Steck Back Big

There was no question he would be back.  But when?  Where? How?  His fall from grace, with the help of a friend, was a shock. His return was quick and elegant, quintessentially Steck:

…Three times I traversed back and forth until I decided just to try. I needed at least 30 minutes until I had the feeling to finally know where I had to continue. I didn’t have any choice: I had to try. I found the right way and I reached without any problems Grand Pillier d’Angle. Now I found myself over the clouds. The summit was not far away anymore. From here I found some old traces. I wish I had them down at Col de Peuterey…

Slowly I started to feel the tiredness. I was on my way quite a long time and quite fast. My gloves were wet – but up here, at 4000 meters they froze again. I decided to put on my replacement gloves only on the summit. So I would have dry gloves when I descend.

Just before 3 pm I reached the summit of Mont Blanc du Courmayeur. No wind and fully over the clouds. Increadible. It was a great moment. I enjoyed this moment and I was sure I would make it down to the valley.

I felt a bit tired but good, I enjoyed the late afternoon on Mont Blanc. It was 3.35 pm when I moved to Mont Blanc and then down to Dome de Gouter. A wide track run along the normal route…

The only way we know all that is thanks to the  continued attention of Nick Paumgarten:

A couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Ueli Steck, the Swiss alpinist I wrote about last spring, after he and two climbing companions got into an altercation on Mt. Everest with a group of angry Sherpas.

Steck was headed back to Nepal for the first time since the incident. Specifically, he was bound for Annapurna, the tenth highest mountain in the world, in order to attempt an ascent of the South Face, an uncommonly sheer wall of ice, rock, and snow, and quite possibly the most formidable challenge in the Himalayas. He’d tried and failed twice before. The first time, in 2007, he got clobbered in the head by a rock and knocked unconscious, falling hundreds of feet to the base of the wall. Then, the next year, an attempt that had already been thwarted by weather and avalanches turned into a harrowing effort to rescue a team of climbers stranded high up on the East Ridge. Steck wound up spending the night with a corpse. The incident haunted him, and left him feeling that there was something spooky about Annapurna. Hard to argue. The death rate is higher on this peak than on any other in the Himalayas.

On Everest these days, climbers stay in pretty much constant contact with the world, thanks to a relatively high-tech and highly populated base camp. On Annapurna, Steck and his companions, the Canadian climber Don Bowie and the photographers Dan and Janine Patitucci, who are friends of Steck’s from his home town of Interlaken, are pretty much incommunicado. This is a bit of a stealth mission. I’d guess (and could well be wrong) that they are by now at Annapurna’s base camp and beginning the process of getting acclimatized to the altitude and establishing their advanced camp nearly five thousand feet higher, at the base of the South Face. They will employ porters to help them set it up, but after that, they will be working alone and presumably will not have to worry about lingering ill will from the incident on Everest. “There will be no sherpas,” Steck wrote to me. “It’s a safe place up there. It’s good to be on a real climb. The Southface will be not crowded.” They have given themselves until November 15th, the beginning of the snowy season, to reach the summit. His previous two attempts were in the spring—warmer but wetter, and more avalanche-prone. In the fall, you can expect drier, colder weather. Dry is good. Cold, not so much.

So, yes, Steck, after a summer of nursing his psychic wounds and training in the Alps, is back at it. (Here’s his account of a solo warm-up adventure near Chamonix in August.) In six weeks or so, we’ll hear about how things went on Annapurna.

As it happens, around the time I heard from Steck, I was sent a rough cut of a half-hour documentary, “High Tension: Ueli Steck and the Clash on Everest,” which premièred two weeks ago in Boulder, Colorado, as part of the Reelrock film tour. It’s screening at the Anthology Film Archives on October 2nd, at 7:30 P.M. One of the filmmakers, Zachary Barr, had arrived at Everest base camp a few days after the incident, and in the following months, he and his colleagues interviewed most of the principals. (To my distress, I’m in the film, too—a pale, rheumy desk jockey among the bright-eyed, wind-burned mountaineers.) That aside, the film is a taut, thorough, and, by my lights, very balanced account of the incident. It’s also mostly beautiful to look at…

Read the whole post here.

2 thoughts on “Steck Back Big

  1. Pingback: Everest fight spurs solo Annapurna climb | Sykose Extreme Sports News

  2. Pingback: Sorry To Have Missed It | Raxa Collective

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