The Hardest Line in the Hardest Place: Robert Leistner Establishes New 5.14b in the Elbsandstein

Widely spaced ring bolts; no chalk; and no cams, nuts or modern metal protection. The Elbsandstein, Germany is not for the faint of heart.

By Fabian Fischer | July 17th, 2019

Robert Leistner on the first free ascent of Vertreibung der letzten Idealisten (12a/8c/5.14b). Photo: Fabian Fischer.


The oldest climbing area in the world, the Elbsandstein—the Saxonian Elbe Sandstone Valley in Germany—has a new hardest free climb: Vertreibung der letzten Idealisten, graded 12a in the local system, or 8c/5.14b, established by German climber Robert Leistner last week . The name translates to “Expulsion of the Last Idealists.” 

robert lesitner climber
Lesitner on Vertreibung der letzten Idealisten. Photo: Fabian Fischer.

The Elbsandstein is famous for its particular set of ethics: The use of chalk is strictly forbidden in the entire area, and use of metal gear like nuts and cams is prohibited. The only permissible protection is either slings tied into knots or ring bolts—drilled on lead, either from a stance or a skyhook—spaced at least three-meters apart.

Robert Leistner made the first non-free ascent of Vertreibung der letzten Idealisten back in 2005. He installed 11 ring bolts ground-up on a 55-meter panel of sandstone peppered with perfect crimps, pockets, slopers and seams, and capped by a 10-meter crack at the top. A number of the bolts were separated by over five meters—the potential for big whippers was enormous.

The climb breaks down into a shorter 15-meter intro pitch, and the 40 meter main-event second pitch.

Leistner has intermittently worked on freeing the two-pitch line these past 14 years. The style of the area forbids top-rope rehearsal, so Leistner projected the route ground-up, always.

At the beginning of 2019 he renewed his efforts on the climb, relearning the intricate movements once again. On July 10, everything came together: the mental toughness, the right weather and ideal skin conditions. Leistner climbed through the final hard crux, right at 45 meters, rested, and then climbed smoothly through the final crack.

Photo: Fabian Fischer.

Leistner wrote on Instagram, “14 Years waiting for the perfect moment… today the biggest dream of my climbing [life] became true. After 25 minutes with incredible moves and emotions I was able to stand on the top of my [favorite Elbsandstone tower].

His ascent is the first redpoint of this sandstone masterpiece, and has given the Elbsandstein a new testpiece for the next generation of staunch traditionalists.


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For more of Fabian Fischer’s photography, check him out on Instagram (@moments_in_movement).


Watch Robert Leistner on the first ascent (not free) of Vertreibung der letzten Idealisten back in 2005.


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