Skip to content
Home » Climbing Notes » BERNESE OBERLAND


Ueli Steck on the first solo, and first winter, ascent of The Young Spider (VI 7a A2 WI6 M7, 900m), north face of the Eiger (3970m), Mernese Oberland, Switzerland. Steck and Stefan Siegrist established the route in July 2005; Steck soloed it in six days in January. [Photo] Robert Boesch

For a long
time I’d had the idea of soloing The Young Spider (5.11d A2 WI6 M7,
900m), a route I’d established with Stefan Siegrist on the north face of
the Eiger (3970m) in July 2005. I embarked on the route in autumn 2005,
but the weather wasn’t stable enough. So when a high-pressure system and
a perfect forecast arrived in January, I started to climb, with six days
worth of food and fuel, a portaledge and lots of gear–fifty kilos

The first section is just a snow slope, one that a good skier could
descend. On the first rock pillar the climbing gets serious: A2 and very
steep. Even the so-called easy pitches weren’t just cruising terrain;
with temperatures always about -20 degrees C, 5.11b gets hard to climb. I
had to focus on simple perseverance. The lower-angled section turned
into a fight with my haulbag. I still hate this PIG! At least in the
bivies I was happy to have a warm sleeping bag and some good food. On
Day 4 I was below the Spider and sixty meters of ice: the best pitch I
have ever climbed. However, reaching it this time required one hour of
aid climbing.

I thought I’d be set as soon I got on the ice, but it was only five to
eight centimeters thick, and I took a big fall, maybe twelve meters,
smashing into the rock with my knee and cutting a vein. At the time the
cold temperatures stopped the bleeding; two days later, back at home, I
would barely be able to walk. On Day 5, after a night in the portaledge,
I skipped the last four pitches of The Young Spider and exited to the
left: although the pitches were easy, loose snow made it impossible to
climb them. Soon I was on the summit, and I could finish my story with
this route, one that many people had said couldn’t be climbed without
fixed ropes.

All my previous solos had been light and fast. This time I had to learn
just to keep going, one step after the other. But in the end, the
experience made me realize that I was now ready to climb steep, cold,
high, difficult walls. While I was happy about that discovery, when I
heard the news about Jean-Christophe Lafaille, I remembered what a risky
sport we practice.

Ueli Steck, Interlaken, Switzerland