Albert Precht 1947-2015

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 15/05/2015
Albert Precht in Crete. Archive Albert Precht.
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A legend of Austrian rock climbing, 67-year-old Albert Precht was recently killed while descending from a route in the Pervolakia Gorge, Crete

Full details of the accident are not yet clear but latest reports suggest that Precht and his long time climbing partner, 68-year-old Robert Joelli, were rappelling simultaneously (one on each strand of the rope) and were on the penultimate rappel when the incident occurred.

Both climbers died from severe injuries sustained in the fall. A second party, following them down, found the anchor perfectly intact.

Robert Joelli was a policeman and mountain guide who helped establish the European Police Mountain Guides Association, on which he served a term as president

Albert Precht is variously reported to have climbed between 800 and 1,000 significant new routes during his life. Most of his energy directed to his home turf, the magnificent limestone walls of the Hochkonig and neighbouring Tennengebirge.

His first new route was in 1969, but by 1984 he had climbed 200. By 1990 this had risen to 400, and to 500 just one year later.

He was perhaps best known for his motto, "Say no to Bolts", and for a long time maintained very strict climbing ethics, creating bold new lines up to VIII+ without a drill.

He also advocated the pure form of free solo climbing, and had put up new routes in this manner, on-sight, at grades of VIII-

Although not well-known in the UK, he was profiled during the 1990s in High Magazine, where he noted that if others had adopted his clean climbing attitude, far fewer great alpine walls would have been climbed in poor style.

Outside of his local mountains, he climbed new routes in Lyngen (Norway), Corsica (to which he wrote a guide), but more famously Jordan and Oman.

Starting first in Jordan's Wadi Rum, and then moving to Oman as development there increased, Precht climbed some notoriously bold lines, mostly with Wolfgang Haupolter and Sigi Brochmeyer. As Tony Howard noted at the time, "few other than Brochmeyer and Precht appear to be able to climb Rum's big faces in traditional style".

He also well known for undergrading his routes (for instance several of his longer offerings graded V+ were later re-equipped and then re-assessed as VII). This undergrading, and the fact that many of his routes involved long runouts, often led to a dearth of repeat ascents.

Although Precht was universally known for his bold multi-pitch rock routes, probably few realize that in his early years he was no mean alpinist.

In 1972, with Georg Bachler, he made an early ascent of the North Face of Les Droites, and in an impressively fast time of 13:30 hours, a record for a roped party that would stand until at least the mid 1970s.

The following year he took part in an Austrian expedition to the Cordillera Blanca, where he made the first ascent of the 1,200m South Pillar of Huandoy.

And in 1974 he was on an expedition to Makalu with Reinhold Messner, attempting to repeat the Slovenian Route on the South Face.

However, by his own admission he had trouble acclimatizing to high altitudes and turned his attention more and more to big rock walls.

Much later, as the most of Austria's climbing venues became increasingly developed by the power drill, new bolted lines began to intersect Precht's classic, sparsely protected routes.

To counteract his routes being neglected, or lost, in preference to the newer, safer, bolted additions, Precht had a re-think of his ethics and decided to retro-bolt some of his own routes.

Unfortunately, this proved controversial, not least because it is claimed he used poor quality material and often placed a single bolt on belay. It resulted in one fatal accident, where a bolt pulled when a party was rappelling from it.

Precht received several awards from the mountaineering community and in 2010 was presented with a rare and prestigious King Albert Mountain Award, granted to persons or institutions who have rendered exceptional, sustainable services in connection with the mountains of the world.

In 2003 he published an autobiographical work Tausendundein Weg (1,000 Routes). He also authored several guide books, most recently the selected guide Kreta Klettern (Crete Climbing), having made a significant contribution to the development of rock climbing on this Greek island up to the time of his unfortunate death.



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