Erik Heldmann usually screws tricky bouldering problems onto the wall. But the German also likes to climb higher. After reaching the top 2017 peaks in 4000, more and more were added over the years. This summer he completed his collection of 82 four-thousanders in the Alps with the Picco Luigi Amadeo.
In the interview, Erik Heldmann explains where his passion for mountaineering comes from, how a knee injury almost meant the end of his mountaineering career and why he particularly remembers the Peuterey Integrale.
Erik, in your everyday professional life you deal with walls that are just 5 meters high. How did you come to tackle much larger walls?
Already in 2017 I was on the first 4000m peaks. Back then we did the spaghetti tour in Valais. Since then I have been going to the Western Alps every summer and mainly to the 4000m peaks. When I climbed the Aletschhorn, my last 2021m peak in Switzerland, in the summer of 4000, I had the idea of wanting to climb all 4000m peaks in the Alps.
What kind of time horizon did you give yourself for the remaining summits?
Since, as I said, I initially didn't have the goal of climbing all 4000 meter peaks in the Alps, I tackled it without any time pressure. But this changed a bit in 2021 when I realized that there weren't that many peaks missing anymore. I would have liked to have completed the project as early as 2022. However, a necessary operation on my knee threw a spanner in the works.
But you were still able to continue your project with a little delay, right?
Yes. Since only the 4000 peaks around Chamonix were still open, I thought of a sensible order to line up the open 4000 peaks as efficiently as possible. However, four mountains were still open after the 2022 mountain season ended.
Les Droites, I planned to climb these peaks in the Mont Blanc massif in June 2023. I wanted to climb the two peaks on the Peutereygrat, the longest ridge in the Alps, via the so-called Peuterey Integral. Since this is a very long tour that usually doesn't have perfect conditions, the biggest challenge was finding the right time window.
The Picco Luigi Amadeo is a peak on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif and is usually climbed via the Bruillard ridge. For this climb, however, we chose the route via the Eccles bivouac and then climbed the Bruillard pillar over the “Bonatti-Oggioni” to the summit of the Picco Luigi Amadeo.
What does the successful completion of your 82x4000 project mean to you?
First and foremost, the completion of the project means to me that a time is coming to an end that was characterized by: great climbing, good conversations with great climbing partners, long car rides, checking the weather every day, endless climbs to the huts and much more.
What were the most formative moments of this time?
The highlight of the entire project was certainly the Peuterey Integral. I was able to climb this with a very good friend. Due to the unstable weather, we were completely alone on the ridge the entire time and it was not clear until the end of the tour whether we would make it.
What challenged you the most?
The low blow for me during the project was certainly my knee injury at the end of 2021. When it was initially unclear what would happen next, my mountaineering career was briefly on the verge of ending. Luckily the injury wasn't as bad as initially thought and I was still able to finish the project.
You're a professional route wrench. Has mountaineering influenced your work?
In fact, I wouldn't say that the project actively influenced my work. Conversely, however, I benefited greatly from the implementation of my project because I did not have to specifically go to climbing training.
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Credits: Cover picture Erik Heldman