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abril 07, 2016


On the 6th February Ines Papert and Mayan Smith-Gobat summited Torres Central, in Torres del Paine National Park, via the east face. Succeeding in making the fifth known ascent of Riders in the Storm, 25 years after the first ascent of this historic route.

1. You recently came back from Patagonia, where you climbed the famous “Riders on the Storm” route. What made you choose this route?

Riders has been a long term goal, since I met Kurt Albert 10 years ago - I have been thinking about this line. But I also noticed, this would have been a proud and very hard goal. I had to experience a lot before!!! As well, I had to meet the person, I am going to climb this route with. And finally Mayan showed up in my life in 2014!!! She was the only possible partner for Riders, which I know.

2. What was the hardest part of this climb for you?

If there would have been only the climbing, it would have been much easier. But carrying heavy bags, pulling static ropes, hauling gear, jumaring about 10 km in total, and on top the climbing made everything very power consuming. But there were a few pitches, maybe not the hardest in grading, which were icy and crazy scary to climb. That’s when I used one crampon and one rockshoe for my first time in life.

3. Can you describe the “Papert-technique”?

Haha, this is not a publicly recognized technique and people might have used it before. I thought it was impossible to do this off width pitch 19 rated 7b+ pushing with my left hand, while pulling on my tool with my right. Kicking the ice with my right foot, while smearing rock slabs with my left. It’s difficult to coordinate your feet and hands, doing the opposite from each other. But it worked well and I have send this pitch on first attempt.

Route on Torres Central Eating Lyofood meals in the camp

4. Mayan Smith-Gobat is motivated to try the route again. What about you?

Mayan is psyched to go again, I wish she can do it and won’t get hurt. If I would go again, I would have learned nothing from any climbing lesson on this big wall. I feel responsible to my 15 years old son. Beside the fact, that climbing is my life, but I don't want to lose it for any climb.

The reason: the entire risc got incalculable, I could not identify any reasons for rock fall…warm temperatures might have been the case, but why in the middle of the night???

Rocks have destroyed our portaledge while sleeping, it was so close that the rock hit us. There were several moments like this and I was glad we made it save to the ground.

Plus the fact, that the route is very difficult and would take us again a lot of time. I am quite sure, we have to be more than lucky to get so much good weather again. Patagonia and specially Torres del Paine are well known for constant bad weather.  If there is sun, the rock starts to fall down. There is nothing you can do to avoid these dangers. This is why I have decided not to come back again.  (I have been struggling with this decision a lot).

5. Can you describe a ‘typical day’ on Riders and the conditions you faced?

Typical day on Riders:

Alarm: 3 a.m., snow was melted the day before, 3.15 Lyo cereals with lots of coffee, 4.00 starting jumar up the rope at around. 6.00 getting there with the first light of the day, I or Mayan start climbing. Working the pitches until 12.30, when the sun disappeared around the corner, this was normally when the face turned out to be wet from melted water running down. 13.00 relalling, 14.00 lyo lunch, 15.00 hang out in portaledge for a while, then start working on the variant in the late afternoon at 17.00 , because it was close to the ledge and some parts stayed dry. 19.00 melting snow, to get water for cooking and breakfast the next day. 20.00 eating lyo soup and dinner, 21.00 having a zip of our wispy bottle, 9.10 going to sleep

But there was a lot of these days, after a storm hit the wall…we got up earlier than 3 in basecamp, hiked up for 2.5 -3 hours, jumar up the 500m to the ledge, start climbing at 8 or 9. And kept climbing whatever was possible with the conditions.

Once I had to go down all the way down to the Belgium's bivi, just to pick up the ice screw we have forget to bring and I went immediately up again. And there was one pitch impossible for us, to climb/protect without using an ice screw for protecting.

Climbing a mountain incline Mountaineers

6. Thomas Senf took some amazing pictures of you and Mayan on Riders. Did he climb many of the pitches as well or was he 100% focused on photographing you and Mayan climbing Riders? Did having a photographer on the wall as well add further to the complications of the climb?

Thomas was a huge support on the wall, with any kind of work (hauling, getting ropes at the right spot ext.) but he focused on shooting. The fact that he is a great climber, made it all very reasonable for me and Mayan. He jumared the entire wall, did never disturb us on the climb, just documented what he could get. But he is super creative and his alpine climbing level is very high. So he was always part of finding decisions. And he kept us psyched, even if we had a hangover. He is always in a good mood and made us laugh a lot.

Franz Walter only joined us for the first half but he helped a lot as well. Just I and Mayan on the route would have been almost impossible. Now I realized why all the earlier teams came with a number of 3-5.

7. How did you get into climbing and when did you start going pro?

I have climbed my first easy alpine route when I was 23. But with this climb I noticed, I was born to be a climber…later when I was 26, I won the ice climbing world cup and this was the time to think about a new direction in my life. It came all together by itself. After winning the comps, I had my first sponsors and with that the possibility to pay my daily invoices.

8. What does mostly attract you in climbing?

The creativity, the movements against the gravity, the power you need, the nature….Nothing better than sharing a day outside with a good friend and the fact you are very hungry after climbing and you can eat a lot;)

9. There’s a lot of “thinking time” in the mountains. Can you let us in in some of those thoughts that go through your mind while belaying, waiting for good weather, sleepless nights, etc?

I do think a lot of my son, and I am trying not to get home sick. Also I try not to think too much about logistics, before I’m going to sleep. It´s because you turn mentally in the circle. Once we did decide, what to do next, I start reading a book- which has nothing to do with climbing – I need to be distracted and would not find any sleep, with all this thinking.

Being a pro athlete and one of the best climbing women in the world means a lot of challenges, long trainings sessions, looking for new climbing projects but you are also a mother…

10. How do you manage to combine your life as a mother with the one of top athlete?

I do spend approximately 8 months of the year at home, getting up at 6 for having breakfast with my son, climbing until he is back from school, than spending the rest of the day with him. On weekends and school vacations we go sport climbing together. Twice a year, Manu´s grandma comes for some weeks, to take over my parent part at home. With her support I don’t need to have any doubts about leaving him behind. But I always miss him.

Mountain range

11. Did the fact of having a child change the way you climb?

Hard to tell, because I got late into climbing, by the time he showed up I was a beginner in climbing. But my decisions have always been reasonable, with knowing I am a parent.

12. Manu, your son, started already with climbing. Can you imagine climbing together a big wall?

Yes, it might not take very long. He is psyched and fearless. I can’t wait to teach him climbing big faces by introducing him the fact, that there is some risk involved.

13. Any projects already on horizon?

Kyzyl Asker again, but coming from China - this time with my good friend Luka Lindic- we are going there in fall 2016.

Thank you Ines for the interview and have fun in you next trip!

Ines Papert


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