Ueli Steck set the record in 2007—at 3 hours 54 minutes. Not satisfied, he returned to the Eiger North Face the following winter. Steck shaved an hour off his own solo speed record with the unthinkable time of 2 hours 47 minutes. Yesterday, he broke it again.
Steck, 39, soloed the Heckmair Route (ED2, 1800m, FA 1938) on the North Face of the Eiger in 2 hours 22 minutes and 50 seconds—beating his previous record by 25 minutes and Dani Arnold’s 2011 solo record* of 2 hours 28 minutes. When Steck uploaded the stats from his GPS watch, among time, distance, altitude and speed, it reported an average intensity of “moderate.” Ueli Steck is, the Swiss Machine.
“Now I know the difference between 2008 and 2015,” Steck tells his sponsor, Mountain Hardwear. “Today I had a good track, good conditions and I was pulling some gear that made it quite safe and I believe it makes much more sense this way."
Last year, during a slideshow at Nat. Geo. in Washington, D.C., Steck said his Annapurna solo was his last climb of that calibre—the new Ueli Steck, in his “old age,” would be a safer Ueli Steck.
In reference to breaking the Eiger speed record, for the third time, Steck says, “I didn‘t push myself as hard as in 2008. This makes this ascent a beautiful experience and a great day.
“Furthermore, it is a new record, but this was a result of the specific conditions. We can never compare ascents [on] a face like the Eiger. Conditions and weather are always different.
“But this is what makes alpinism interesting and unique. For me it is the personal challenge and your own experience that really matters.”
Not only did Steck set a new solo speed record, he also claimed the Eiger North Face team speed record with Nicolas Hojac [update: and Kilian Jornet]. They climbed the Heckmair Route and bested Roger Schaeli and Simon Gietl’s 2011 record of 4 hours 25 minutes with a time of 3 hours 46 minutes.
*In 2011, Dani Arnold, also Swiss, broke Steck’s 2008 Eiger speed record by 19 minutes. Arnold used fixed ropes for the Hinterstoisser Traverse. While he beat Steck’s solo speed record, Steck—who free climbed the entire route—maintained the all-free solo record.
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