, and probably most would have never imagined to climb it.
I think he did it in the best style, and I personally would have done it the same way if this would have been my [first ascent].
Larcher added the route to a lengthening personal tick list of the hardest trad redpoints in the world. He owns the first ascent of what might be the world’s hardest gear route. He didn’t grade “Tribe” in Cadrese, Italy, but consensus after the fact suggests 5.14+.
He’s also redpointed Dave MacLeod’s “Rhapsody,” a 5.14c with a requisite 50-foot whipper if you peel off near the top.
As ever, Larcher’s post-send comments were candid and gracious.
“It’s inspiring and refreshing to see others’ visions, maybe get out of our comfort zone, and open our mind to different possibilities,” he posited. “Thanks again for the experience, Bernd, and props for the FA!”