Ueli Steck Solos the Peuterey Integral in Record Time
The Peuterey Integral is the longest ridge in the Alps with over 4500 meters of climbing. It typically takes 2 to 3 days to complete the entire traverse.
Facts and Figures
– 1000 meters of approach
– 4500 meters of climbing
– 3800 meters of descent
On August 14, 2013, Mountain Hardwear athlete Ueli Steck soloed the entire traverse in 16 hours and 9 minutes. Below is an excerpt from his blog.
The route is not easy to find. But the climbing was possible also without rope. I was convinced that it was possible. Now I needed – as usual – good weather. My time was tight since it was already Monday, August 12, 2013. My wife and I would leave on Saturday, August 17, 2013 to Canada! The “weather god” seemed to be on my side and the good weather did last. Motivated I drove to Chamonix and camped at the campground of Les Bossons. Then I drove to Courmayeur in the Val Veny. For Tuesday, August 13, 2013 Matteo Pellin offered me to stay overnight at his campground. The same evening I was back at Peuterey on the campground.
[All the gear that’s needed for a day in the mountains.]
I placed my backpack at the entry of Aiguille Noir south ridge. My material was reduced to the minimum. I did not need very much: 60 meters of 6mm Dyneema rope, harness to abseil, some hooks and loops, crampons, ice axe, climbing shoes. Further I took gloves, cap, sunglasses, a thin down jacket, hardshell trousers and jacket – you never know. Water I could fill up everywhere, to eat 5 powergels and 4 powerbars would be enough. The night before I left I was once again staying in the campground. I relaxed and enjoyed the Italian hospitality.
At 4 a.m. on August 14, 2013 Matteo said goodbye with a good caffè doppio. I started to run. At 05.10 I was already at the entry where I left my backpack. The first 1000 meters of altitude were done. I was faster than I thought and it was still dark. Nevertheless I started climbing. I was at the same place I was one week before, also in the dark. I would find the way, I thought.
Slowly the day began and I enjoyed the climbing. After the descent from Pte. Welzenbach I allowed myself a short break and changed my shoes. Now I continued with my climbing shoes. Without any great problems I reached Aiguille Noir de Peuterey at 8.30 a.m. From here I had to abseil quite far. But before I enjoyed the beautiful morning atmosphere.
In the night far to the south there was lightning. Now the sky was completely cloudless. The air seemed to dry. But I guess that some clouds would build during the day. We would see. From here my abseiling began. Pitch after pitch. 16 times I had to abseil until I reached the foot of “Les Dames Anglais”. A cracked couloir brought me to a traverse to get into the couloir Schneider. From the couloir Schneider I climbed to the bivouac Casati. There was a lot of brittle rock, typical alpine ground.
It was nice to climb alone. In a roped party it is hardly possible to reasonably belay and you always have to pay attention not to knock off any stones. I was totally alone and I could go my own pace: My rhythm, my day. It was great. For me these days are the most beautiful. The mountain and me.
Under Point Gugliermina I heard some voices. A roped party climbed over me. I made a wide arc on the two climbers, so that I did not trigger any rockfall, which could hit them. This is the second roped party I overtook. Everybody follows his own pace as is fit for him.
For the second time I filled my water bottle. The sun shone and melted the ice and snow and offered me plenty of water to drink. So I did not dehydrate. I guessed some clouds would build up. It was less warm and I found myself underneath a cloud layer. At the Aiguille Blance de Peuteurey Pte SE I put on my crampons. Now I continued in the snow. The sharp ridge led to the Pte Central, from there I had to abseil myself again. After three times of abseiling and some climbing I reached Col de Peuterey. Now I found myself thick in the fog and I could not see even two meters. Not easy, I had to find the passage to Grand Pillier d’Angle.
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. Incredible. 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.
While descending I started to run again. Far below me I saw the bottom of the valley: Chamonix. It was still far away, still approx. 3800 meters of altitude and over the Dome de Gouter there were still many horizontal km to do. I didn’t really care although I felt my thighs. The valley comes closer. Below the hut of Tête Rousse I passed a signpost. I didn’t’ really want to know how long it still was. Fortunately the time was not written on it.
[Ueli getting closer and closer to the summit]
At Bellevue I crossed another signpost: 2 hours and 20 minutes until Les Houches. I reached the finish just after 8 pm. 16 hours and 09 minutes after I left Matteo on the campground in Val Veny I reached the church at Les Houches. I thought of eating something. But I decided to move on. I wanted first to go to the campground in Les Bossons. I briefly considered calling someone to pick me up. But it was such a nice evening that I decide to comfortably walk to Les Bossons. A good hour later I sat next to my tent.
I enjoyed a good shower and a recovery drink before I made myself comfortable in my sleeping bag. With a smile on my lips I fell asleep.
What a great day I had!