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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.

Everest, Lhotse and Makalu (from l.)

Everest, Lhotse and Makalu (from l.)

In 2013, you had – as you describe in your new book – a traumatic experience, when a Sherpa mob seeked to kill you. Do you feel that you have come to terms with this story?

Come to terms? Such things shape you for your whole life. I’ll always carry it with me. But I think I can handle it now. The story has found a place in me.

Did you draw lessons from this incident for your visit next spring?

For sure. I have talked to many people. You can meet bad people all over the world, you just have to accept that. This also applies to Everest.

Do you believe that you will be able to avoid such conflicts in the future?

I think I’ll distance myself much more. This is the only solution. But there are also many good Sherpas or other good locals and only a few odd people. You just have to avoid these people. It’s like being in a big city, where you also have to ensure that you don’t enter the wrong district.

Ueli at the IMS in Bressanone

Ueli at the IMS in Bressanone

You want to do the Everest-Lhotse traverse – climbing up the West Shoulder, as already planned in 2013?

This would, of course, be the most beautiful, the perfect option. It’s my big dream if it works that way. But we have to look at the conditions. You can not say yet how they will be. Maybe I have to do the traverse via the normal route, and then, only in the next step, via the West Shoulder. I see that very realistically.

You will climb with Tenji Sherpa, with whom you have been traveling a lot, i.a. in 2012 on Everest. Is he as a climber the equal of you?

As a climbing partner certainly not, but surely as a high-altitude mountaineer, because he tolerates the great height. For a partner, it is not just a question of how good he is. It’s also very important that the team works. For me, it’s also a big part of the project to climb together.

But if you pick up pace, many others can not keep up with you.

Sure. If it does not work, it’s just like it is. But it can also tilt to the other side, in the sense that I am tired and someone else climbs on.

After the successful 2016 season, Everest Base Camp as well as the normal route will probably be crowded again in 2017. Is this a problem for you?

If you’re a good climber, you’ll just climb off the track. This is absolutely no topic for me.

Training with David Goettler on Aiguille Verte

Training with David Goettler on Aiguille Verte

How do you train for Everest?

I have already increased the volume considerably. I have some ideas on how I can train differently, also in terms of altitude training so that it becomes possible. So far, no one has ever been able to traverse Everest and Lhotse without supplemental oxygen. It’s a big challenge. I believe that I am able to do this, but I have to be prepared optimally. I am climbing many vertical meters, so my body is getting used to it.

You have already scaled Everest without bottled oxygen in 2012. Thus you know that you are able to handle the altitude. Does this knowledge help you?

Yes sure. That’s what I have just said. If I am on Everest and realize, hej, it’s a too big challenge to climb via the west flank and traverse the summit, I will try it first via the normal route. In climbing you have to do it step by step and you must be realistic. It’s crucial to accumulate knowledge so that things become quite normal.

Last question: What will you do at Christmas?

I’ll spend Christmas with my and Nicole’s family (Nicole is Ueli’s wife). And then we’ll go climbing for a few days.


20. December 2016 | 18:06