Rotpunkt Remembered

From climbing.de

No, we're not talking about some rotten punk band.

Rotpunkt, German for redpoint, is a term known and used the world over by rock climbers. A commonplace idea, we use the word habitually and take it for granted as describing the baseline of achievement for roped freeclimbing ascents.

Yet surprisingly few climbers know the term's history, who invented it, and how it came to be. Today it seems the most mundane of climbing terms, but now is a good time to remember what really is a climbing philosophy.

Articulated in response to traditional definitions of a free ascent in his home areas of Germany, a young climber by the name of Kurt Albert proposed the idea of "rotpunkt". With the redpoint idea, Albert stated that a proper free ascent was one made without resting on gear placed in the rock, as was the common practice and definition at the time. In today's sport climber parlance, climbers were going around "one-hanging" everything, or just full-bore aid climbing, and calling it good.

For Albert there was a higher plane of achievement in climbing: rotpunkt. Doing a climb redpoint-style meant doing it truly free, continuously and with no aid, relying solely on physical ability make it happen and get to the top. To indicate which climbs had been "redpointed" Albert took to painting the climbs with a single red dot. It's curious to think that such basic idea today constituted a major break with tradition for the time. But the redpoint was radical.

Sadly, Kurt Albert just passed away, dying from injuries sustained in via ferrata fall. To learn more about this amazing character, check this article out. Better yet, get your hands on the cult classic bouldering film, The Real Thing, where Kurt joins friends Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat for some Fontainebleau bouldering.

And be sure to make it happen your next redpoint!

-posted by Zach LH

Quick editorial note: Don't be surprised if you see posts from Zach; he'll be writing for Frixtion from time to time as inspiration strikes. In an effort to make the site more than just about my perspective on climbing, and my favorite, but tired, topic--injury, there may be more guest posts and bloggers on the site as time goes by.



  1. It's sad that he died on a via ferrata, something considered relatively benign, after all the years being a badass climber. And I loved the Zach article on the Grandfather Work Day...its always good to hear from Zach (does he ever stop smiling and being nice?)

  2. I was always under the impression the via ferrata were relatively safe as well. Guess it's the nature of risk and why we need to always be aware of what we're up to as climbers, even when things seem safe.

    As for Zach, he stops laughing long enough to send hard S***t...then he usually starts up again. He'll hate that I wrote this. Which is why I wrote it...

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