Ueli Steck, the greatest speed climber of his generation, was killed on Mount Everest this weekend. He was at Camp 1 of Mount Nuptse. The circumstances of his death are still unclear, and his family, who found out about his death on Sunday, “asks the media builders to refrain from speculation about the circumstances of his death,” according to his website UeliSteck.ch. Maurizio Folini, a pilot with a local helicopter company who brought Mr. Steck’s body to Kathmandu, told the Times that it had been windy on Sunday and that Mr. Steck had fallen more than 3,280 feet, leading to his death. See our full remembrance of Ueli Steck here.
Steck was on Everest this year for the first time after a much-publicized altercation in 2013, when Steck, Jonathan Griffith, and Simone Moro got into a brawl with a group of Sherpas at 23,000 feet. This year, he was hoping to complete what he’d called the Everest-Lhotse linkup, an ambitious new route that would’ve had him summiting both Everest and its neighboring peak Lhotse, the world’s fourth tallest peak, in one expedition. Steck was to be accompanied by Nepali mountaineer Tenji Sherpa and had put in much time training in the region, including 13 days in Nepal in February, when he hiked/ran more than 50,000 feet of vertical at elevations between 14,000 and 20,000 feet.
Steck, who was often called “The Swiss Machine,” ran up routes that most climbers tackle with ropes and harnesses. In 2007, he set a solo speed record of three hours, 54 minutes on the deadly north face of the Eiger, a big wall that most climbers spend two or more days ascending. The next year, Steck blew away his record, clocking in at a blistering two hours and 47 minutes. In 2009 he made a solo ascent of the 14,692-foot Matterhorn’s Schmid route in one hour, 56 minutes; and in 2013 he finished a solo ascent of Annapurna’s South Face (26,545 feet) in 28 hours.
In a story for Men’s Journal on the speed climber, alpinist and photographer Jonathan Griffith called him a “visionary … When you’re climbing at his level, you have to be a visionary to progress.”