Matthias Scherer and Tanja Schmitt are one of the most unique climbing partnerships around today. The new film Velocity is coming out this month. Below, Matthias introduces us to their world.
How did you get started?
I stated ice climbing in winter 92. I was all alone on my first climb and I will never forget that day – I knew instantly that I had found my path! Climbing back in those days was very committing due to the equipment – especially the extremely hard to set ice screws. In 1994 I moved to the Chamonix Valley and had many great ice adventures in this tremendous place.
For the last 13 years I've climbed now with Tanja. Our ice seasons often start in October and end in April! In that way we have ascended successfully over 500 ice falls. For 10 years we've lived in Cogne in the Aosta valley, one of the best places for water ice climbing in the Alps.
What is your philosophy?
Full commitment - respect the nature including all beings - be self-responsible - Life in every breath!
What is it about ice climbing that is appealing for you?
Ice climbing is a true adventure. We love this aspect beside the fascination of the surreal beauty that frozen water creates.
And why this form of climbing and not any others?
Since I can remember ice and snow had a strong attraction for me and winter was and is for me always the happiest time of the year. In my heart I am a fighter - I want to have fair fights: In ice climbing you can not cheat - there are no bolts to grab or other fixed anchors. You have to find your own way up with your means – all this mixed up with the clear cold air, snow whirling around you and the regularly starts and returns under a wonderful winter night sky – I cannot imagine anything better!
Matthias and Tanja ©Mathhias Scherer
Are there any memories that stand out?
'Kjerrskredkvelven', in Norway, with nearly 1,000m of height and many hard pitches up to WI6, one of the hardest ice falls on the planet. It was definitely a very strong moment for our team! Everything worked out, the crux pitch was for me a real challenge and even when Tanja was hit by falling ice very high up on the climb we motivated each other to go on. Tanja resisted the pain and the cold and she led in the dark the last and very demanding pitch while I took care of the endless descent on Abalakovs. A great day where you can only prevail with a great partner...
Yeah – many! If you spend up to 90 days in a winter on ice and mixed some misfortunes will happen. Great thing is, that you can be lucky and you can learn. We learned a lot over the past years. Most important: If things get messy, don't get stressed – slow down and do everything double safe – that saved us in a lot of epics!
What features of the Ambit do you like?
For the approaches especially in Canada the navigation on the Ambit is an absolutely perfect tool. We saved last winter so much time in the dense Canadian forests, not getting lost!
Main image shows Matthias on Repentance, Cogne ©Tanja Schmitt