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words by FABIAN BUHL
pic by STEFAN SCHLUMPF
After being the first to repeat Alex Huber’s Nirwana (8c), a 7-pitch route on the Sonnwendwand at Loferer Steinplatte, Austria, which is considered one of the hardest multi-pitch routes in the world, Fabian Buhl was hooked. The 26-year-old wanted to open his own route in the same style, starting ground-up and solo. Right next to Nirwana and the Huberbuam’s fatal route Karma, Buhl solo redpointed Ganesha, a 7-pitch route named after his mojo: an elephant-headed Hindu god that is widely revered as ‘the Remover of Obstacles and the God of New Beginnings’. A great image for overcoming many hurdles while developing his very own rope management system that has given him the confidence to tackle more free climbing projects in the future.
It all started with repeating Nirwana, one of Alexander Huber’s masterpieces. Two years ago I stood beneath that rock face for the first time and I was deeply impressed by the overhanging wall with its perfect limestone. It was not only the beauty of the line and the spaced out protection that impressed me at that time, but also the style in which Alex opened this route. He faced the challenge and started ground-up and solo, something I couldn’t imagine doing back then.
But as time passed by, I climbed other routes, got a better routine and developed my climbing skills, especially on the mental side. Not having a partner in the fall of 2015, I decided to at least try how rope-soloing works in order to find out whether I would enjoy it. First of all, I gave it a try on sport routes and steadily improved my rope management and other important factors of solo climbing. Then I felt ready and wanted to open a new route in a similar style. Right at that time, I happened to go through some pictures of Nirwana and there it was! I suddenly remembered a nice and obvious crack system, which ends in one of the most beautiful face climbs that I’d ever seen. The line was just too obvious not to try. So I packed my gear and drove to Lofer to face the challenge of opening a line ground-up with as few bolts as possible. Those four days really ratcheted up my mental limits and they also taught me that my solo system still had a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, I figured that it might already be good enough to open a route and rest on a bolt or trad gear in order to prepare myself for the next section; a step into the unknown.