Top climber Magnus Midtbo spent some time this summer trying some sketchy slabs that Austrian Heinz Maricher established in the 1980s. In the early 1980s, Mariacher created the modern climbing shoe as we know it today.

He developed many much-loved classics from La Sportiva and Scarpa. His motto is that a shoe “can never be too soft.” He onsight free-soloed the Conforto on Marmolada, an 800-metre wall in 1979. In the 1980s, Maricher freed new slab routes up to 5.12d, which were some of the most difficult climbs sent at the time. In 1987, he redpointed Via del Pesce, a 900-metre 5.12+ on the Marmolada. Also in 1987, he made the second free ascent of Rude Boys 5.13c and Monkeyface 5.13d in Smith Rocks, Oregon.

Watch Midtbo climb with Mariacher on some of the most classic hard slabs from the 1980s.

Sketchy Slabs

Climbing by Heinz Mariacher

I’m around on the rocks for a very long time, such a long time that I still had the opportunity to climb with some of the pioneers of classic freeclimbing in the mountains, long before the spread of modern sport climbing.

The mindset and enthusiasm of my predecessors was very close to my own and I don’t think that todays generation feels that much different. Even if climbing has become very popular and is getting transformed to a real sport, there are still young and enthusiastic climbers who are seeking the unknown and are fascinated by the original spirit, by the idea of personal freedom far from the limits and regulations of a mass society.

In the times of change I was one of the few “old style alpinists” to embrace sport climbing as a new challenge and was in the mid eighties among the very first in Italy to explore 7c, 8a and 8b. Nevertheless I didn’t forget my origins and still considered mountain climbing as a different game with different rules. After many years of sport climbing I still believe that in the mountains style is more important than grades.

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