by Kraig Becker
It has been a quiet summer for Wenger Ambassador Ueli Steck. Since getting caught up in the now notorious brawl on Everest this past spring, the Swiss climber returned home and has kept a low profile over the past few months. But Ueli isn’t one to stand still for very long and he chose an impressive project for his return to the mountaineering stage. On August 12 he set off to conquer the Intérgrale de Peuterey, the longest ridge in the Alps, covering more than 4500 meters (14,764 ft) in vertical gain. In typical Ueli fashion he completed the climb at an impressive pace, making the round-trip journey from tent to summit and back in a little more than 16 hours.
Typically the Intérgrale de Peuterey takes climbers roughly two to three days to complete. The ridge is a mix of rock, snow and ice with technical sections that will challenge even the most experienced mountaineers. Ueli was lured in by that challenge and as usual he was interested in finishing the route in as fast and efficient manner as possible. With that in mind, he set out by himself well before sunrise on the morning of his climb with the promise of a good day ahead.
After years of climbing in the Alps, Ueli has learned to go fast and light in the mountains. His pack contained only the bare essentials he would need for the ascent, including 60 meters of rope, an ice ax, a light down jacket and a variety of other climbing gear. Climbing solo he was able to travel at his own pace, which is blazingly fast by most standards. As the terrain became more treacherous he changed out of his running shoes and into a pair of climbing boots. Later he would add crampons as he moved onto the treacherous snow and ice. On the way up he passed two other climbers, giving them a wide berth so as to not dislodge rocks and other debris that might tumble down upon them in his wake. Even in his haste to get to the top, Ueli took notice not only of his own safety but that of those with whom he shared the mountain as well.
By 3:00 PM the Swiss climber reached the summit of Mount Blanc du Courmayeur which on that day was actually nestled above the clouds. After a brief respite at the top he then began his descent, crossing over to Mount Blanc itself and then down to the Dome de Gouter below. Still high above the Chamonix Valley, Ueli knew that there was a long way to go before his day was done.
The descent was fast and relatively easy however and just 16 hours and 09 minutes after he had started that morning Ueli passed by the church in the village of Les Houches. An hour after that he was back in his tent and getting some much needed rest. With his mission accomplished he could sleep at last.
To read more about Ueli’s day on the Intégrale de Peuterey check out his translated journal entry, along with photos from the climb, by clicking here.
[Photo Courtesy Ueli Steck]