Alexandra Schweikart on Fight Gravity F7b, Richard Wagner Fels, Frankenjura © Ray Wood
Alex is one of Germany's top female climbers. She was born in Schramberg, Black Forest in 1982 and grew up in a climbing family, as she explains: “My parents decided to become rock climbers, wore spandex leggings, cow bell sized hexentrics and metal helmets! We went to Battert, Pfalz and Dolomites and sampled adventuresome family vacations.”
This early start planted the seeds for a lifetime obsession with climbing. The Frankenjura became the focus of her attention and she started to work up through the ranks. In 2005 Alex broke into the magic F8a grade with a redpoint of Witchcraft. By 2007 she had redpointed F8b and made an onsight ascent of Phantom der Zinne F7c+ on Tre Cime, North Face in the Dolomites.
Most climbers have a favourite angle of rock and Alex is no exception; her preference is slightly overhanging and she excels at this. Her hardest redpoint to date is Land of Confusion, a desperate and almost vertical 28m F8b+ in the Frankenjura with micron sized holds and spaced bolts.
Alex has climbed many of the classic test pieces in the Frankenjura, including the rarely repeated Kaum Zeit zum Atmen at Luisonewand. This was the original F8a+ in the northern Frankenjura, and was first climbed by Wolfgang Güllich in 1984. The route did not come easily as Alex describes: “It has a crux on two single finger pockets where I fell about 50 times!”
Another memorable Frankenjura route was The Old One Needs a Cold One F8b, which she made the first female ascent of: “It has hard moves where you skip one bolt. I fell on that section, spun around and the rope was wrapped around my ankle. So I fell 10m head first and swung back and forth…I thought I’d die that day. Fortunately I didn’t touch the rock at all. And sent the route two days later.”
Alex also has penchant for long alpine routes. Highlights include the Ortler North Face (1200m of steep snow and ice and the highest north face in the Eastern Alps) and at a more extreme level on rock, Via Camillotto-Pellesier, an 11 pitch F8a+/b on the North Face of Cima Grande in the Dolomites.
During a trip to Yosemite Alexandra managed to make a one day free ascent of the West Face of El Capitan - 28 pitches up to 5.11c, and all climbed onsight.
Climbing has taken her to many places around the world such as Thailand, Malaysia, California, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Norway. Her passion for trad climbing even lead her to North Wales; Alex cites the “tricky and scary” Warpath E5 6a at Rhoscolyn as one of the best routes she has ever done.
Her favourite crags are Siurana in Spain (“long, awesome routes, wonderful place, caves to sleep in, sun and wind” ), Yosemite (“adventures” ), Zillertal (“bouldery routes” ), the Dolomites (“walls as far as the eye can see” ), and of course, Frankenjura, her local crag.
On a recent visit to Siurana Alexandra climbed Zona 0 F8b – this was particularly special as it went down on her very last possible try of the trip.
Climbing at these high standards does take its toll on the body – to ensure that she avoids injury and muscle imbalance Alex has developed a regular exercise routine. Check out this film of what she calls: Alexercises. There is also a good interview of Alex on UKClimbing.com.
These days home is Bayreuth close to the Frankenjura. Outside of climbing Alex leads a busy and colourful life; she has recently finished a PhD in Nanotechnology, so her official title is now Dr. She has a keen interest in ecology and protecting the environment, and is also a fan of indie rock and punk music.
“When we did the West Face of El Capitan it was spring and we didn’t notice the snowcap on top. The snow melted down the route and turned some pitches into canyoning adventures! And the slabs near the summit were covered in ice in the evening. We forgot crampons and ice axes. I spent my coldest night 100m below the summit of El Capitan in wet clothes covered in pine needles. Frozen stiff we saw the most beautiful sunrise!!!”
Check out Alex’s top tips for visitors to the Frankenjura in this special Destination Frankenjura film made during a DMM team visit in 2012.