Happy ending: The two friends Simon and Roger after climbing the Grandes Jorasses, the sixth classic north face of the Alps. Roger takes the last North6 summit picture in beautiful weather. Photo: Roger Schäli
Exped friend and brand ambassador Roger Schäli has once again achieved a spectacular feat with his North6 project, together with Tyrolean alpinist Simon Gietl! Roger comments: "For me, this was probably my most beautiful mountaineering experience"!
six classic north faces
The North6 project connects the six classic north faces of the Alps: Grosse Zinne, Piz Badile, Eiger, Matterhorn, Petit Dru and Grand Jorasses. 6 peaks, 3 countries. 30,770 metres of ascent and 29,470 metres of descent. Mountaineering, climbing, paragliding, cycling - depending on the requirements, Simon and Roger were on their way. The team spent the approximately 1,000 kilometres between the north faces in the saddle of a racing bike. The entire project lasted 18 days. Roger and Simon mastered the specific challenge in 14 days. The remaining 4 days were due to a rest day and bad weather days with rain and snow.
The unstable weather situation was also decisive for the decision to postpone the project from spring to late summer. "Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a step forward," Simon Gietl is quoted as saying in the media release. And the wait was worth it! On the 13th of September, things finally got underway.
first goal: Die Grosse Zinne
Due to the weather forecast, Roger and Simon started the North6 project in reverse order. So early on Monday morning, the two friends climbed to the base of the Great Peak in the Dolomites. In the light of their headlamps, the well-coordinated team prepares to start the Comici route.
Drei Zinnen. Photo: Christoph Muster
The two friends reach the summit of the Grosse Zinne (2,999 m) as early as 8 am. A very special moment for Roger. "It's like a flashback, because this is where we started climbing together". The first north face is followed by a first stretch on the racing bike: 162 kilometres, 700 metres of altitude uphill and 2,710 metres downhill.
Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl connect the six classic north faces of the Alps - and they do it by climbing, abseiling, paragliding, skiing and road cycling. Photo: Christoph Muster
Up Piz Badile in three hours
The Grosse Zinne is followed by the 3,308-metre-high Piz Badile. Early in the morning, we set off from the Capanna Sasc Furä refuge (1,904 m) to the start of the north face classic "Cassin". The well-rehearsed rope team Schäli and Gietl make final preparations in the first morning light.
Final preparations in the first morning light - alpinists Simon Gietl and Roger Schäli early in the morning at the start of the north face classic "Cassin", north face of Piz Badile. Photo: Romano Salis
A little later they enter the route. Roger leads the team up Piz Badile. After only three hours of climbing, the two reach the summit, where they briefly enjoy the moment and then quickly start their descent via the Badile north ridge.
Let's go - Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl climb the north face of Piz Badile. Roger leads the tour on Badile (3,308 m) (picture right). Photos: Romano Salis
Arriving at the end of the Badiler north ridge, Roger and Simon decide on a more leisurely way down, namely by paraglider. "Now we could also fly from the end of the north ridge. It was fantastic," says Simon happily after the landing before the team gets back on their racing bikes.
Home game for roger schäli
When Roger Schäli arrives in Switzerland, an old acquaintance awaits him - the Eiger. The all-round alpinist has already climbed this north face more than 50 times, so it's a home game.
The Eiger (3,967 m), the third classic north face of the North6 project by Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl. Photo: Christoph Muster
After a short rest in Grindelwald, Roger and Simon get back on their racing bikes and head for Kleine Scheidegg. The plan: to climb the first pitch on the Eiger in the evening and set up a bivouac in order to start the Chant Du Cygne route early in the morning. And the plan works: Around 5 a.m., Simon climbs ahead by headlamp light. A few hours later, around 2 p.m., they ascend the west ridge to the summit of the Eiger. Up there, at 3,967 metres, it's time for a summit picture. Down from the mountain they go via the west flank. At the height of the "mushroom", the pilots unpack their paragliders. Professional paraglider Lucien Caviezel gives final tips and checks the weather again. Then the remaining distance is covered by air. After that, however, it's time to get back on the racing bikes, because there is a long cycling stage over the 2,164-metre Grimsel Pass to Zermatt.
another classic north face awaits
In largely dry conditions, this long stage also succeeds without incident. When the North6 team arrives at the foot of the Matterhorn, however, rain and snowfall are forecast for the following day. Therefore, the crew decides to take a break day due to the bad weather. They plan to wait out the bad weather front and climb up to the Hörnli Hut the following day, in order to enter the north face of the Matterhorn one day later, early in the morning.
The north face of the Matterhorn is approaching and with it the fourth classic north face of the Alps, which Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl want to climb in a row. Good to see: The Hörnligrat. Photo: Frank Kretschmann
The involuntary rest day is followed by an ascent to the Hörnli Hut in fog and rain. The gloomy weather leaves Roger and Simon cold. In a good mood and looking forward to climbing the Matterhorn, the two arrive at the refuge, which is built on the foothills of the NE ridge (Hörnli ridge), at around 6 pm.
High spirits despite rain and fog: Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl on the approach to the Hörnli Hut (3,260 m), which offers shelter to mountaineers at the foot of the Matterhorn. Photo: Nicolas Altmaier
After a restful night, we manage to climb the north face as planned at around 6 am. Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl take turns with the lead. The Schmid route is covered with a lot of fresh snow, so the route is more difficult than expected. Despite the adverse conditions, the two friends reach the summit of the Matterhorn in the early evening at 6 pm.
Early morning start at around 6 a.m.: Roger Schäli climbs the Schmid Route of the Matterhorn North Face. Photo: Simon Gietl
At this point, the descent over the Hörnligrat is still ahead of them. This takes a lot of time and challenges the two athletes intensively once again. It is not until around 2 a.m. that the team reaches their base camp at the camping site in Täsch, hungry, tired but happy. After a short night, a change of countries is imminent. In addition, two more days of rain are forecast. So the alpinists get back on their racing bikes to cover the distance to Chamonix as quickly as possible and still in dry conditions: 140 kilometres and 4,460 metres of altitude difference lie ahead of them.
the sun follows the rain
The aforementioned weather forecast should prove to be right: Once we arrive in Chamonix, we have to be patient, because the alpine region at the foot of Mont Blanc is shrouded in rain and snow from 2,000 metres upwards. But a window of good weather is on the horizon. The North6 team wants to take advantage of it. Until the start towards the base of the Petit Dru wall, the rope team meticulously prepares, because they both know that everything has to work perfectly on the north face.
Swiss alpinist Roger Schäli knows how important preparation is. He checks his ice axe in detail. On the north face of the Petit Dru, the ice axe has to work perfectly. Photo: John Thornton
The alarm clock rings early again at 3am. Simon and Roger climb out of the tent at the foot of the wall and choose the North Colouir for the ascent. 17 hours later, the two friends stand on the summit. As darkness falls, the well-rehearsed team rappels 800 metres down the south face to stop at the Refuge de la Charpoua (2,841 m) at 1:30 in the morning, exhausted but highly satisfied.
Roger Schäli in one of the key positions. Photo: John Thornton
"It took us a long time. Logically," Roger Schäli speaks into his mobile phone shortly after arriving at the hut. "The first pitches were really tough. Luckily Simon was really motivated in the night and fog, despite spindrift (= swirling up fine-grained snow) already at the beginning. We had to stop a few times and wait a few minutes for the snow to whizz by." On the steep terrain, he said, it got better, but very wintry. "It was difficult conditions in the Dru. The ice went well though. So was the abseil down the south face."
on the finishing line
The next day, the team set off for the last north face - the 4,208-metre-high Grand Jorasses. And this one beckoned with the best conditions. This window of good weather also had to be used, because rain was forecast again. With sunshine and good thermals, the paraglider pilots Roger and Simon pulled up their paragliders and took off near the Charpoua hut in the direction of the Mer de Glace. After a panoramic flight with a view of the last classic north face, their final destination Grand Jorasses, the two mountaineers landed safely at the foot of the largest French glacier and were able to climb quickly to the Refuge de Leschaux (2,431 m).
Roger and Simon's last goal, the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, is in the centre of the picture. In the centre of the lower part of the picture is the Refuge de Leschaux (2,431 m). Between the refuge and the north face is the Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in France and the fourth largest in the Alps. Photo: Nicolas Altmaier
Once there, the well-rehearsed team made final preparations for the climb the following day and conserved their strength for the intensive tour through the north face of the four-thousand-metre peak in the Mont Blanc massif.
In high spirits as always - Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl after a short night in the Refuge de la Charpoua (2,841 m). The two are about to set off on the 6th classic north face of their NORTH6 project. Photo: John Thornton
At first light, Roger and Simon stood at the bergschrund. The first few metres of the "Direct Shroud" route, which involves about 1,100 metres of altitude, felt like the most difficult, the team recalls after the successful undertaking. They chose the route in order to make progress as quickly as possible and reach the summit at around 3 pm.
The sixth summit of the NORTH6 project, Grandes Jorasses (4,208 m), by Simon Gietl and Roger Schäli succeeds in the best weather conditions. Photo: John Thornton
After this success and the intensive days, the two alpinists are exhausted and happy. "For me, this was probably my most beautiful mountaineering experience. It is rare that you get to share a summit success with so many close friends," says Roger Schäli. "Simon, the whole North6 crew, everyone was so happy and went all out to make sure Simon and I made it. This positive energy was really unique and could be felt everywhere."
Simon Gietl also has only positive words. He could not have imagined realising North6 with any other rope partner. For him, too, the project was a unique experience. "It was fantastic to be able to spend these 18 days, which filled the extensive project, with Roger," Simon says in a voice message shortly after the project ended. "It is an honour for me to form a team with Roger Schäli to realise dreams".
We warmly congratulate Roger Schäli and Simon Gietl on this success!