Ueli Steck

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Ueli Steck
Ueli Steck.jpg
Steck in 2012
Personal information
Full nameUeli Steck
Main disciplineAlpinist
Other disciplinesCarpentry
Born(1976-10-04)4 October 1976
Langnau im Emmental, Switzerland
Died30 April 2017(2017-04-30) (aged 40)
Nuptse, Nepal
Starting age17

Ueli Steck (Alemannic German: [ˈuεli ʃtɛk]; 4 October 1976 – 30 April 2017) was a Swiss rock climber and mountaineer. He was the first to climb Annapurna solo via its South Face (though this is disputed by some[1]), and set speed records on the North Face trilogy in the Alps. He won two Piolet d'Or awards, in 2009 and 2014. Having previously summitted Mount Everest, Steck died on 30 April 2017 after falling during an acclimatizing climb for an attempt on the Hornbein route on the West Ridge of Everest without supplemental oxygen.


At the age of 17, Steck achieved the 9th difficulty rating (UIAA) in climbing. As an 18-year-old he climbed the North Face of the Eiger and the Bonatti Pillar in the Mont Blanc massif. In June 2004, he and Stephan Siegrist climbed the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau within 25 hours. Another success was the so-called "Khumbu-Express Expedition" in 2005, for which the climbing magazine Climb named him one of the three best alpinists in Europe.[citation needed] The project consisted of the first solo climb of the north wall of Cholatse (6,440 m) and the east wall of Taboche (6505 m).[2]

Steck set his first speed record on the North Face of the Eiger in 2007, climbing it in 3 hours and 54 minutes.[3] The record was lowered by Steck himself to 2 hours 47 minutes 33 seconds the following year.[4]

In May 2008, climbing Annapurna, he broke off his ascent due to an avalanche threat, but the next week climbed to assist Spanish climber Iñaki Ochoa de Olza, who had collapsed. Medical help was slow in coming and the Spanish climber died despite Steck's help.[5][6]

In 2008, Steck was the first recipient of the Eiger Award for his mountaineering achievements.[7]

On 27 April 2013, while climbing Simone Moro to prepare for a traverse next spring of Everest and Lhotse, Steck got into an altercation with disgruntled sherpas that according to The Guardian: "... went viral and Steck, wholly blameless in the affair, became severely depressed and disheartened".[8] On 8 and 9 October 2013 Steck soloed the Lafaille route on the South Face of Annapurna.[9] on the main and highest part of the face;[10] this was his third attempt on the route and has been called "one of the most impressive Himalayan climbs in history",[11] with Steck taking 28 hours to make the trip from Base Camp to summit and back again.[12] The veracity of his claim was questioned by some but was upheld by sherpas who witnessed him.[8] Steck's feat was the first solo ascent of Annapurna, which won him his second Piolet d'Or.[8][13]

In the winter of 2014/15, Steck and Michael Wohlleben [de] linked up the three north faces of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen in 16 hours.[14] In the summer of 2015, he climbed all 82 summits in the Alps higher than 4000 meters in 62 days without the use of motorized travel.[15][16] Two days slower than the 60-day record, his time included a period when Steck had suspended the tour on July 22, after his climbing partner on the Aiguille de Rochefort, Martijn Seuren, had fallen to his death on this final peak to make him the first Dutch person to climb all 82 4000ers.[14][17] Later that year Steck set a new record for the North Face of the Eiger, soloing it in 2 hours 22 minutes and 50 seconds.[3][18]

In April 2016, Steck and his German mountaineering partner, David Göttler, found the bodies of Alex Lowe and paraglider David Bridges.[19] Lowe and Bridges were killed in an avalanche in 1999 while searching for a route up Shishapangma to attempt the first ski descent.[20]

Personal life and death[edit]

Steck was born as the third son to a copper smith in the town of Langnau in the Emmental valley in Switzerland. As a child he played hockey and joined his father on ski tours.[21] He was a carpenter by training and in adulthood lived in Ringgenberg near Interlaken, Switzerland.[4]

Steck died on 30 April 2017 while acclimatizing for an attempt of the Hornbein route on the West Ridge of Everest without supplemental oxygen.[failed verification][22] This route had been climbed only a few times, the last of which was in 1991. His plan was to climb the Hornbein Couloir to the summit, then proceed with a traverse to the peak of Lhotse, the world's fourth highest mountain. This combination had not been achieved.[23]

On April 16, during preparations for the attempt, his climbing partner, Tenji Sherpa, suffered frostbite, which would take some weeks to heal. Steck carried on with scouting and acclimatisation, climbing up to Everest's Camp 2, en route to the South Col. On April 29, he changed his plans, texting Tenji that he would climb the nearby peak of Nuptse instead, and did not respond to a follow-up question.[24]

On April 30, he began climbing at around 4:30 AM with a French climber named Yannick Graziani [fr] who was attempting to climb Everest. When Graziani headed towards Camp 3, Steck broke off to the right to climb Nuptse.[23] He was last seen partway up the face around dawn by several Sherpas and expedition members around the valley.[24] Approximately 300 metres (980 ft) below the summit, he fell an estimated 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). It is not known what caused the fall. His body was found in the Western Cwm, between camps 1 and 2, and transported back to Kathmandu where memorial services were held.[25][24]

Steck was survived by his wife Nicole.[26]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gogorza, Óscar (9 April 2021). "Mountaineering expert Rodolphe Popier: 'I think Ueli Steck lied'". EL PAÍS English Edition. Retrieved 20 July 2022.
  2. ^ Christine Kopp (1 June 2005). "Ueli Steck – absolute void". planetmountain.com. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Ueli Steck Takes Back Eiger Speed Record". climbing.com. 18 November 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Ueli Steck". SCARPA. Archived from the original on 7 June 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  5. ^ Luke Bauer (23 May 2008). "Inaki Ochoa de Olza Dies on Annapurna". alpinist.com. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Annapurna-Expedition 2008". uelisteck.ch. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Another victor of the unwinnable". alpinist.com. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  8. ^ a b c Douglas, Ed (17 May 2017). "Ueli Steck obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  9. ^ "Annapurna South Face Routes", russianclimb.com, accessed 13 October 2013.
  10. ^ "Ueli Steck and Annapurna: the interview after his South Face solo", planetmountain.com, accessed 14 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Steck Solos Annapurna South Face", ukclimbing.com, accessed 13 October 2013.
  12. ^ "Annapurna South Face Solo – 28 Hours", ukclimbing.com, accessed 13 October 2013.
  13. ^ Shey Kiester (11 October 2013). "Ueli Steck's Annapurna South Face Solo". alpinist.com. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  14. ^ a b Peter Beaumont, Dutch climber attempting 82-peak Alps challenge dies in Mont Blanc fall, The Guardian, 25 July 2015.
  15. ^ Ueli Steck schafft alle Alpen-Viertausender in 62 Tagen (in German)
  16. ^ Susan Joy Paul, Ueli Steck Interview: Climbing all 82 4000-Meter Peaks in the Alps, Alpinist, 18 August 2015
  17. ^ Robert Pursell, Mountain climber recounts tragic death during record climb, Adventure Sports Network, 5 January 2016.
  18. ^ "Ueli Steck, A Tribute". dreamwanderlust.com. 5 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Climbers Alex Lowe and David Bridges' bodies were found in Tibet after 16 years". BBC News. 2 May 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  20. ^ "The bodies of two climbers have been found in a melting glacier 16 years after they were killed". news.com.au. 2 May 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  21. ^ Douglas, Ed (1 May 2017). "Ueli Steck obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  22. ^ "Renowned climber Ueli Steck dies near Mount Everest". The Guardian. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  23. ^ a b Bhandari, Rajneesh; Bromwich, Jonah Engel (30 April 2017). "Ueli Steck, Renowned Mountain Climber, Dies Near Everest at 40". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  24. ^ a b c O'Neil, Devon (30 May 2017). "The Last Days of Ueli Steck". Outside Online. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  25. ^ "'Swiss Machine' Ueli Steck no more". dreamwanderlust.com. 30 April 2017.
  26. ^ Neville, Tim (7 March 2018). "Ueli Steck, After Death and in His Own Words". Outside Online. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  27. ^ "The 2009 winners". pioletsdor.com. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  28. ^ "Piolet d'Or 2009, the winners". planetmountain.com. 2 May 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  29. ^ "Ueli Steck, primer premio Karl Unterkircher" (in Spanish). desnivel.com. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  30. ^ "Karl Unterkircher Award a Ueli Steck" (in Italian). planetmountain.com. 13 August 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  31. ^ "Ueli Steck and Raphael Slawinsky & Ian Welsted win the Piolets d'Or 2014". planetmountain.com. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  32. ^ "Adventurer of the Year, Ueli Steck, Killed Climbing Near Mount Everest". nationalgeographic.com. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  33. ^ "George Mallory Award". Wasatch Mountain Film Festival. Retrieved 16 December 2020.

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