Ueli Steck on the Eiger Record Climb
ClimbandMore: First of all I would like to congratulate you on your speed climb on Eiger. Was it your main objective for this winter season or you just had it in mind and waited for good conditions?
Ueli Steck: Thank you very much for your congratulations. Yes, I had this project in my mind. But I had to wait. I tried to do it before in December, but the conditions on the North Face didn't allow me to go for a new record. I have been up the Mönch a couple of days before. I knew the weather was going to stay beautiful. So after sleeping in the Mönchsjoch hut and climbing the Mönch with my girlfriend I was perfectly acclimatized.
Wednesday was my only day off, so I just wanted to give it a try. The conditions looked great when I checked it from the “Kleine Scheidegg”. On February 13 everything was perfect. Although there was quite a lot of snow in the lower part of the wall, which cost me quite a lot of energy. In the upper part - as from the "Schwieriger Riss" on (“Difficult crack") - everything was simply perfect.
You beat the last record by over 67 minutes, it is a lot, especially that the whole time is 2:47:33. Do you think that you saved more time by belaying yourself less or was it mostly due to better conditions?
I changed my strategy. As I said before, the conditions were difficult in the lower part of the wall, because there was a lot of snow which cost me a lot of energy. In other parts the conditions were perfect.
I climbed most of the time without belaying myself. I did not use the rope at all. The rope was just in case I had to turn back. I carried it on my back. And with 30 meters of rope I am able to descend the whole face.
I had a daisy chain on my harness, which allowed me to clip on the fixed gear during the route.
Besides I had lost about 5 kilo of body weight before the climb and saved 3 kg in gear, which I didn’t have to carry. This makes 8 kg in total. This makes a big difference as well.
How can somebody prepare himself for such climbs? How to train? Do you take up also things like running long distances and general endurance training or do you rather concentrate on climbing vast amounts of rock and ice?
I figured out a workout which perfectly fits my personality. Also I worked a lot on my endurance the last months. Of course when I can, I go out and do rock and ice climbing.
Do you find it possible to beat your record by over another hour? Or now it’s rather time for shaving off a few minutes like on El Capitan’s Nose. Do you think about another try?
It's a difficult question. I really don’t know. I guess that maybe one day a younger climber will come and do it in a better time. If this happens, and when and how much this person will break the time... Who knows... We will see... As to me, I have other plans for the next months. Now I’m fully concentrated on the next expedition, the next climb.
This year Simon Anthamatten and Roger Schäli have beaten the team time record? Have you ever thought of beating a team record?
They have done a really great job. But in the end it’s the fastest time that counts. If a route is faster to climb solo then you have to climb it solo. If you try the Nose, is it definitely faster in a team. For me personally a team record does not count at all. It’s just the fastest time that counts…
When you go to Everest and you are the first Swiss to climb it, for example, this does not count in the history of alpinism. The first ascent was done by Hillary and Tensing, and this will stay forever… You understand what I mean?
Thank you and good luck in your next project.