ALPINE GREATS ORGLER, OCHSNER PERISH

Posted on: April 30, 2007


Two great European alpinists have recently departed from our midst. Andi Orgler from Austria was a former architect who became a chief consultant for Stubai and an outstanding all-around alpinist. At his peak, during the 1980s and 90s, he climbed many cutting edge icefalls and made several impressive first ski descents, notably on the north faces of the Ortler and Gross Glockner. However, he was best known as an alpine rock climber, putting up many routes in fine style. Probably his most well-known contribution was an amazing series of ascents in Alaska's Ruth Gorge, which he completed with various partners from the late '80s to mid '90s. His first trip, in 1987 with Sepp Jochler, resulted in an impressive fourteen-hour romp up the East Buttress of Bradley to produce a 1400m route at 5.10 70 degrees. The two also climbed the southwest face of Hut Tower at IV 5.10c, 600m. The following year, with Tommy Bonapace, it was the legendary Wine Bottle on the huge east face of Dickey (5.11+ A3+, 1600m, Bonapace-Orgler, 1988), a fifty-one-pitch route that was considered one of the finest alpine-style ascents achieved in Alaska at that time. That same year the pair also added Happy End (5.10+ A3, 800m) to the east face of Barrill. Orgler continued to visit at regular intervals, adding more 'classics' such as Dream in the Spirit of Mugs (V 5.10c, 1000m, Bonapace-Hass-Orgler, 1994) on Eye Tooth, as well as other fine routes on neighbouring Sugar Tooth and the lower peaks of Werewolf and Hut Tower. The culmination came in 1995, when he returned to Bradley, this time with Helmut Neswadba and Arthur Wutscher to add make a five-day, alpine-style first ascent of the south face via The Pearl (5.11 A3, 1200m). For this and all his other accomplishments in the Ruth, Orgler was awarded the 1995 Piolet d'Or.

But one should not let these Alaskan ascents overshadow his success in the big mountains. In 1985 he made the fourth ascent of Masherbrum (7821m) in the Pakistan Karakoram via a new route on the northwest face. Several members of the expedition gave up due to the high difficulty and great danger from rock and ice fall but Orgler, with Michael Larcher and Robert Renzler, reached the summit after a bivouac at 7200m, having overcome difficulties reported to be 5.9 and 85 degrees.

Orgler was noted for his stance against the overuse of pegs and bolts at a time when they were proliferating. On one attempt at a new route in the Ruth during 1990, he and Michael Rutter had just completed a demanding A4 pitch, only to be faced with a compact granite wall. Orgler couldn't justify continuing the climb with the use of bolts, so the pair rappelled.

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In recent years Orgler's passion had been hang gliding, where he had become world class. He was killed, seemingly due to equipment failure, pursuing this passion during a competition in Australia.

The events surrounding Kaspar Ochsner's death are less clear. Swiss guide, ski instructor and proprietor of a major Interlaken climbing shop, forty-eight-year-old Ochsner disappeared recently on a solo, winter climbing trip in the Engelhorner. He was best known in Switzerland as a pioneer of alpine rock and hard alpine sport routes, notably in the wonderful limestone massifs of the Engelhorner and Wendenstock, where he was one of the foremost protagonists. But he also climbed extensively in the Bernese Oberland and had put up a new route, Schlupfloch, on the right side of the north face of the Eiger. Further afield 'Chappi' Ochsner will be best know for his first ascent of El Corazon (The Heart, 5.11 A1, 1200m, Ochsner-Pitelka, 1992), a still unrepeated line on the east pillar of Fitz Roy (see Issue 5's Mountain Profile).

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