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Steck before Everest expedition: “Rather late than early”

Ueli Steck

He looks forward, not back. “I will never forget what happened on Everest in 2013,” the Swiss top climber Ueli Steck tells me. “But I believe I will have absolutely no problem with it. It’s over. I’m very motivated and I’ll go with a very good feeling.” In spring 2013, a Sherpa mob had attacked Steck, the Italian Simone Moro and the Briton Jonathan Griffith and had threatened them with death. This spring, Ueli will return to the highest mountain on earth. His goal: the traverse of Mount Everest and Lhotse. The 40-year-old will climb with Tenji Sherpa, with whom he had already scaled Everest without bottled oxygen in 2012. The 24-year-old belongs to “a new generation of Sherpas, who really enjoy climbing and are not only interested in doing business,” says Ueli. “I’m really looking forward to being en route with him.”

As reported, Steck had completed an intensive training camp with the German David Goettler and the Italian Hervé Barmasse in the Khumbu area in February. Subsequently, Ueli returned to Switzerland for a few weeks. He will set off to Kathmandu on 8 April.

Ueli, during the training Camp in Nepal in February you ran and climbed a total of about 250 kilometers with 15,000 meters in elevation. How much has been added since then?

Date

21. March 2017 | 15:18

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Special expedition training

Barmasse, Steck, Tenji Sherpa and Goettler (from l. to r.)

What a high-caliber training group! The Swiss Ueli Steck, the Nepalese Tenji Sherpa, the German David Goettler and the Italian Hervé Barmasse have been preparing themselves for their expeditions in spring in the village of Chukhung in the Everest region for ten days. Steck and Tenji Sherpa plan to traverse Mount Everest and Lhotse. No one has yet managed to do this without bottled oxygen. Goettler and Barmasse want to open a new route via the Shishapangma South Face in Tibet. In the course of the training, mountain running was at the focus. “I ran three times from Chukhung (4,730 meters) to Island Peak (6,180 meters),” writes Ueli. He had climbed and run a total of about 12,000 vertical meters over a distance of around 150 kilometers. “My body and my soul feel great,” says Steck. “I really enjoy being here in Nepal with such good friends. Just climb and run and nothing else.”

Date

21. February 2017 | 14:29

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Good against winter depression

Weihnachts_EverestThese days I received a funny Christmas card of an expedition organizer. It showed a Santa Claus on Mount Everest, with his finger in front of his mouth: “Pst … definitely too high for my reindeer.” This reminded me that I wanted to wish my old friend Chomolungma Merry Christmas. For years, he can be reached by mobile phone. At the first ring, he takes the call.

Namaste, Chomo! This is Stefan.

Hej, I haven’t heard from you for a long time.

Sorry for that. I wanted to check on your condition.

Sunshine, minus 26 degrees Celsius, 65 km/h at the summit, good visibility.

Sounds like calm winter weather.

I like it.

Have you heard that you’ll be visited?

Date

23. December 2016 | 19:55

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Steck: “I will distance myself on Everest”

Ueli Steck

Ueli Steck

The experience on Mount Everest in spring 2013 has changed Ueli Steck. “The moment when I realized that the Sherpas wanted to kill me, a world came crashing in,” the 40-year-old Swiss top climber wrote in his new book “The Next Step”. “After that, my look at the world was a different one. I withdrew because I did not trust anyone anymore.” In spring 2017, Ueli will return to Everest – to try to traverse the highest mountain on earth and the 8,516-meter-high Lhotse. I talked to Steck about Everest.

Ueli, what does Mount Everest mean for you personally?

Everest is the highest mountain in the world. If high altitude climbing is your thing, it is, with an altitude of 8,848 meters, a dimension of its own and therefore the most interesting and exciting mountain.

Date

20. December 2016 | 18:06

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Ueli Steck: “If you go too far, you are dead”

Ueli Steck at the IMS in Bressanone

Ueli Steck at the IMS in Bressanone

If “The Fast and the Furious” had been a film about climbers, Ueli Steck could have played the leading role. The Swiss is just extremely fast. The Eiger North Face in two hours and 22 minutes, the 82 four-thousanders of the Alps within 61 days, solo via the Annapurna South Face to the 8091-meter-high summit and back in 28 hours, through Shishapangma South Face within ten and a half hours – for good reason Ueli is nicknamed “The Swiss Machine”. As if he had a tuned engine inside like the cars in “The Fast and the Furious”. Just recently, Steck has returned from India. I met him at the International Mountain Summit (IMS) in Bressanone in South Tyrol and talked to him about his tendency to speed, about aging and his next plans.

Ueli, you just turned 40 years old and you were not at home. How did you spend your birthday?

Date

15. October 2016 | 1:55

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Shishapangma, the last take!

Shishapangma

Shishapangma

A chewing gum is not getting better by chewing it endlessly. There must come a time to spit it out. Stories are a similar ballgame. At a certain moment everything has been devoured a 1000 times. Then you should have the courage to draw a line under it before it becomes a never ending story, which is still only annoying. This will be my last blog post on the avalanche on Shishapangma which happened on next Saturday, exactly two years ago. Maybe not yet everything is said, but in my view it’s enough to close the chapter – and hopefully learn from it.

Date

22. September 2016 | 15:41

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Steck: “Basically I believe he can make it”

Kilian Jornet (l.) and Ueli Steck (r.) on the Eiger

Kilian Jornet (l.) and Ueli Steck (r.) on the Eiger

Ambitious or overwinded? The climbers’ scene is discussing the upcoming Everest project of the Spaniard Kilian Jornet. As reported before, the 28-year-old Catalan will set off to Tibet next Sunday to climb or rather run up the highest mountain on earth, within his project “Summits of my life”. The plan sounds crazy: if possible in a single push from Rongbuk Monastery to the 8850-meter-high summit; without bottled oxygen and Sherpa support; if the conditions on the mountain are right, on a seldom climbed route (Norton or Hornbein Couloir); and as if all that were not enough, in the monsoon. Of course, this evokes memories of Reinhold Messner’s legendary Everest solo in 1980. But Jornet will not be climbing alone. And he is a completely different type of climber than the South Tyrolean was at that time.

Date

3. August 2016 | 18:46

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Controversy over avalanche on Shishapangma

Advanced Base Camp on Shishapangma

Advanced Base Camp on Shishapangma

24 September 2014, 6.55 a.m.: Five men are climbing at 7,900 meters towards the summit of the eight-thousander Shishapangma when the avalanche releases. The Germans Sebastian Haag and Martin Maier and Italian Andrea Zambaldi are swept several hundred meters down the slope. German Benedikt Boehm and Swiss Ueli Steck have a lucky escape and get away from the snow masses. The 36-year-old Haag and the 32-year-old Zambaldi die. Maier miraculously survives and is able to escape by his own strength to the high camp. The news of the incident first appears in my blog. The first interviews about the avalanche with Bene Boehm and Martin Maier can also be read on “Adventure Sports”.

“Time does not heal everything”

More than one and a half year later, Martin has opened up a debate on the incident by giving an interview to the German magazine “Bergsteiger”. The 41-year-old industrial engineer is in his own words still suffering from long-term effects which are not only health problems: “Time does not heal everything – neither injuries that have remained to this day nor the sadness and bitterness about the fact that people want to increase their self-esteem at the expense of others.” Maier accuses the other two survivors of the avalanche, Boehm and Steck, of not having told the truth and of having abandoned him too quickly.

Date

12. July 2016 | 21:25

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Steck and Goettler after Shishapangma South Face: “Only postponed”

Ueli Steck and David Goettler in Shishapangma South Face

Ueli Steck and David Goettler in Shishapangma South Face

It was one of the most exciting climbing projects of this spring’s season in the Himalayas. Swiss top climber Ueli Steck and German David Goettler initially planned to open a new direct route through the South Face of 8,027-meter-high Shishapangma. But they were not able to put it into practice. They “only” climbed the so called “Corredor Girona” route, opened by a Spanish team in 1995, up to the ridge at 7,800 meters and in their last attempt the route of the British first-ascenders of the South Face in 1982, Doug Scott, Alex MacIntyre and Roger Baxter-Jones, up to 7,600 meters. Even though they failed to climb a new route, Ueli and David didn’t return empty-handed from Tibet. I called the 39-year-old Swiss and the 37-year-old German in their hotel in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

Satisfied, disappointed or some of both? How do you feel after this expedition?

Date

30. May 2016 | 10:34

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After 16 ½ years: Alex Lowe’s body found

Alex Lowe in 1995 (l., along with Conrad Anker)

Alex Lowe in 1995 (l., with Conrad Anker)

Glaciers are constantly moving. And so they spit out one day what they once swallowed. Climate change, which makes glaciers melt faster, is speeding up the process. In recent years there have been more and more reports from around the world that bodies of dead climbers were discovered after many years. Whether on Mont Blanc, on the Matterhorn, on Mount Everest – or now on the eight-thousander Shishapangma in Tibet. The Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation announced that Swiss Ueli Steck and German David Goettler had discovered the bodies of two climbers in blue ice during their acclimatization for Shishapangma South Face. The melting glacier would release the corpses soon. The description of clothes and packs left no doubt that it was the bodies of Alex Lowe and David Bridges, it was said.

Date

2. May 2016 | 15:48

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Steck and Goettler: Five questions, five answers

Ueli Steck (l.) and David Goettler

Ueli Steck (l.) and David Goettler

He couldn’t stop thinking about it. When the Swiss top climber Ueli Steck solo climbed the South Face of 8027-meter- high Shishapangma in only ten and a half hours five years ago, he discovered a possible new direct line. This spring, the 39-year-old – along with the 37-year-old German professional climber David Goettler – returned to the 2000-meter-high wall to have a try at the new route. If everything works perfectly, they plan to descend from the summit via the north side, thus traversing the eight-thousander.

Before heading off to Tibet, Ueli and David acclimatized in the Everest region in Nepal – including trail-running over extremely long distances. I sent them five questions to their Base Camp at the foot of Shishapangma South Face.

Ueli and David, the pictures which you published on Facebook in recent weeks, remind me of Speedy Gonzales or Road Runner, two cartoon characters of my childhood: continuously in high speed mode, because hunted. At the same time each of you let us know that the other is really, really fit. Honestly, who of you is actually rushing whom? Or from what are you trying to escape?

Date

1. May 2016 | 13:18

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Ueli Steck regains Eiger record

Steck on top of Eiger

Steck on top of Eiger

While I got footsore during my “Power pilgrimage for Nepal”, Ueli Steck “ran” fleet-footed through the Eiger North Face (look at the video below). “Speedy Ueli” climbed the Heckmair route – the way of the first ascender in 1938 – solo in just two hours and 22 minutes. Thus, the 39-year-old top climber from Switzerland regained the speed record in this legendary, 1800-meter-high wall that he had lost in 2011 to his compatriot Dani Arnold (2:28 hours). In 2008, Steck had climbed the wall in 2:47 hours. “I had a good track and good conditions”, Ueli said after his tour de force through the North Face adding that it was “a beautiful experience and a great day”.

Date

21. November 2015 | 21:27

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Turning point in Sherpa climbing history

The route Mingma wanted to take on Chobutse

The route Mingma wanted to take on Chobutse

The next Sherpa coup in the Himalayas, again in Rolwaling Valley. After Nima Tenji Sherpa, Tashi Sherpa and Dawa Gyalje Sherpa – as reported – had first climbed three six-thousanders within three days at the beginning of October, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa now succeeded in doing an amazing solo ascent. The 29-year-old stated that he reached the 6685-meter-high summit of Chobutse (also called Tsoboje) climbing alone and for the first time through the West Face. He had two cold bivouacs in the wall causing frostbite at his leg. Chobutse was first climbed by the Germans Wolfgang Weinzierl, Peter Vogler, Gustav and Klaus Harder in spring 1972, via the Northeast Ridge. Several attempts to climb through the West Face had failed.

Date

31. October 2015 | 21:36

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Three questions for Ueli Steck

Ueli in the North Face of Cholatse

Ueli in the North Face of Cholatse

The fall season in the Himalayas is not over yet. Although the expedition on Mount Everest as well as those on the eight-thousanders Makalu, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna were recently canceled due to dangerous conditions on the mountains, there are still a few climbers under way on the highest mountains. So the team of South Korean Sung Taek Hong, who wants to tackle the Lhotse South Face again, decided in favor of a later expedition start. And also Swiss climber Ueli Steck and American Colin Haley have just completed their acclimatization. They did it on separate ways. Steck climbed along with Tenji Sherpa through the North Face of the 6,640-meter-high Cholatse. “That was pretty cool. He is the first Sherpa who climbed this wall”, Ueli writes to me. “It’s nice to see how a ‘new’ generation of Sherpas is growing up, who are really interested in climbing and not just in business. I think that’s awesome!” Steck and Haley want to first repeat the extremely difficult route via the Southeast Pillar to the summit of the 7,804-meter-high Nuptse East which was opened in in 2003 – but contrary to the first climbers, the Russians Valerij Babanov and Yuri Kosholenko, in Alpine style. I sent Ueli three questions to Base Camp.

Date

17. October 2015 | 13:32

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Steck: “The only way I can help the people of Nepal”

Ueli Steck

Ueli Steck

There are only 20 days left until Ueli Steck will return to Nepal. To the country where the 38-year-old Swiss top climber in the same year celebrated his probably most spectacular success as an extreme climber as well as the greatest fear of death that had nothing to do with mountain dangers. In spring 2013, a group of angry Sherpas attacked Ueli and his teammates Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith in Everest high camp and threatened them with death. In fall 2013, Steck reached the 8091-meter-high summit of Annapurna, the eight-thousander with the highest fatality rate: solo, via the extremely dangerous South Face, on a partly new route, as always without bottled oxygen. It took Ueli only 28 hours to climb up and down.

This summer, he proved once again that he is able to climb mountains lickety-split, when he – as reported in my blog – scaled all 82 four-thousanders of the Alps within 62 days and overcame the distance between the mountains without engine power: by hiking, cycling or paragliding. I talked to Ueli about his tour de force through the Alps – and also about his upcoming exciting project in Nepal: on Nuptse, within sight of Mount Everest.

Date

2. September 2015 | 13:00

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