On 03/09/2011 Matteo Della Bordella and Fabio Palma made the first one-day ascent of their “Infinite Jest” (640m 8a+/8b max, 7b obl.), the new route forged by the Ragni di Lecco members up the Mahren rock face in Wenden, Switzerland.

It’s called Infinite Jest. And tackles the great Mahren rock face, right in the heart of the “holy” Wendenstöcke. The route boasts 17 pitches and difficulties up to 8a+/8b, with obligatory 7b. Established by the Italians Matteo Della Bordella and Fabio Palma, it is certainly a great climbing journey. By no means easy, seeing that Matteo Della Bordella concluded the first free ascent in a day by stating “this time it proved tough”…

But let’s take a step back in time. The idea for this new route came to Palma and Della Bordella while in the field. Or rather, something clicked, perhaps subconsciously, during their first ascent of Coelophysis, the route (650m 8a max, 7b obl.) which the two Ragni di Lecco members traced just to the left of Infinite Jest. It is unsurprising therefore that “works” on Infinite Jest began in 2008, the very same year that Matteo Della Bordella redpointed the 4th pitch and freed all of Coelophysis.

In total “Infinite” required 14 days (6 spent freeing the line), spread out over three years. Add to this a month enforced rest as Della Bordella injured an ankle during a fall, as well as 10 useless trips due to either rain or “unclimbable” conditions on the mountain. It has to be said that Wenden has a reputation for unstable weather. And that both Coelophysis and Infinite Jest are some of the longest, if not the longest even, routes in Wenden – Coelophysis is 5 pitches longer than “Infinite Jest”.

Della Bordella sheds some light onto the difficulties: “overall the route is slightly more demanding that Coelophysis. The obligatory grade is not particularly high and routes like Non è un paese per vecchi (Editor’s note: 430m, 7c+ max, 7b+/7c obl. Della Bordella, Auguadri, Linescio) or Il mito della caverna (Editor’s note: in Val Bavona) have obligatory sections which are harder. But Infinite Jest has many 7a/7b pitches which really mustn’t be underestimated, because of the technical climbing and the run-out gear you can’t climb quickly and even if the route is only 17 pitches long, doing it in a day proved tough. Some sections, it has to be said, are also rather dangerous.”

So the run-out style of the pro used on the first ascent (and “also rather dangerous” in the words of Della Bordella) seems to be the focus of this new route. Fabio Palma underlines this clearly: “Infinite Jest is far and away the queen of the WHLF I’ve climbed.” Where WHLF is a variant of the acronym HLF, Hard Long and Free, with Wild thrown in at the start. In short, Infinite Jest is a long and difficult route, which might demand more than a single day (note that there are good bivy options) and which above all forces you climb free all the way to the summit. A pretty impressive “parcel” therefore which awaits repeats and confirmation. One thing is certain: a glance at the photos confirms that the route and the rock are very beautiful indeed. A final word of warning: the line is named after the book written by David Foster Wallace. Watch out for those Infinite Jests along the way…

Infinite Jest – the route pitch by pitch
P1 40m 6a, P2 45m 7b, P3 40m 7b, P4 35m 7a, P5 35m 8a+/8b, P6 20m 4a, P7 50m 7a, P8 35m 7b, P9 25m 4a, P10 25m 6b+, P11 35m 7a+, P12 30m 5a, P13 25m 6c, P14 10m 6c, P15 20m 8a/8a+, P16 30m 6c+, P17 40m 7a+