Everest hotline: ExWeb interview with Ueli Steck

Posted: May 17, 2012 04:06 am EDT

(Newsdesk) It's summit fever on Mount Everest and ExplorersWeb is on fire. Checking in with Italian Simone Moro and American Chad Kellogg during the weekend, we also called on Swiss Ueli Steck for his scoop.

The Khumbu Express, the Young Spider, Eiger speed records, a new route on the north side of GII East, a solo attempt on Annapurna south wall – Swiss Ueli Steck has climbed fast into the mountaineering hall of fame. Last year, Don Bowie didn't even get to unpack his toothbrush when during a recon climb Ueli speed climbed Shishapangma in 20 hours tent to tent.

But Ueli made his biggest mark at Explorersweb with a different kind of a climb. It took place on Annapurna, when a call for help came from the south face.

In camp 4 at around 7400 meters, Spanish Inaki Ochoa suddenly became seriously ill and the situation quickly became desperate. With him in the high camp, Romanian Horia Colibasanu and a dying sat phone. The climbers had already spent 3 hard days high up and Inaki was fast deteriorating. Horia soon used a radio to call for help the only other climbers left on the dreaded peak; Ueli Steck and Simon Anthamatten.

Ueli and Simon dropped everything and sped up the wall. Simon stayed behind in camp 3 while Ueli reached Horia who had spent 4 days trying to aid his friend, and close to a week on Annapurna’s high slope. Thanks to Ueli’s fast ascent, Horia survived but it was too late for Inaki. Within 24 hours of his arrival, the Spanish mountaineer died by Ueli's side.

Don't miss the interview, which had to be different.

A few years passed, Ueli is back speeding the slopes again. Not on Everest this time though, as it turns out.

Explorersweb: Are you going for a speed attempt?

Ueli: No. I'm happy to reach summit without O2. Speed ascents on this route are just not my thing. There are so many factors involved that are not really about climbing. What's the point of running up a fixed line? Waiting until sherpas have fixed the mountain, and then myself "the superman" running up the prepared pist? That's not climbing to me, just a marketing gimmick.

And from where do you start the clock? Basecamp? It takes 20 minutes for me to cross BC from one end to the other. Or do you start at the Khumbu Icefall. Where exactly does that begin? I took me two-and-a-half hours from BC to camp 2. I thought it good exercise, like going for a run on a trail.

And is it OK to have gear stashed? Seriously, I could leave my expedition boots at C2 so I could run from BC to C2 in running shoes. I could change into a light mountain boot up to the south col, where I'd put on my climbing boots and change to a down-suit I had left there.

Then of course I would need to have food and water in each camp. And have people and sleepingbags ready in case of emergency. How do you pass people, or deal with the problems that come up if you have to wait?

Explorersweb: Last week we interviewed Pato on the north side, he said he'll ask people to let him by on the ropes...

Ueli: That's exactly why I'm not going for a speed ascent. I don't like to disturb other people. If I can pass I will of course, but if it's not possible I'll have to wait. I don't have the right to push other people around just because I'm Ueli Steck...

Explorersweb: So what's your plan?

Ueli: Have fun climbing.

Explorersweb: What's different on Everest compared to the lower peaks you've speed climbed? (Matterhorn, Khumbu etc)

Ueli: It's a problem of cold and thin air.

Explorersweb: Your biggest worry right now?

Ueli: I guess it's a very dry year. Unusal. But the route on Everest is very good. The icefall is quite nice and fast.

It's an icefall of course! I guess this season is good for the normal routes but nothing for the big adventures. There's a lot of blue ice covered with some fresh snow. Not ideal. And the weather at Meteotest doesn't really promise more snow.

Explorersweb: What do you think about Brice's decision to leave the peak, how come you stayed?

Ueli: The conditions are dry. But it's his decision, not mine. I don't work with clients. Everybody must decide for themselves, I make my own calls, like I always have, on any mountain. It's like crossing a ladder here, it's your choice if you wanna clip in to the rope or not.

Explorersweb: When do you think you'll go for the attempt?

Ueli: Hmmm, I don't know. I'm well acclimatized so I'll go for it as soon the weather is OK. I'm also looking forward to see my wife. And I have to be careful, she rock climbs a lot and I have to make sure she doesn't get stronger than me!


ExWeb interview with Ueli Steck: "We couldn’t have lived with ourselves otherwise"

ExplorersWeb 2009 Year in Review: Significant climbs

Steck, Anthamatten and Samurais awarded Piolets d’Or – BAC prize for Ochoa’s rescuers

Best of ExplorersWeb 2008 Awards: Spirit of mountaineering, Inaki Ochoa's rescue team

Ueli Steck’s 2007 Annapurna debrief: "The rock was a run of bad luck but the expedition was perfect"

Ueli Steck free-climbs “Paciencia” on Eiger’s North Face

Swiss climber Ueli Steck is known for his alpine-style climbs on major mountain faces in the Alps, Alaska, Himalayas and Patagonia. Free solo ascents and extreme mixed routes are his favorite games. In the Himalayas, he completed the first ascent on Pumori’s West Face in alpine style, and he has attempted the North Face of Jannu.

In 2004 Ueli Steck soloed up Excalibur, a 6b, 350m-long route on the Wendenstöcke that he followed with a trilogy composed of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau's North faces in 24 hours, alongside Stephan Siegrist.

In April 2005, Ueli completed two outstanding solo ascents, alpine style, in the Nepalese region of Everest. One was the first solo ascent of the North Face of Cholatse (6,440m). Only days afterwards, he sped up the 1,500m-long East face of Tawoche. Bad conditions prevented him from completing the trilogy by soloing up the NE face of Ama Dablam. The combination of routes, known as the “Khumbu Express” project, got Ueli nominated for the 2005 edition of the International Piolet d’Or.

July 10, 2006, Ueli Steck, Hans Mitterer and Cedric Haehlen reached the summit of GII East (7,758 m) via a new route on the peak's north side. Ueli, Hans and Cedric were members of a small team led by Kari Kobler, which also included Spaniard Manuel ‘Lolo’ Gonzalez.

In 2007, Ueli attempted a solo, alpine style ascent of Annapurna, after acclimatizing climbs up Cholatse and Pumori. Ueli’s Annapurna climb was aborted when he was hit in the head by a falling rock and sustained a concussion.

Ueli returned to Annapurna in spring 2008 but aborted the attempt for Inaki Ochoa who on May 19 suddenly showed stroke-like symptoms in a tent at 7400m on another part of the wall. Ueli reached Inaki on May 22nd and stayed with him until his death on May 23d.

The Swiss Eigernordwand (The Ogre’s north face) is one of Ueli's favorite spots. In winter 2005-06, he opened the new route “Young Spider” in solo, alpine style there and late 2007; he set an Eigernordwand speed record at 2hours and 47 minutes.

#Mountaineering #topstory #interview

Alpine Spiderman. But not on Everest. "What's the point of running up a fixed line," Ueli says, "waiting until sherpas have fixed the mountain, and then myself 'the superman' running up the prepared pist?" (File image from 2007)
Image by Ueli Steck courtesy Ueli Steck, SOURCE
2006. Still climbing.
Back in 2005. Speeding the Khumbu Express.
But it was the amazing rescue attempt on Annapurna in 2008 that made all the difference. Romanian Horia Colibasanu (top left) stayed with Inaki until the arrival of Swiss Ueli Steck (second left) on May 22nd. Swiss Simon Anthamatten (third left) meanwhile held in C3; where Russian Alexey Bolotov (top middle) later arrived. Lena Laletina from RussianClimb was already organizing a back-up rescue led by Russian Serguey Bogomolov (top right). This second team included Kazakh Denis Urubko (second r..

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