Weekend Warm-Up: Swissway to Heaven

Switzerland is home to some of the most renowned multi-pitch climbing in the world. Over the years, the Alps’ rich mountaineering culture has spread across the country, inspiring all manner of adventurous routes — from the lonesome peaks to the meadow-cradling foothills.

Accordingly, the Swiss are not strangers to climbing. From past to present, they have contributed many notable figures to the sport. One such contemporary figure is Cedric Lachat.

Lachat is perhaps one of the most talented multi-pitch climbers of all time. Swissway to Heaven follows Lachat on a 14-month pursuit of five tremendous alpine routes around Switzerland’s most iconic ranges. Yeah Man 8b+ at Gastlosen, Zahir, 8b+ on the Wendenstöcke, Odyssee, 8a+ on the Eiger, Flight, 8c in Lauterbrunnen, and Wögu, 8c in Rätikon.

Joining him at different stages in Swissway to Heaven are contemporary legends Nina Caprez, Fabien Dugit, Beat Kammerlander, Melissa La Neve, Claude Remy, Roger Schaeli, and Stephan Siegrist.

Lachat and Caprez on WoGu. Photo: Marc Daviet

Lachat and Caprez on WoGu. Photo: Marc Daviet

Five classic Swiss multi-pitch routes in ‘Swissway to Heaven’

Yeah Man, 8b+ (330m) – Gastlosen

Yeah Man is a harrowing, nine-pitch line on the north face of Gran Pfad in the Gastlosen range. Swiss guides bolted the route nearly two decades ago. In 2004, Josune Bereziartu and Rikar Otegi freed the individual pitches but never made a free, ground-up ascent. In 2010, the late Giovanni Quirici bagged the first ascent in a single day.

Lachat worked the line briefly with Melissa La Neve. He then returned with Caroline Minivielle to repeat the ascent just as Quirici had done.  Lachat described Yeah Man as “one of the most beautiful routes I’ve ever climbed. And also one of the most difficult.”

'Yeah Man' in the Gastlosten. Photo: Mathis Dumas

‘Yeah Man’ in the Gastlosten. Photo: Mathis Dumas

 

Zahir, 8b+ (300m) – The Wendenstöcke

Located in the Bernese Oberland, Günther Habersatter established Zahir between 1996 and 2004.

Habersatter first freed the line in 2006. But Lachat, with Fabien Dugit on belay, became the first to put it down in a single day. He managed to onsight all but the crux pitch, which he was able to redpoint on his second go.

Flight, 8c (500m) – Lauterbrunnen

In a starkly impressive showing, Lachat and Tobias Suter claimed the first repeat and first single-day ascent of the stunning 20-pitch Lauterbrunnen line, Flight. They’d planned for two days on the wall.

Roger Schaeli, Michel Pitelka, Markus Iff, Bernd Rathmayr, Max Grossman, and Stephan Eder bolted the route between 2006 and 2009. Alexander Megos claimed the first ascent in 2014 — an effort that took the young German four days.

Flight’s final two pitches are exceedingly difficult and varied, characterized by a severely overhung roof and thin, technical face climbing to the top.

Cédric Lachat and Tobias Suter on the Eiger. Photo: Guillaume Broust

Cédric Lachat and Tobias Suter on the Eiger. Photo: Guillaume Broust

 

WoGü, 8c (250m) – Rätikon

A challenging testpiece, WoGu is a steep seven-pitch route on the Ratikon massif, named for the legendary Wolfgang Gullich.

Beat Kammerlander established the route in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2008 that it received a free ascent. Its first ascensionists were Pietro dal Pra and none other than the excelsior Adam Ondra. At the time (and perhaps even to this day), Ondra believed WoGu was one of the most challenging lines in the Alps.

That distinction isn’t surprising, given Kammerlander’s affinity for bolting long, world-class lines at the spectrum’s elite edge. Since Ondra’s go in 2008, the route has seen very few repeats, and only by some of the sport’s absolute strongest.

Edu Marin sent WoGu in 2016, followed by Roland Hemezberger in 2017. Lachat’s redpoint with Nina Caprez was the third repeat overall — a testament to the route’s difficulty.

Odyssee, 8a+ (1400m) – The Eiger

In the final run, Lachat and Tobias Suter opted for a newer classic route on the north face of the Eiger.

Alpinists Roger Schaeli, Robert Jasper, and Simon Gietl established and then freed the 33-pitch route in 2015. In 2018, Barbara Zangerl and Jacopo Larcher nabbed the first repeat in a four-day single push.

As it turns out, the route didn’t go down so quickly for the pair of Lachat and Suter — thus ending Swissway to Heaven as a bit of a cliffhanger. We hear the duo will be returning for the send and eagerly await news of their redpoint.

Cédric Lachat on the Eiger. Photo: Guillaume Broust

Cédric Lachat on the Eiger. Photo: Guillaume Broust

 

With Lachat as the primary lens, we get a chance to learn just how profoundly influential Switzerland has been in climbing. And that influence isn’t just profound. It’s broad, resonating through all aspects — from its primally appealing landscapes to its proficiency-inspiring technical challenges.

Enjoy!

Runtime: 55 minutes

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life. She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network. She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.


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