Ueli Steck, Speed Mountain-Climber

by jdroth on 21 April 2011

The Eiger is a wall of ice and stone in the Swiss Alps. It rises 3970 meters (13,025 feet) above Gindelwald. The north face of Eiger is also called Mordwand, or “the wall of death”. In the past century, at least sixty-four climbers have died trying to scale this treacherous slope.

The western flank of Eiger isn’t nearly as dangerous. On 11 August 1858, Charles Barrington and his guides were the first to climb it. It took them about nine hours to ascend and four hours to return.

On 24 July 1938, a team of four climbers (including Heinrich Harrer, perhaps best known for writing Seven Years in Tibet) reached Eiger’s peak after a cold, strenuous three-day climb of the north face. Since this first success, many other daring climbers have managed to reach the summit. (And many others have died trying.)

Over the past few decades, a handful of brave souls have competed to see who can climb Eiger’s north face the fastest:

  • In 1974, Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler climbed the north face in ten hours.
  • In 1982, Franc Knez climbed it in six hours.
  • On 24 March 2003, Christoph Hainz made the ascent in four hours and forty minutes.
  • And so on…

And on 13 February 2008, 31-year-old Swiss climber Ueli Steck set the speed record by climbing Eiger’s north face in 2 hours, 47 minutes, and 33 seconds. Steck’s climb was recorded by Sender Films. Here’s a clip of highlights:

Steck looks like a spider crawling across the icy slope. It’s amazing. I can’t decide whether this is insane or awesome. For now, I’m going with awesome.

[via Devour]

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David Garcia April 22, 2011 at 11:00

Wow. I’m going to go with both insane and awesome. That’s an amazing feat of endurance–to push himself at the level for so long.

It reminds me, on some level, of the “Man on Wire” stunt. When people like this do something so amazing “without a net” (so to speak), it reminds me that life itself is lived without a net. Makes me want to live my life the way he climbs mountains.


2 SG from Germany April 28, 2011 at 01:28

Both insane and awesome. It teaches us that we can achieve incredible things with dedication…

Btw I like this new site; just came here from GRS and will now put it into my feed reader.

On a side note, the German term “Mordwand” (literally: murder wall) is derived from the proper name “Nordwand” (north face).


3 Leah April 28, 2011 at 11:03

Crazy!!! I watched the video from the grounded safety of my desk… and I still felt like my life might be in danger :)

I also came from GRS, and I love the new site! Nice to see a site dedicated to positive, awesome people, and without any ulterior motives from the creator?? Could this be true?!?!?

Thanks for putting a spark of life in my work day!


4 Tristan April 30, 2011 at 10:26

Insane and awesome. I’ve seen this clip on the big screen at the Banff Film Festiva and Reel Rock film tours. It was incredible. I’m a very avid rock climber and mountaineer, and have been following Ueli’s exploits for a while. The dude is a freaking machine. He recently climbed the 14th highest mountain in the world (Shishapangma at 8013 meters) in 10.5 hours.

Oh, and his Eiger record was broken a couple weeks ago by another Swiss climber: http://www.climbing.com/news/hotflashes/swiss_climber_breaks_eiger_speed_record/


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