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One Year Since Steck’s Death, Climbers Honor Him With Everest-Lhotse Linkup

Ueli Steck on one of his many Himalayan ascents. Epic TV photo.

The morning of April 30, 2017 marked a bit of a tragic day in the mountain world, when the first news appeared that world-class alpinist Ueli Steck had fallen to his death on Nuptse. It came as a shock to many, especially as Steck had proven himself as close to invincible with his laundry list of dangerous solo ascents all over the world. While many in the climbing world disagreed with his choices to climb difficult high-altitude routes without oxygen, and often alone without protection, there was no denying he was the best in the world at this type of climbing. In other words, he singlehandedly redefined alpinism in the world’s greater ranges with his light and fast style.

Some notable achievements were a 2014 first solo ascent of Annapurna, which earned him a Piolet d’Or, climbing’s most coveted prize, as well as dozens of speed records on dangerous North Faces in the Alps. He appeared in films like The Swiss Machine, highlighting his feats like literally running up the Eiger Nordwand and setting speed records in Yosemite with Alex Honnold. Steck’s time in the Himalaya was not without controversy, he was a center of controversy after being involved in the infamous violent brawl with Sherpas at 24,000 feet in 2013.

Steck's speed ascents were documented in the 2010 film The Swiss Machine.

This year, Steck’s friend and British alpinist and filmmaker Jon Griffith as well as Steck’s longtime Himalayan climbing partner Sherpa Tenji will attempt what Steck was never able to last year, the Everest-Lhotse traverse. Steck came to the Everest region last spring to attempt the route with Tenji, but fell while acclimatizing on Nuptse in the days before the two were to set out. Griffith and Tenji hope to live-stream the ascent in honor of Steck.

The traverse will be on the hardest climbs ever done in the Everest area, linking the world’s highest and fourth-highest peaks. The climbers will spend the majority of the climb above 8000 meters without supplementary oxygen. In an interview before setting out last year, Steck said the idea for the route was to see how long he could last at that altitude.

The fact that Tenji, as a Sherpa, will not play the role of guide or porter, but rather the same role as any Western climber on this ascent will hopefully serve to break the common mold of climbing in the Himalaya. Griffith hopes that Tenji’s time in the limelight will demonstrate to the world that Nepali climbers can and will achieve the same greatness as the Westerners who have so dominated the climbing narrative in the area. 

About The Author

stash member Max Ritter

I manage digital content here at TGR, run our gear testing program, and am stoked to be living the dream in the Tetons.