Working at Heights Above Clouds. First Ascent of "Oat Flake Madness" at Silberhorn
19. 10. 2021,
They moved to the Silberhütte cabin for ten days, and when the weather allowed, they set out create a new line. Ondra Tůma, Matěj Svojtka and Jáchym Srb made a new route “Oat Flake Madness” (approx. 7c+, 270 meters) in the northwest wall of Silberhorn. The route was done almost in a typical Czech style – from ground up, sparingly and with runouts resembling the Elbe valley sandstones.
The wall was revived two years ago by the locals Roger Schaeli and Stephan Siegrist. Roger told the two Czech guys that they can find plenty of space around his route “Silberrücken” (8a+, 350 m). Did Roger’s recommendation meet the expectations of the Czech climbers? Read a short interview with Ondra Tůma.
The route name suggests that you struggled with weather and lack of food… At first, everything went fine. We prepared a sort of tactics – “Today’s going to be brilliant and tomorrow will suck.” We found it better than having those “mediocre days”. So, one day all we needed was a travellunch and a fried sausage – that was the easy day. On the worse day, however, we had to start adding oat flakes to our meals. Oats before dinner, then a rather small snack, and soaked salty flakes afterwards. Weather wasn’t so great for sure – we had only one day of good weather out of those ten days.
What was the access to the Silberhornhütte hut like? Roger Schaeli does this by taking the cable car to the Eiger Gletscher, then he unpacks his paraglide and flies all the way to the cabin. Cool, isn’t it? We did it in quite a boring way, though, carrying everything on our backs and walking uphill for eight hours – it’s about 1,800 height meters. Those backpacks were terribly heavy – I could almost feel my hips splitting. We had about 200 meters of fixed rope, but the heaviest piece of our equipment were the bolts we got from our mountaineering union. We asked for the solid, eight-centimeter-long pieces, so that the route stays there for some time. When Jáchym went down to recharge our drill batteries, it took him only two hours twenty to get up without the heavy backpack. On the way up, you must cross some streams, climb chains… It’s not a fast one at all.
Were you satisfied with the quality of the rock? We bumped to some loose rocks from time to time, but that’s usual during first ascents. We didn’t have to toss down any refridgerators, more like the usual bricks. Nothing dramatic.
Can you place some protection or do you have to rely only on the bolts? From time to time. I managed to place one piton and some friends here and there. We led the route mostly through the orange and grey overhanging limestone, which is quite compact and doesn’t offer many good placement spots. The local rock doesn’t even have many holes – it’s mostly slopers, into which you can hardly place any protection. I didn’t place any nuts at all.
So Reinhold Messner wouldn’t be so happy with your line. Yeah, it would make him quite sad. (he laughs) But it has around 300 meters and we placed only 60 bolts in total including the anchors, which is not that much. All the anchors are made from two bolts and a fixed maillon. The route has nine pitches.
How do the pitches feel – is there a single hardest one, or is the route rather balanced? I found it to be quite balanced. All the pitches are graded around 7 fr. and higher. The first one is just some scramble, which I don’t really count but then it’s straight to 7a, 7b, 7c… it’s hard. When climbed RP, there even might be one 8a. The entire route is significantly overhanging – abseiling always got me some five meters from the rock even though we had to keep the pitches relatively short – all of them are around 30 meters long.
How did you pick the line? From below, the overhanging rock looked smooth and unclimbable. Therefore, we had to find the easiest way through. There are some possibilities for 9a big-wall lines beside this one. The area certainly has a potential – the massif is around 500 m wide and, as for now, there have been only three lines established: one classic route, Roger’s “Silberrücken”, and our line.
Did you climb all the way to the summit, or is no longer fashionable today? We ended up in some sort of scrambling terrain. One could possibly climb to the summit of Silberhorn (3695 m. n. m.) but neither of us was feeling alpinist enough to put on crampons after such a hard big-wall and go climbing further. And mind you, the rest would not be a piece of cake – this is just a tiny part of the Jungfrau massif. At first we though that our wall leads to the actual summit of Jungfrau, but its top lies much further and higher. We had no idea where we were going. (he laughs)
What about your climbing partners? Well, Jáchym was really the “leader of the expedition” – our champion. He was running up and down the valley, bringing us treats such as capers, chips and red wine. He was also great at drilling – especially since this was first time he has done it properly. He was responsible and I think he even managed to stick all his skyhooks without taking a single fall. As for me, I managed to fly off a hook about ten times. Matěj is also a champion – always ready for the serious business. (The guys also tried “Voie Petit” 8b it together, see video on eMontana channel.)
When are you planning to try the route RP? We’ll see if we can make it this year. In the spring, the wall is covered in the water from the melting snow, so then we would have to come in the late summer. The wall doesn’t get too much sun. It’s a northwestern face. We were lucky that there was the cabin, otherwise, the whole mission would be just impossible. We wouldn’t last long, sleeping in a tent.
In the cabin, we could get all comfy and sit down, and Jáchym sometimes even allowed us to light a stove, which was great. Otherwise, he forbade us to do so in order to keep us in the true mountaineering spirit: “Do twenty push-ups, run back and forth and you will be warm anyway!” He is a true coach. Well, we were hungry, we were cold, but it wasn’t terrible.