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with Stefan Nestler

Farewell, Ueli!

The Eiger North Face in the evening light

“I believe he was a totally happy person when it happened,” said Robert Boesch, the Swiss photographer and mountaineer, at the commemoration for his friend Ueli Steck, who had fallen to death from an altitude of about 7,600 meters on Nuptse on 30 April. Every SMS Ueli had sent from Everest Base Camp before had conveyed the message: Everything is perfect, motivation as well as fitness. Boesch believes that it was a spontaneous decision of the 40-year-old not to ascend to Everest South Col, as originally planned, but to climb Nuptse. “The conditions must have been good, otherwise he would not have been so early so far up,” said Robert. Surely Steck had climbed “in a flow”. Why he fell, could not be clarified: “That doesn’t matter, that’s just climbing. He did not have the quantum of luck he would have needed.”

“Like you and me”

Ueli Steck (1976-2017)

Some 600 people had followed the invitation of Steck’s family to commemorate the top climber at the Congress Center in Interlaken in Switzerland. The shock was still written in many faces after more than three weeks. Besides the climber’s family around Steck’s wife Nicole, Ueli’s parents and two brothers, there were many companions from the climbing scene: the Swiss Stephan Siegrist, Roger Schaeli and Evelyne Binsack, the American Melissa Arnot-Reid, the Briton Jonathan Griffith, to name just a few. Jon recalled that Ueli, even when he had long been an international climbing star, did not have any airs and graces. “He was a human being like you and me. He loved to sit down and talk to the people,” said Griffith, adding that Steck was a strong man who lived his personal challenges: “His motto was: Nothing is impossible. I miss his presence and energy. I miss him as a friend and mentor.”

Better tiger than sheep

Ueli Steck a few days before his fall to death

During the emotional commemoration also one of Ueli’s favorite sayings was recalled, which he had discovered on a sign near Annapurna and which had accompanied him from then on through life: “It is better to be a tiger for a day than a sheep for a thousand years.” Not only the speeches, but also the pictures and film sequences that were shown proved that Ueli had slipped into the role of the tiger much longer than for only a day. Steck inspired people – no matter whether he was speed climbing through the classic north faces of the Alps or doing his solo projects in the south faces of the eight-thousanders Annapurna and Shishapangma. “He has left a huge gap,” said his former companion Ueli Buehler. “If there is a consolation,” added Robert Boesch, “then it’s the fact that it happened in the Valley of Silence, surrounded by the highest mountains.” Where Ueli Steck felt most comfortable.


24. May 2017 | 0:25