05 October 2010
KURT ALBERT (1954 - 2010)
The redpoint warrior
Kurt Albert died on the 28 September falling from a via ferrata near Erlangen.
At the age of 14 he started, with other kids from Nurenburg, his long climbing journey, and just 3 years later, he’d already climbed some of the Alps’ major routes, such as the Walker Spur of the Grandes Jorasses, followed shortly afterwards by the north face of the Eiger.
But the turning point in his way of climbing came with his first visit to the Elbsandstein (Saxony – ex-East Germany), where climbers were already climbing almost as they do now, rather than in the prevalent style of the time, using pegs for progression. Kurt was infected by the revolutionary air circulating among those sandstone towers, where the only protection was provided by rings hammered into the soft rock. The distance between the rings meant the climbing between them had to be unaided.
Kurt immediately realised the significance of the new vision, and the importance of training to climb harder, and defined free climbing as we know it today. In 1975 Kurt invented the rotpunkt (literally, redpoint), a term today universally used to define a route climbed without using aid or resting. To identify the routes that’d been climbed in this style, he painted at the foot of the route – on the rock – a small red circle.
With Wolfgang Güllich, Flipper Fietz and Norbert Sandner he scoured the rocks of the Frankenjura and in just a few years was able to make several very hard redpoints, which with Magnet reached in 1982, grade IX (7c).
In the Dolomites with Gerold Sprachmann he made two important first free ascents: the Via degli Svizzeri (Swiss route) on the Cima Ovest di Lavaredo and the Hasse-Brandler on the Cima Grande.
In the meantime, he graduated in maths and started to work as a school teacher, but his passion for the freedom of wide open spaces, trips and adventure led him to the planet’s most remote walls, in search of virgin territory to apply the redpoint philosophy.
His companions in these adventures were some of Germany’s best climbers, such as Wolfgang Güllich, Bernd Arnold, Stefan Glowacz, Holger Heuber and many others. From the First Free Ascent (FFA) of the via yugoslava on the Nameless Tower - 7b at 6200 metres altitude – ( Trango Tower – Karakorum- Pakistan) in 1988 to Hotel Guácharo (7a+/550m) Roraima-Tepuis in Venezuela in 2009, he was constantly travelling and searching for new challenges and places to explore.
China, Venezuela, Karakorum, India, Canada, Patagonia, Greenland, and so on, there are few places where Kurt hadn’t set foot. He left us grand lines on the world’s toughest faces, milestones that have inspired and made dream climbers of successive generations.
His talks around Europe were memorable, occasions to talk about climbing but also great entertainment. Kurt knew how to communicate his passion for what he considered more than just a sport. We will all miss friendly Kurt and his carefree lifestyle, and his simple way of getting on with things and never taking himself too seriously.
Some of Kurt Albert’s routes
1982 Magnet 7c (IX) Frankenjura
1987 FFA Hasse – Brandler 7a+ (VIII) Cima Grande di Lavaredo
1987 FFA Swiss Route 7c (IX-) Cima Ovest di Lavaredo,
1987 Solo Rubberneck 7a+ (VIII+), Richard Wagnser Fels, Frankenjura
1988 Solo Courage Fouyons (7b), Buoux, Francia
1988 FFA Jugoslawenroute (7a+), Nameless Tower, Karakorum
1989 First ascent Eternal Flame 7b+(IX-, 3 punti aiuto.), Nameless Tower, Karakorum
1990 First ascent Riders on the Storm (IX), Paine Central Tower, Patagonia - Cile
1993 First ascent Stairway to Heaven 7c (IX), Roraima, Venezuela
1994 First ascent Moby Dick 7c+ (IX+), Ulamertorsuaq, Groenlandia
1995 First ascent Royal Flush 7c (IX), Fitz Roy, Patagonia - Argentina
1995 First ascent Fitzcarraldo (VIII+) Mount Harrison Smith, Cirque of Unclimbables, Canada
1996 First ascent Gelbe Mauer 7c (IX) Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Dolomiti
1997 First ascent Nordlicht 7a+ (VIII+), Tupilak, Groenlandia
1998 First ascent El Condorito (IX), Aguja St. Exupery, Patagonia - Argentina
1999 First ascent Vela y Viento 7c (IX-), Aguja Mermoz, Patagonia - Argentina
1999 First ascent Hart am Wind 7a+ (VIII+), Cape Renard Tower, Antarctica
2000 First ascent Odyssee 2000 7a+(VIII+, 500m), Baffin Island,Canada
2001 First ascent La conjura de los nejos (IX+; El Gigante, Mexico)
2002 First ascent on Vampire Peak (VIII+), Lotus Mountain, Canada
2003 Repeat: Story About Dancing Dogs 7c( IX/600m) Mt. Poi, Ndoto Mountains, Kenya
2006 First ascent El Purgatorio 7c (IX /650m, Acopan Tepuis, Venzuela
2007 Expedition to Sablija, Ural, Russia
2008 First ascent El Nido del TirikTirik (7b/400m) Castillo, Venezuela
2009 First ascent Hotel Guácharo (7a+/550m) Roraima-Tepuis, Venezuela.
Photos: Claudia Ziegler Martin Schepers Kurt Albert coll.