Stephan Siegrist

Professional Alpinist

Crack Baby: Retracing the steps

Sometimes you think you should throw the old stuff away but then the old memories come back.

On Feb. 15 1993, Swiss climbers Xaver Bongard and Michael Gruber topped out a long-admired 350m ice line on Kandersteg’s impressive Breitwangflue wall. Still considered one of Switzerland’s most beautiful ice climbs, Bongard and Gruber’s 11-pitch route has become an extreme classic in the Alps and a revered project for the international climbing community.

The summer before opening the route, Bognard had made headlines opening The Grand Voyage (VII 5.10 A4+; WI3) on Pakistan’s 6286m Great Trango Tower ­– a route widely considered the hardest high-altitude, big-wall climb at the time. Then, just one year after opening Crack Baby, Bongard was killed in a BASE jumping accident in Lauterbrunnen.

Among the many admirers he left behind was young aspiring alpinist Stef Seigrist, who looked up to the 30-year-old as a mentor and friend. In his new film, Siegrist takes Gruber back to the Breitwangflue to pay tribute to Bongard. For Gruber’s first attempt at the route since opening it 30 years ago, the pair dust off some of the original gear to get the job done in style.