New Beginnings: Fabian Buhl’s Best Rope-Solo Yet

Taking inspiration from the legendary Alex Huber, the former boulderer Fabian Buhl seeks out the ultimate challenge: a ground-up, rope-solo first ascent at the stunning Sonnwendwand at Loferer Steinplatte, Austria.

It all started for Fabian in 2014 with a divine, if formidable, route called “Nirwana,” located at the Sonnwendwand, a 200-meter bullet, blue limestone cliff at Loferer Steinplatte in Austria.
The legendary German mountaineer Alex Huber was the first person to climb “Nirwana” in 2012. This seven-pitch route is difficult (8c+), dangerous (only 17 bolts in seven pitches), and in 2014, it had still not seen a second ascent.
 
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At the time, Fabian was mostly known for his bouldering skills—he’s climbed 8c. But he began branching out onto longer routes. First it was with Silbergeier (8b), the famous alpine route in the Ratikon. 
Next, it was “Nirwana,” which pushed Fabian to the limit. After he succeeded, he wrote,
Biggest respect to Alex Huber for opening such a nice route in this perfect style. … The beauty of the cliff is amazing and I hope to be able to add my own route at some point.
Fabian Buhl

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That Huber had established “Nirwana” by climbing ground-up and solo (using a rope) was something Fabian could never have imagined doing himself in 2014. He was happy just to have repeated it by climbing with a partner.

Yet as time passed and Fabian’s skills progressed, he decided to see if he could pay homage to Huber by establishing his own first ascent—while self-belaying.
He remembered spying an enticing crack system to the right of “Nirwana.” He vowed to try.
 
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Over the winter he worked on his self-belay system, improving efficiency. Learning to feed himself rope as quickly as possible was vital. Too slow and he might pump out before he could clip the rope during the difficulties, which would mean a very big and scary fall.
In the spring, he cleaned the cracks and brushed off lichen. He sussed the beta on the difficult sections, one of which included using a bad pinch and heel hook. The crux (8c) would take a slightly overhanging face, culminating with a desperate dyno to the lip. Like Huber, Fabian also wanted to place a minimum of bolts. Only four bolts in 200 meters were added—a bare minimum.
Success wouldn’t be easy.
 
Fabian woke at 4 a.m. The south-facing Sonnwendwand would soon be too hot. As he was climbing alone with a complex rope system, progress was slow.
 

By the time he got to the crux fifth pitch, it was past noon. The wall was too hot. He fell. The next day, same thing.
Determined to succeed, Fabian tried again on his third day. By now he was becoming more comfortable with his self-belay system. Although tired, the climbing was flowing. It felt natural. He reached the crux and there was suddenly a magical breeze that lifted his spirits. And … success!
“Ganesha” (8c, 6 pitches) was born.
The name is a reference to the Hindu deity who is the god of new beginnings. And for Fabian, that’s exactly what this route became.
“Giving it all and being obsessed with a project that holds way more than just a physical chal-lenge is amazing,” he says. “And worth some sacrifice.”

GANESHA

Ganesha is a 6-pitch rock climb with an 8c crux. During the first ascent, Fabian Buhl added 4 bolts in 200 meters. To this day, Fabian's ascent remains the only ascent. The name of the route, Ganesha, is in reference to one of the most-worshipped Hindu deities. Recognized by his elephant head, Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, the god of arts and sciences, and all new beginnings.

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