100 extreme classics aimed for, 40 achieved: Alba Lucia Neder's turbulent climbing year

On New Year's Eve 2022, Alba Lucia Neder gave birth to the crazy idea of ​​climbing 100 “break tours” within a year. The German climber explains in an interview what attracted her to this challenge, how she experienced the climbing tours from Walter Pause's collection “Im Extremen Fels” and what she took away from this huge project.

Alba Lucia Neder loves big challenges. And she loves alpine climbing tours with a serious character. Alpine test pieces like those in Walter Pause’s collection “Im Extremen Fels”. She had already repeated a good handful of these tours. But there should be more, much more. On New Year's Eve 2022, she sets herself the crazy goal of climbing 100 alpine extreme classics in the coming year. The Pause project was born.

Alba, you've really set your sights on something with your break project. What attracted you to this challenge?

The idea came about shortly before New Year's Eve 2022. I was just entering my tours on Extreme collect. I realized that I had managed significantly fewer climbs from “Im Extremen Fels” than I thought.

Rectangle_Knatsch in Magic Wood

Even if I made ten every year, it would still take ten years to get them all. And then I thought: I'd rather do them all in one year.

Alba Lucia Neder

Of course that didn't quite work out, but I'm very proud of my 40 tours. I need a challenge like that. Saying now: Okay, I'll do all of them over the next three or four years wouldn't have been such a great idea. That's why I thought I'd give it a try and I'll keep at it.

In the Heiligkreuzkofel Mittelpillar, the tour that turned out to be one of the most formative of the Pause project. Image: Alba Lucia Neder
In the Heiligkreuzkofel Mittelpillar, the tour that turned out to be one of the most formative of the Pause project. Image: Alba Lucia Neder

100 climbing tours in one year are quite challenging from a time perspective. Did you take any time off for this project?

Sort of. I do translations, mainly for Versante Sud Verlag from Italian into German. I had a relatively large number of orders last year and few this year, so it worked out well. I generally try to keep my costs as low as possible so that I have as much time as possible for climbing.

How did you approach this mega project organizationally?

At the beginning I made a very precise plan of how I imagined it and which routes could go in which month. I don't know if I even climbed a tour in the month I planned it, because one of the biggest challenges was the weather. And that started off pretty badly.

In February I only completed three routes. It was cold, there was snow, but it was okay. Fresh snow continued to fall again in March and April. Fresh snow or rain, that was a disaster. By the time I could actually start, it was the end of May. I think I had only done ten tours by then. I did the other 30 all between June and October.

Checking the weather and planning tours: two activities that run like a common thread through the entire project. Image: Nicolas Det
Checking the weather and planning tours: two activities that run like a common thread through the entire project. Image: Nicolas Det

And the weather probably wasn't the only external influencing factor, was it?

Exactly. I had to approach the whole thing much more spontaneously than I would have liked because I always had to respond to the people I was climbing with. And if they were in Switzerland, then understandably they didn't want to go to Styria and vice versa. I've had to adapt the routes to the people quite often.

You climbed with many different partners. What was the most challenging thing for you between people and communication on the mountain?

I'm more of a person who likes to climb with people I know well. But everyone probably says that. I'm not usually on the move in such a way that I have to constantly meet new people. But now I was kind of forced to do it, which was partly cool. I found great climbing partners with whom I will definitely continue climbing.

The hardest part was just having to constantly adjust to someone new.

Alba Lucia Neder

Sometimes I was still coming off a tour and had to think about where I was going and who I was meeting.

Alba Lucia Neder approaches her Pause project with many different partners. At the Cima d'Ambiez with Sybille Rödig. Image: Nicolas Det
Alba Lucia Neder approaches her Pause project with many different partners. At the Cima d’Ambiez with Sybille Rödig. Image: Nicolas Det

Weather and climbing partners are two fairly unpredictable factors. How do you deal with not being in control?

I think it irritated me more at the beginning because I had planned to have climbed 20 routes by the end of April. That wasn't the case at all. At some point after a few tours I realized: OK, this isn't working, even if I want it to be, it won't work like that. I just have to slow down and enjoy every single tour.

There is no break tour that comes for free.

Alba Lucia Neder

At some point I just came to terms with the fact that it wasn't going as quickly as I would like. I had to learn that I can't force too much.

Did you find it difficult to rephrase your original goal from “100 break tours” to “as many as possible”?

I don't think so, because at some point it was clear that I wasn't making as much progress as I had hoped. It was during an attempt in Chamonix where I realized that I probably wouldn't even be able to climb half of the tours this year.

Having to turn around again: crisis in the Rätikon at the beginning of June. Image: Nicolas Det
Having to turn around again: crisis in the Rätikon at the beginning of June. Image: Nicolas Det

At the end of June it seemed like you had a real sensory crisis. Were there often moments when you questioned yourself and your project?

Yes. I would say more often in the first few months. Now at the end it just went better and more smoothly. Maybe because I wanted to force less.

I've also asked myself before why I do this to myself. Because climbing is generally relatively pointless.

Alba Lucia Neder

If you look at it neutrally, it has no deeper meaning. When you torment yourself and suffer, are afraid and cold, you sometimes ask yourself why you are doing this.

I don't know exactly how I got out of this low point. I think I just took a break - in the middle of summer and despite a good weather window. That was difficult. I felt really guilty about not doing anything for so long, even though the weather was good.

And then I started again by saying to myself: I'm going to do the route that I'm really keen on, simply because I enjoy it. The Seekarlspitze north face is certainly not a route that everyone finds beautiful.

But I found it kind of cool. It was just challenging, alpine, bumpy, sometimes slightly mossy, but somehow exactly my style. And then things went uphill again.

Alba Lucia Neder
In order to get out of the slump, Alba Lucia Neder takes a long break from the Pause project in the summer, despite the good weather. Image: Nicolas Det
In order to get out of the slump, Alba Lucia Neder takes a long break from the Pause project in the summer, despite the good weather. Image: Nicolas Det

You had to call for rescue at the Heiligkreuzkofel central pillar. Why did you judge yourself so harshly?

That was difficult. For me it was almost harder to call rescue than to say, okay, let's try to bivouac. Looking back, it was very good that we did that, in every respect. I've bivouacked at the summit a few times now and I know how cold it would have been with the few clothes we had with us.

But at that moment it felt like a big defeat. I had more experience, I had led us and I had gotten us in there. The only sure way to get us out of there was to call emergency services. But of course that's something you don't like to do.

It was a chain of decisions. I wanted a lot and thought it would be okay.

Alba Lucia Neder
Even though many big break tours take place in snow and ice, Alba Lucia Neder feels at home in sandstone. During a blind inspection of a telephone booth (7-) in Heubach/Odenwald. Image: Nicolas Det
Even though many big break tours take place in snow and ice, Alba Lucia Neder feels at home in sandstone. During a blind inspection of a telephone booth (7-) in Heubach/Odenwald. Image: Nicolas Det

Were there other situations in this project where you couldn't meet your own standards?

I've noticed that I'm a bit shy about the big tours in the Mont Blanc area. There was such a resentment because I was there once and it didn't work at all. I realized that I probably have too much respect for these climbs. More than I wanted to admit to myself.

At some point I admitted to myself that I'm not ready for these tours yet and that I still have to grow into it.

Alba Lucia Neder

I'm a climber, not a mountaineer. This whole “snow and ice” thing is rather new to me. That's why I wanted to do these tours with partners who are fitter than me in this area. But then it was difficult to give up control again because I'm usually used to having at least as much experience as my rope partner, or rather more.

Alba in the Hasse-Brandler at the Große Zinne. Image: Johnny Demaine
Alba in the Hasse-Brandler at the Große Zinne. Image: Johnny Demaine

Are there any tours that you particularly remember?

I will definitely remember Heiligkreuzkofel, simply because it was big and eventful. That was quite an amazing experience. I'm also very proud of the Lalider North Face Schmid-Krebs because it felt like a big route because it was also very long and quite fragile.

I remember the Schijenfluh West intersection in the Rätikon as very beautiful. It was just great to climb. I would almost say it was one of the best routes. It went really well and the climbing was just fun.

I enjoyed the routes the most where the main difficulty was the climbing itself and not the approach, descent or the rest.

Alba Lucia Neder
Long, brittle, alpine: The Schmid-Krebs north face of Lalider is just to Alba’s taste. Pause tour with Sybille Rödig. Image: Alba Lucia Neder
Long, brittle, alpine: The Schmid-Krebs north face of Lalider is just to Alba’s taste. Pause tour with Sybille Rödig. Image: Alba Lucia Neder

You managed a total of 40 break tours in one year. What do you take from this for yourself?

I think I've gained a lot of alpine experience. I was recently in Morocco and I probably wouldn't have been in such a good position if I had spent 2023 differently. Or in the Sarca Valley, my second home. I approached things in a relaxed manner that I would have perceived very differently two years ago.

They were definitely great experiences, also when it came to the decisions. Constantly gaining new alpine experiences and getting fitter for the next with each tour was really cool. I'm definitely sticking with this project, but of course I still have many ideas for further projects.

Alba Lucia Neder

If you would like to find out more about Alba Lucia Neder and her break project, we recommend her Website to visit and follow her on Instagram @albomat3000.

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