Stephan Siegrist

Professional Alpinist

Silverback: First redpoint ascent on new route on west face of the Rotbrätt on Jungfrau, Switzerland

Roger Schaeli and I were the first to successfully climb Silverback, a new route on the west face of the Rotbrätt on Jungfrau in June 2019.


Stephan Siegrist and Roger Schaeli seem to be two completely different people at first. Siegrist is a down-to-earth father and husband who lives in an idyllic mountain town in Switzerland. Schaeli is a climbing nomad, always on the road to some crag in his VW camper van.

But they have a history that goes way back which connects them and their passion for hard routes in a deep and quite humorous way. They both shared an apartment in Interlaken for many years. Their small pad was well-known far beyond Switzerland's borders. The door of Siegrist and Schaeli's apartment was always open, alpinists and climbers were always welcome; and they came in droves. The place was so notorious that a magazine article was published about the place. The two Swiss alpinists sent many hard routes and went on expeditions together. Then their ways parted. Until they met again in 2017.

They decided to awaken an old project together, an idea really, that Stephan Siegrist and his friend Giovanni Quirici, who died in a climbing accident much too early ten years ago, had back then. Siegrist felt it was now time to realize his and Quirici\u2019s vision together with Schaeli. They wanted to climb a new route on the west face of Rotbrätt on Jungfrau in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland. There was only one existing route through a weak part in the left side of the wall. The route Fätze und Bitze was established in 1990 by Swiss alpinists Res Leibungut and Christoph Mauerhofer.

Since then no other climbers tried to establish other routes in the face. This is in part due to the long and tedious hike to the Rotbrätt with its 2000 vertical meters across tough terrain. In addition, the wall is steep and hard with some passages where protection can only be placed sparsely. Siegrist und Schaeli began their endeavor in 2018. They chose the steepest part in Rotbrätt since it was the only spot that was dry and free of snow after a winter that saw much precipitation. The two alpinists were able to establish their route second try due to adverse weather conditions. Nine pitches in great rock at the impressive Rotbrätt of the Jungfrau were now waiting for a redpoint ascent. It is only the second multi-pitch route here in total! The different life circumstances of the two climbers delayed a free ascent. Siegrist went surfing with his family that summer and then had to train for a big expedition. Schaeli scored several sport climbs and lived the nomad life. He definitely wanted to wait for his friend to come back to attempt a possible red point ascent.

A year later, in the summer of 2019, Siegrist and Schaeli gave it a try together with photographer and friend Frank Kretschmann. They wanted to score a redpoint of their route! The weather was stable, and their climb was the only spot on Rotbrätt that was dry. Both climbers were able to free the first pitches. But the fifth pitch is extremely steep and hard. After Schaeli was able to redpoint the pitch after he put up a hard fight the actual crux of the route begins. The sixth pitch boasts a boulder problem in the middle of the route. The terrain is very overhanging and protection bad. This is where the team spirit and deep friendship of the two climbers came into play.

They both decided on a rest day where they were royally pampered with amazing food by photographer and base camp cook Frank Kretschmann. The next day Schaeli was able to redpoint the sixth and hardest pitch while he was being cheered on by his two friends. After two more and easier pitches Schaeli and Siegrist stood atop the Rotbrätt. It was done! The only second and hardest climb to date on Rotbrätt received a redpoint after four days.

This is one of the greatest gifts you can get as a climber and alpinist. To climb through a wall as the first person ever, where there was only a vision of that possibility before. It seems impossible at first. But it becomes possible with lots of courage, the right team, and really wanting it hard.
Roger Schäli
It was a very emotional moment. To complete a longer project together after so many years. Just amazing. It makes old memories come alive. We couldn\u2019t have wished for a better week. Sometimes it just all comes together!
Stephan Siegrist

The two Swiss alpinists named their new climb on Rotbrätt Silberrücken with a mischievous smile on their faces. It translates to Silverback and refers to the broad back of Schaeli and Siegrist's grey hair.