Photographer: Thomas Senf

Portrait

Ines Papert

Ines Papert in a few words? That is a difficult task! Too long is the list of achievements for the successful professional mountaineer, and too diverse are her activities with which she inspires countless people.

Born in Germany’s Saxony region in 1974, Ines was touched by the love of the mountains at age 20 and now lives in Bavaria Berchtesgadener with her son Emanuel.

Then followed in quick succession: After training as a physiotherapist, Ines became a four-time World Champion and a multiple World Cup ice climbing competition winner. During the 2005 Ouray Ice Climbing Festival she also bested all the male competitors to win the event.

Image: Ritter_der_Kokosnuss6 | Credit: Thomas Senf
Fotograf: Thomas Senf

Since retiring from competitions in 2006, the talented and strong-willed climber dedicates her time to first ascents and expeditions on both rock and ice. The results are impressive: highlights include the 2013 first ascent of Nepal’s Likhu Chuli I (6719 m), the free ascent of The Hurting, (one of the hardest ice/trad routes in the world) in 2015, and the first free ascent of the 300m rock route Black Madonna (8a) at her home area of Untersberg.

Ines' mental strength and physical power are legendary. Although born with an innate laser-like focus, she continually trains her self-confidence and works extremely hard on her physical conditioning.

A big part of life for this musical climber is also the comfortable and relaxing time she enjoys spending with good friends. She always has a sympathetic ear for young climbers or people in need.

Image: Ines_Papert_Canada | Credit: Paul Mc Sorely
Fotograf: Paul Mc Sorely

This desire to share also corresponds to her ethics on the mountain: she wants to achieve her goals marked by friendship and harmony with her partners. She does not attach great importance to all-female ascents. She would rather explore new lines, even with the risk of failure. Ines Papert is constantly looking for new frontiers to explore - and breaks barriers time and time again.

Image: Patagonien3 | Credit: Franz Walter
Fotograf: Franz Walter

Longform: Portrait of the Climber & Alpinist Ines Papert

A seemingly hopeless situation

There they hung, Ines Papert with climbing partner Thomas Senf, somewhere on a mountain in Nepal: the Likhu Chuli I, a tall six-thousand metre peak. They should have summited the steep north face this day, but absurdly, a mere five metres below the final ledge they could not continue: a cornice comprised of powdery snow blocked the way. Any attempt to find a passage through it failed miserably. At some point darkness fell and condemned them to a terrible bivouac; uncomfortable, uncertain, and unbearably cold. Perhaps this is the price that must be paid to achieve the high standards that Ines Papert strives for.

Finding untouched lines, bringing ethical claims

For nearly 20 years Ines has actively set the highest standards of difficult ice and mixed climbing. She started as a competitor, namely as a hugely successful Ice climbing athlete. In 2006 she retired from competitions and began searching for new routes in the mountains. Important to her was not only the difficulty of the lines, but also the ethical approach to climbing them. She tries to implement her high ethical demands on their actions in traditional or alpine style ascents of big routes.

This moral yardstick is used in Ines’ everyday life as well: she is socially engaged, holding fundraisers for people in need and always has an open ear for the questions and problems of others. Perhaps this self-evident engagement comes from her role as a dedicated single mother. For her son Emanuel, Ines takes plenty of time and she happily talks about their many journeys and adventures together!

Endless night

Shivering in the cold Ines and Thomas wait on their tiny ice ledge, the scant tent fly slipped over their bodies, their legs in sleeping bags. They have stopped looking at the clock. The first light is still hours away. They have abandoned all talking. Each one is quietly lost in their own thoughts. Ines knows that they must reach the summit in the morning - a retreat back down the wall is too risky. But as to how they are going make it over the top is unclear. This time her passion for steep ice has maneuvered them into a difficult situation. Irony of fate: Ines who grew up on the flats/planes.

Image: Patagonien19 | Credit: Thomas Senf
Fotograf: Thomas Senf

Raised on the plains, at home in the mountains

Ines Papert was born on April 5th 1974 in Saxony, Germany, far away from the mountains. In her youth her main interest was music. That changed in 1993 when, after training as a physiotherapist, she took a job in a Bavarian/Berchtesgaden clinic. Her love for the mountains began with hikes, biking and ski tours. Quickly the terrain became more difficult, and her first mountain excursions rapidly turned into challenging climbs. Soon the passion for ice was born, which turned into Ines’ best discipline: ice climbing.

The medium of ice soon consumed her mind, body and soul. Within a short time she became the best competitor on ice: crowned four times as the World Champion and winning three World Cups! She even outclassed–as in the Ouray Ice Festival of 2005–the assembled male competition to win the overall title. To date, Ines Papert is widely considered the best ice and mixed climber in the world. In this discipline she sets new standards, with repetitions of difficult routes up to M13 and still unrepeated first ascents up to M12. In 2015 she upped the ante with bolt-free ascents of Ritter der Kokosnuss M12 and The Hurting XI /11. She is one of the few females who can make a living as a professional climber.

Image: Ritter_der_Kokosnuss4 | Credit: Thomas Senf
Fotograf: Thomas Senf

Training and lectures, cooking and friends

To ensure Ines has a clear head during mentally challenging routes, she trains extremely hard and consistently. Her physical strength is legendary - and her focus is a given, but she also continuously works on her mental strength. But training, doing pull-ups and push-ups isn’t all that matters to Ines. For her, the social aspects in life are equally important; cooking and enjoying time with friends over a glass of wine, and taking care of her social circle give her a good balance in life.

Ines takes her job as a professional athlete equally as serious, sharing her experiences on behalf of her sponsors. She has published books and given many lectures to large audiences at home and abroad, as well as corporate events for companies. Her unique path in life and innate curiosity repeatedly draw her toward new experiences. She has recently started to paraglide and immerse herself into meteorology. But her great love is still mountaineering, especially ice with its fragile shapes and colors, both fleeting and fascinating to her.

Scary moments, counting hours, and sunlight

Suddenly - a tug and then they fall: Without warning, Ines and Thomas are suddenly falling. Countless seconds go by, until the safety rope finally stops their fall. Completely shocked, hand-over-hand they pull themselves up on the rope, inch by inch, back to the bivy ledge. There they learn what happened- their body heat had slowly melted away the ice below them, until finally they slipped off the rounded ledge. Back at their original position on the wall, doubts arise: Will they be able to succeed and top out on the next day? Luckily, their exhaustion is greater than the mounting fears. Dreary, endless night. Minute by minute, second by second, time slowly goes by.

And finally, it is over and the first light announces the morning. A new day begins, and what will it bring? This curiosity is what motivates Ines Papert despite such difficult moments: there is always a new day, and unknown territory to discover.

Image: Patagonien42 | Credit: Thomas Senf
Fotograf: Thomas Senf