The climbing world mourns the loss of the “Swiss Machine”
Renowned Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck died on Sunday April, 30, while climbing alone on 7,861-meter Nuptse.
According to a report in The Himalayan Times, a group of six rescuers found Steck’s body “near the Nuptse Face of Mt. Everest where he could have slipped and fell on the ice-covered slope. Fellow mountaineers had seen him climbing Mt. Nuptse alone at around 4:30 a.m.”
Steck was acclimatizing for a new route in which he and Tenji Sherpa would attempt to link Everest and Lhotse. The duo planned to summit Everest via the rarely-attempted Hornbein Couloir, descend to the South Col, then climb Lhotse, all without supplemental oxygen. It would have been the first such traverse. In an interview with Planet Mountain before his departure for the Himalaya, Steck–the greatest alpinist of his generation–assessed their odds of success as “50-50.”
A statement on Steck’s Facebook page notes that the events leading to his death are still unknown.
“The family is infinitely sad and ask the media to refrain from all speculation concerning the circumstances of his death, out of respect for the memory of Ueli. As soon as we get more information to be communicated to you on the causes of death, we will hold the media informed. The family hopes that everyone will understand that they can’t give more information for the moment.”
Steck was 40 years old.
His death was the first of Everest’s 2017 season.
The Climbing World Reacts
“Ueli was one of those rare people who changed our ideas of what is possible in the mountains. His fast ascents of giant peaks inspired us all. Mostly though, I will remember Ueli as a kind and generous man with whom I was honored to share a rope. I’m terribly sorry for his wife and family.”—Phil Powers, American Alpine Club CEO
“A tragic day for the climbing world.” —Emily Harrington, professional climber
I had the pleasure to spend some days climbing and bullshitting with Ueli last year while I lived in Switzerland. I was struck by his generosity, his enthusiasm, and his kindness. He inspired me. Apart from his absolutely legendary resume, Ueli was a damn good human. One of the good ones. You’ll be missed my friend. ? @uelisteck
“I never met the man, but I edited an early magazine article that introduced the name Ueli Steck to many of us. Working on that story, I was amazed to learn of his way of climbing–his unfathomable level of discipline, his futuristic scientific training methods, his matter-of-fact demeanor, and his super-human accomplishments, which continued for many years after that article, and which ended yesterday. Sad, sad news. He was one of a kind. My deepest sympathies to his family and his many friends.” —Jeff Achey, former Editor-in-Chief of Climbing magazine
@steckueli flying off the summit of Mont Blanc a few years back on a project we worked on together. Ueli’s contagious and playful energy in the mountains always reminded me of the muppets character Kermit The Frog. Motivated, smiling and showing us the limits of human physicality and spirit. RIP. #swissmachine
“This man was an inspiration in so many ways. Every interaction with him I always walked away wanting to be a little stronger and push a little harder. A heartbreaking moment.”—Luis G. Benitez, Colorado’s Director for the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, former Everest guide and six-timer Everest summiter