Ueli Steck atop the Eiger (3970m) on February 13, 2008. After breaking the speed record on the Heckmair Route (ED2, 1800m and 4000m of climbing, 1938) by 46 minutes last February, he bested his own time on the 13th by another 67 minutes for a new record of 2:47:33. [Photo] Ueli Steck
On February 13, Ueli Steck bested his own speed record for scaling the Eiger’s north face via the classic Heckmair Route (ED2, 1800m, 1938). Only one year ago Christoph Hainz’s March 2003 record stood at 4 hours and 40 minutes. In late February of 2007, Steck shattered Hainz’s record by posting a time of 3:54 from bottom to top. (Read the March 6, 2007 NewsWire for a complete speed-ascent history of the Heckmair.) This time Steck slashed his own record monumentally–by about 67 minutes–posting an incredible time of 2:47:33.
Steck believes the huge difference in time was due to two factors: strategy and weight. Last year he self-belayed on three sections; this year he did not belay at all, instead relying on a loop of rope that allowed him “to hook on occasionally.” He also traveled about eighteen pounds lighter–most cut by shedding body weight, the rest due to less and lighter gear.
He was slowed by heavy snow on the lower part of the Eigerwand, “which cost me a lot of energy,” Steck said. “On the other hand I found great conditions from the ‘Schwieriger Riss’ on. The technical, very demanding passages were very dry, and I was able to climb without gloves.”
To give context to the speed at which Steck moved solo, the team record for an Eiger Nordwand ascent is 6:50, significantly more than twice as long as Steck’s solo effort. That new team record was set by Simon Anthamatten and Roger Schali earlier this month and reported in the February 5, 2008 NewsWire.
The Eiger, in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland, has long been an iconic alpine testing ground, its severe north face visible and accessible from Grindelwald. The route sports an impressive vertical gain of 1800 meters. The climbing involves more than twice that distance, considering traverses and the pitch of the slope. Therefore, on his recent ascent, Steck climbed at an average of nearly 24 meters each minute, up from 17 meters per minute last year.
Steck at the Eigergletscher station after his February 13 ultra-fast ascent of the Eigerwand. [Photo] www.jungfrau-zeitung.ch
“The legendary Car Lewis said once, that we should seek the competition with oneself. This time I won this competition with myself.”