The simpler the challenge is for Ueli Steck, the more compelling. And it was the promise of simplicity that initially drew Ueli to the mountains after a youth spent playing competitive hockey. “The rules were so clear. You get to the top of not. There is no maybe, no doubts… Sometimes just to be out there is so simple. You’re happy as soon as you are laying in your sleeping bag with a warm meal.
Today, the thirty-four year old Swiss sometimes carpenter and full-time alpinist excels in virtually every style of climbing. “Every discipline is fascinating,” says Ueli, whose staggering tick-list includes everything from El Capitan free climbs and 5.13 solos to 8,000 meter peaks and bold solos and speed records in the Alps and the Canadian Rockies. But don’t be fooled by big numbers: his achievements are the by-product of a more personal goal. “I like to push my personal limits. It doesn’t matter what the result is afterwards… For me it’s most important to push my body to its full potential.”
Ueli would prefer to let his accomplishments speak for themselves. In 2007, he broke the speed record on the North Face of the Eiger by nearly 46 minutes, sprinting up the 6,000 foot face in only three hours and fifty-four minutes. But Steck wasn’t done. “The record meant nothing to me – I knew that was not my real best. I had just been faster than the others.” After a year of disciplined training and conditioning, he returned to the Eiger again, and incredibly, cut another hour off his own record.
These days, Ueli is most focused on the high peaks of the Himalaya: in 2009, he reached the summits of two 8,000 meter peaks. Yet these climbs were only a warm up for a bigger dream, to solo a hard technical line on one of the world’s highest mountains. Patience is important, he notes: “To climb something very difficult you need to be the right time in the right place, and remember the mountain is always stronger then you.” Nevertheless – Ueli is going to keep trying.
You can bet on that.
Get to know Ueli Steck
- Birth Date: October 4, 1976
- Place of Birth: Langnau im Emmental, Switzerland
- Current Home town: Ringgenberg, Switzerland
- Primary Sport: Climbing
- Specialties within your sport: Alpine, Rock and Ice
- Other hobbies or sports: Paragliding, Trail Running
- My favorite Mountain Hardwear products: I collaborated with the Mountain Hardwear product team to develop very specific items for my style of climbing. It is exactly what I need to be out in the mountains!
- How were you introduced to your sport? It was a friend of my father. He was old school. No harness only rope and of course climbing means you are on lead. 20 meters, 2 pitons. That was my first climb.
- Which athletes or other individuals have been your biggest source of inspiration? Bonnati, Christoph Profit, Heckmair
- What advice would you give to newcomers to climbing today? Do what you like to do. Only what inspires you!
- What’s your favorite expedition meal/ pre race meal? A good plate of pasta
- What the first thing you look forward to doing after a long expedition? A good strong coffee
- In 10 years I hope to be… Still a climber, trying to enjoy each day and always finding new challenges.
- Six-word bio – In exactly six words summarize yourself I am like a swiss watch.
- When singing karaoke, what song do you sing to bring down the house? I know I am a very bad singer so it’s better i shut up….
- What music gets you fired up? Good house music
- If you were a super hero, who would you be? Superman
- May 23, 2011: No Oxygene 8700 Meter
- May 5, 2011: Cho Oyu 8201 Meter
- April 17, 2011: Shisha Pangma (8027 Meter) Solo, Southface in 10.5h
- March 25, 2011: Cholatse Northface 6440 Meter
- August 9, 2010: Dolomite-Trilogy: smallest Zinne / Preussturm SO-Wand „Cassin“ 275 Meter VII-, 45 minutes; small Zinne Sud-Kante „Gelbe Kante“ 430 Meter VI, 58 minutes; big Zinne North-Face „Comici“ 550 Meter VII, 1h 05 min.
- July 2010: Ueli Steck honoured with the Karl Unterkircher Award 2010 which has been given away for the first time for his extraordinary polyvalent alpinistic performances.
- June 2010: Free climb of the route Freerider 5.12d on El Capitain USA; speed ascent of the route Nose on El Capitan in 3h 45 min.; The Route Triple Direct in 7 hours also on El Capitan.
- February 19, 2010: Solo new speed record on the Droite north face in 2 hours and 8 minutes. Prior record holder was French exceptional alpinist Christophe Profit in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
- September 24, 2009: Summit success on Makalu (8463m) on the normal route. Unsuccessful on the originally planned route over the west pillar, due to the very difficult conditions on the route.
- July 10, 2009: Summit success on Gasherbrum II (8035m) on the normal route. Ueli’s first peak over 8000 meters. 14 ½ hours from camp 2 at 6500 meters to summit (8035m) and back to camp 2.
- May 2009: Free-climb of “Golden Gate” on El Capitan (5.13b, 41 pitches); fell only once, onsighting the rest.
- April 25, 2009: Received Piolet d’Or Award (The Golden Ice Axe) along with climbing partner, Simon Anthamatten for their first ascent in the alpine style of Tengkampoche Northface (6500m), Khumbu Valley, Nepal in April 2008.
- January 13, 2009: Speed ascent of Schmid route on the Matterhorn. 1 hours and 56 minutes. This completed Ueli’s long-time project, to climb all three big north faces in the Alps; Eiger north face, Grandes Jorasses and Matterhorn all solo and in record times.
- December 28, 2008: Speed record on the Grandes Jorasses. Ueli Steck climbs the Colton-Macintyre route via the Alexis variant in 2 hours and 21 minutes.
- September 26, 2008: Received “Prix Courage Award” along with teammate, Simon Anthamatten, for their courage and unselfish rescue action on Annapurna in May 2008. Without hesitation, they helped two comrades in need.
- August 29-30 2008: First free climb of the new route “Paciencia”, the most difficult sport route on the Eiger Northface. 900m, 27 pitches, 8a
- May 30, 2008: Received the inaugural “Eiger Award”.
- April 2008: First ascent of “Checkmate” on Tenkampoche in the Khumbu Valley, Nepal with teammate, Simon Anthamatten. Difficulty: VI/85 degrees, ice M7+ / 6A0.Tenkampoche’s technical difficult and demanding northface (6500m), 2000m high, in Khumbu Valley, Nepal. They called this new route
- February 13, 2008: Breaks his own speed solo record solo on the Eiger facealmost a year to the day since he first broke the speed record for climbing the North Face of the Eiger, Ueli Steck sets a new fastest time soloing the face in 2hr 47min 33sec.
- February 2008: Free solo ascents of “Hot Tuna” (7c), “Schweizerhalle” (7b+), “Hot Tuna/Quasar” link up 8a. All routes are located in the climbing region of Leen near Interlaken.
- April 2007: Solo climbed the West Face of the Pumori, 7161m; 24 hours up and down.
- February 2007: Set new speed solo record on the Heckmair classic route; 3h54minutes. Broke the previous record held by Christoph Hainz set in 2003
- July 2006: Ueli summited with two companions the 7710m East Peak of Gasherbrum 2 after having completed the first ascent of Magic Line.
- Early 2006: Second ascent of his own route, “The Young Spider” on the Eiger, this time solo. During 5 days, Ueli climbed through the Diretissima on the North Face.
- 2005: Nomination for the “Piolet d’Or Award”
- 2005: First solo ascent of Tawoche (6506m); Two weeks after climbing Cholatse
- 2005: First solo ascent of 1500 meter high Cholatse Northface (6640); 37 hours.
- 2004: Winter solo-ascent of Eiger North face and several other shorter routes, all solo
- 2004: Free-solo ascents of “Excalibur” and “Silberfinger”
- 2004: Enchainment of North faces of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in only 25 hours together with alpinist Stephan Siegrist
- 2003: First free climb ascent of “La Vida es Silbar” on the Eiger Northface. 900m, 7c
- 2002: First ascent of Mount Dickey in Alaska; “Blood from the Stone”, 28 pitches (5.9, A1/M7+, Wi6+)
- 2001: First ascent of “The Young Spider” on the Eiger Northface; one of the most demanding routes the wall has to offer, a Superdiretissima.
- 2010, Sender Films, “The Swiss Machine”