The "Swiss Machine" Ueli Steck has summited the notoriously difficult Annapurna I (8,091 meters) via the South Face in the Himalaya. Details of Steck's ascent are still unknown, however, the news emanated from a text message sent by Steck from base camp to his sponsors stating: "Summit, alone, South Face." Scarpa also announced the ascent on their Facebook page this morning, posting: "SUMMIT SUMMIT SUMMIT alone for Ueli!!! the REAL 'machine.'
This was Steck's third attempt at climbing Annapurna I, which is the least summited 8,000-meter peak in the world. ""The South Face of Annapurna I is an old project," said Steck in a recent interview with Swissinfo.ch. "I have attempted it twice already and I guess you need patience if you want to climb hard routes on an 8,000m-peak." Steck had attempted the formidable mountain in 2007 and 2008, and both expeditions ended badly. In 2007, Steck was hit and nearly killed by rock-fall, which ended the expedition. In 2008, his attempt was abandoned when he learned that his friend, Spanish climber Iñaki Ochoa de Olza, was injured and stranded on the mountain. Steck attempted to rescue Olza, but despite his efforts, Olza died.
"After Iñaki [died], I had to get off the face immediately and needed some time to get over it. If I had gone back the following season, I would not have been prepared for it," Steck told Swissinfo.ch.
This year, Steck was ready for a rematch and returned with Canadian climber Don Bowie. Bowie had also attempted Annapurna I twice before. The two climbers had also previously partnered together for a successful ascent of Tibet's Cho Oyu in 2011.
This year's Annapurna I expedition seemed to be going well according to Steck's website. The team had established base camp at 5,000 meters in late September and had started planning their route. Steck's last dispatch stated: "At the moment we have rainy weather at BC but from October 6 the forecast should be better and we will go back to the mountain. Everything runs as planned!"
UKClimbing.com has also confirmed Steck's ascent. After contacting Jonathan Griffith, a British mountaineer and frequent partner of Steck, Griffith responded: "I haven't been able to speak to Ueli yet, but I did speak to his wife, and she has confirmed that Ueli has done the route."
More info on Steck's ascent will be posted as details become available. Stay tuned ...