Even 2020 couldn’t put a stop to Angy Eiter’s climbing goals
The Austrian climber’s big 2020 project saw her scale a fearsome rock face close to her home in the mountains of Tyrol – learn why she found this route tougher than all of her other climbs here.
Angy Eiter added to her legendary status in 2020 by climbing a relatively unknown but supremely tough route in her home nation of Austria.
Her ascent of the Madame Ching rock face follows up on her groundbreaking 9b ascent in Spain in 2017 and came as a result of the global situation forcing her and husband Bernie Ruech (who bolted the route in 2018) to search for challenges locally.
The route was free of traces, so searching for the holds and how the moves were going to play out was an exciting proposition for Angy, who's been at the vanguard of her sport since winning her first World Cup event back in 2003 (despite a serious left shoulder injury in 2008 that needed surgery and nine months of rehabilitation).
Four World Cup titles, four World Championship golds and one European Championship gold later, Angy drew inspiration from her redpointed route at La Planta de Shiva in Villanueva del Rosario, Spain, which saw her become the first woman to achieve a 9b climb.
"The Madame Ching line is similar to the 9b at La Planta de Shiva as it traverses from right to left up to the overhang,” said the 34-year-old of her ascent.
“The two men who climbed La Planta de Shiva before me were much taller, so there were not many traces and I had to find my own beta – which holds I can take and which foot and body positions to solve the moves. Madame Ching was completely without traces and I had to clean the dirt from rocks and broken holds.
"The rock was really fragile and Bernie used glue to fix some holds."
In order to prepare for a climb into the unknown like this, Angy had to train hard indoors to visualise the route in her mind and get ready physically as finger strength and body contortion would need to work in harmony.
“After my injury back in 2008, I was afraid to push hard with my shoulder, but I gained good confidence in the end. Since 2014, I've been struggling with big problems and pain on the partly ripped hamstrings on my left thigh, though. Now I'm struggling with another ripped hamstring on the right thigh, too.
"I can't jump down from boulders anymore. Injuries challenge me to follow therapy daily and to do other strategies and techniques, so I can move without these muscles."
I’m very small, and I’m happy that I can show other women that they can also do it
Tough weather conditions also came into play. "The day of the ascent was quite strange,” said Angy, who’s also completed four 9a redpointed routes between 2014 and 2019 in Austria, Spain and Italy.
“Two days before the sun was shining, so I was confident to see my route in good condition. I felt very strong. When I arrived, it was totally wet. Luckily, I waited an hour and used tissues to dry the holds and a strong wind came up – because a thunderstorm was growing uncomfortably near – and the wall dried off. It was a tricky thing as I knew I had to do it then because otherwise it would rain heavily. About five moves before the top, I felt rain on my skin, but the last part was easy."
It took Angy – who has been inspired by the likes of Lynn Hill and Beth Rodden before her – approximately 100 moves to reach the top, which could well have been easier for a taller climber with longer arm and leg length as she only stands five feet and one inch tall.
"I never thought that I would go back to this route and I felt it would not be possible to complete the whole line, but Madame Ching was a Chinese pirate and she fought with a lot of strong nations and I fight with hard routes. I’m not the strongest woman and I’m very small, and I’m happy that I can show other women that they can also do it."