At 34, Ueli Steck is one of the fastest and most versatile climbers around today. Practically unknown to most Americans, the Swiss alpinist has set speed records on some of the Alps' toughest walls, including the Eiger's infamous north face, and has summited both Gasherbrum II and Makalu. He has an impressive resume on rock as well, including free-solos of up to 5.13b, a near-onsight of El Capitan's Golden Gate, and a stint spent speed-climbing in Yosemite with Alex Honnold this summer.
Now, Steck is trying to take his fast and light approach to the world's hardest and highest mountains, but he's keeping his plans to himself. All he'll reveal, he says, is that he's got something planned for next year in Nepal. He'll tell us more after he's done it.
UELI STECK: Today, to find a challenge is really hard. In the Alps, everything is done. The new lines, almost all of them are finished. So to find a new challenge, it's all beginning to go to speed.
Speed climbing is not new. In the history of climbing, people were always checking time. At one point, there was the first one-day ascent of the Eiger. After, Messner and Habeler did it in ten hours. Then Bubendorfer did it in 4:50. That's the history of climbing. That's what I got into.
It was a friend of my father's who took me out climbing. It was outdoors, in the mountains, these small little needley climbs that were like 50 meters high. My first climb was on lead; there were pitons, no bolts.