Auer in Innsbruck, November 2012
|Born||18 February 1984|
Zams, Tyrol, Austria
|Died||16 April 2019 (aged 35)|
Howse Peak, Alberta, Canada
|Type of climber||Sport climbing, bouldering, mountaineering|
|Major ascents||Marmolada, Dolomites, Italy (2007)|
Hansjörg Auer ([hans.jœʁk ˈaʊ̯ɐ]; 18 February 1984 – 16 April 2019) was an Austrian mountaineer, noted for his free solo climbs, particularly of "The Fish" in the Italian Dolomites. National Geographic described him as "one of the boldest and best climbers in the world." He died in an avalanche while climbing Howse Peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Auer was born in Zams, Tyrol, on 18 February 1984, and lived in the Ötztal area of Tyrol. In 2017, he published an autobiography entitled Südwand, in which he describes his problems with anorexia. He considered the Italian alpinist Reinhold Messner to be a role model.
Auer's first major free solo climb was "Tempi Moderni" ("Modern Times"), an 850-metre (2,800-foot) route of 27 pitches graded 5.11d/7+, on the south face of Marmolada in the Dolomites in northeastern Italy, which he climbed in 2006. The climb took 2 hours 40 minutes.
He is perhaps best known for his 2007 free solo climb of the "Via Attraverso il Pesce", commonly known as "The Fish", also on Marmolada's south face. The 37-pitch (850 metres, 2,800 feet) route, named for a fish-shaped niche in the 20th pitch, is highly committing, and is graded 5.12c/7b+. There are eight particularly hard pitches bracketing the niche, including some overhanging sections. The route was first climbed by the Czech pair Jindrich Sustr and Igor Koller in 1981, using ropes. It was soloed by the Italian climber Maurizio Giordani in 1990; Giordani used a rope to belay himself on some of the pitches and took 10 hours. Auer had failed to redpoint the climb with a partner in 2004. He started his 2007 attempt on 28 April by practising sections, after abseiling in from the top of the wall. He then free-climbed it successfully on 29 April, without using any rope, in 2 hours 55 minutes. It was the second solo climb of the route. Auer's free climb has been compared with the 2017 free solo climb of El Capitan in the Yosemite National Park by Alex Honnold. Alpinist magazine described it in 2007 as "one of the most difficult, long free solos ever tackled", commenting that it could be described as a "speed ascent".
He subsequently focused on mountains of over 7,000 metres (23,000 feet) in the Himalaya and the Karakoram ranges, and is known for making several first ascents. These include that of the south face of Nilgiri South in the Annapurna Massif, Nepal, and of the west wall of Lupghar Sar (2018) and the south-west face of Kunyang Chhish East in the Karakorum Mountains, Pakistan. His first ascent of Lupghar Sar West was climbed solo. He was posthumously honoured with a Piolet d'Or in 2019 for this achievement.
Auer died on descent after reaching the summit of Howse Peak in Banff National Park of the Canadian Rockies on 16 April 2019, with fellow Austrian David Lama and the American Jess Roskelley. The group completed a difficult variation of a route on the east face of Howse Peak known as M-16. The Auer-Lama-Roskelley variation took a line to the left of M-16, after the first difficult waterfall pitch on that route. Their bodies were found on 21 April 2019. Photographic and GPS evidence recovered from the accident site and from Jess Roskelley's iPhone show they left their camp at the base of the east face at approximately 05:30 AM, climbed the first difficult ice pitch on M-16 by 07:19 AM, and then traversed left on new terrain into a left-leaning ramp. After a pitch and a half up the ramp, they traversed left again and climbed an exceptionally difficult unclimbed waterfall, which brought them to a long, steep snow gully. They climbed the gully and then traversed over a snow rib further left into the large snow basin that is drained by the icefall route, "Life by the Drop". They climbed up the snow basin to the south ridge, which they ascended to the summit. Their summit photos were taken at 12:41 PM and 12:44 PM. The last photo on Auer's camera places them rappelling into the top of the snow basin at 1:27 PM. Whether they were caught in an avalanche or there was a human error is unknown, but we know from a photograph taken from the highway by a local climber from Canmore that a cornice broke off above the snow basin and swept the route above "Life by the Drop" at 1:58, 31 minutes after they dropped into the basin to descend their route. Their bodies were recovered from an avalanche cone below "Life by the Drop".
- Andrew Bisharat (April 2019). "Three top mountain climbers presumed dead in avalanche". National Geographic. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- "Eltern posten NachrufKeine Hoffnung mehr für Tiroler Alpinisten Lama und Auer". Kleine Zeitung (in German). 19 April 2019.
- Julian Galinski (19 April 2019). "Hansjörg Auer: Obituary to a boundlessly helpful "egoist"". ISPO. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- Lambert, Erik (24 May 2007). "Auer free solos 850-meter 5.12c". Alpinist Online. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Peter Beaumont, Joanna Walters (19 April 2019). "Three mountaineers killed in avalanche in Canada". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2019.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- "An Avalanche Has Reportedly Killed Three Top Alpinists". Outside Online. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Piolets d'Or (31 July 2019). "Piolets d'Or Winners 2019". Rock and Ice.
- "David Lama, Hansjorg Auer and Jess Roskelley Presumed Dead". Gripped. 18 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- "Canada avalanche: Three professional climbers believed killed in Rockies". BBC News. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- "Three mountaineers presumed dead in Banff avalanche". Rocky Mountain Outlook. 18 April 2019.
- "Top climbers die in Canadian avalanche". BBC. 22 April 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- Agence France Presse (April 22, 2019). "Canada avalanche: bodies of three renowned mountaineers found". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
- Ash Routen (22 April 2019). "Bodies of Lama, Auer and Roskelley Recovered". explorersweb.com. Archived from the original on 2019-04-22.
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