Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck has returned to the Himalaya, and is gunning for one of his previous projects–the South Face of Annapurna I. Touted as one of the most dangerous climbing objectives in the world, Annapurna I remains the least summited 8,000-meter peak. “Until the end of 2008 only 154 climbers reached the summit,” writes Steck on his website. “60 alpinists died, two thirds of them were victims of avalanches.”
On this expedition, Steck has teamed up with Canadian climber Don Bowie, and for both alpinists this will mark a third attempt on Annapurna. “The South Face of Annapurna I is an old project,” said Steck in a recent interview with Swissinfo.che. “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’s previous attempts occurred in 2007 and 2008 and both expeditions were cut short. In 2007, Steck was hit by a falling rock that “nearly killed him” according to Swissinfo.ch. And in 2008, he attempted to rescue Spanish climber Iñaki Ochoa de Olza from the mountain, however, the rescue failed and sadly, 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. But now Steck says he has “a lot more experience” than his previous expeditions.
Don Bowie also attempted Annapurna in 2008, and came painstakingly close to summiting the mountain via the East Ridge. In 2011, Steck and Bowie teamed up for a successful ascent of Tibet’s Cho Oyu in 2011. Regarding their plans for Annapurna, Steck explains on his website that they will choose their route depending on conditions, after establishing Advanced Base Camp around 5,000 meters.
Steck’s return to the Himalaya comes just four months after the well documented fight that broke out between Steck and his partners Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith and several sherpas at Everest’s Camp 2. Steck commented on the matter in an interview with Swissinfo.che, saying: “After what happened in spring, coming back to Nepal is really important for me. I completely changed my mind about the country and about how things work here. I think the incident has opened my eyes a little bit about Nepal, which is good.” But Steck reiterates that he is still “far from being over the Everest story,” he told Swissinfo.ch. “I have the urge to climb high, and unfortunately most of the 8,000m peaks are in Nepal, so I am forced to come back here.”