If it would be so easy to climb a mountain, I would have stopped climbing. I would simply not be interesting!
Cholatse Northface (6440m) was my first solo I did in the Himalaya. At that time, I was in my mid-twenties, I was uncompromising. I thought I would be immortal and climbing meant everything to me. A rope, some pitons and two ice screws was all about equipment I needed. I had no idea what was going to expect me. All I knew was, that it was 1400 meters to the summit. It was one of my craziest solos I ever did. After a cold bivouac I reached the summit in order to descend on the south side back to the valley. It was the only way to get down. It was a oneway ticket. I didn’t have enough equipment to get down the face the way I got up. I had to go over the summit. 2005 I wanted to summit Cholatse on the direct way. A small mishap prevented me from doing so. In the face a screw of my ice axe loosened. The pick was loose. It would have been easy to fix it with the wrench. But it fell off my numb fingers and ended in the bottomless. So I had to climb with a loose pick and so I was happy to climb in an easier par of the face to the ridge.
Ueli Steck discusses his legendary career as a professional mountaineer (Warning: Ueli uses brief, but profane language in the video).
2011 I was back to Cholatse Northface. This time with Feddie Wilkinson from the United States. The weather got stormy and we decided to go for a quick exit on the right hand side to the summit.
But the line is still there. A new route is still possible on Cholatse Northface.
In our cold and wet bivouac Freddie and I had the idea about Khumbu Express II. No wild solos. We were thinking more about technical demanding mixed-climbing. Cholatse Northface, Tawoche Northface and Ama Dablam Northface. Three faces all between 1400 and 1800 meters high. All three summits good to combine and the perfect challenge of modern mixed-climbing.
What else do you want: Let’s try!
If you have a dream be careful. It’s maybe a vision!
Three new routes on three summits over 6000 meters. Speed in perfection. All the records I have done so far are relatively. Climbing is hard to compare. On a 100 meter race the world record does not count if there is too much tailwind. The conditions on a mountain are never the same. It doesn’t matter if I do climb the Eiger Northface in 2 hours and 47, and the next time in 3 hours. What counts is to know that you are able to climb Eiger Northface in 3 or 4 hours. This opens new dimensions. Without this knowledge I would have never climbed Shisha Pangma Southface in 2011. I only had this one day of good weather. To climb a 2000 meter high face of a mountain over 8000 meters in such a short time is quite a crazy thing, I must admit. I knew that I would be possible. Theoretically. I knew I could exploit the good weather for 24 hours. In this way you have much more chances to climb mountains on difficult faces. This is the idea of Khumbu Express II. The faster you are, the most you can climb and the faster you will find yourself back at a cosy place drinking a good cup of coffee!
Freddie Wilkinson is an ideal partner. He is always in a good mood and he the necessary coolness. I am very much looking forward to the climbing in the Khumbu Valley. We will not spend weeks in a base camp and wait. If the weather is on our side, we will climb our three faces. If not there are many other peaks to climb in Khumbu. For it is important to use this time for climbing and not sit around. Freddie will leave around May 15 to Alaska. I will stay in the region. I hope to be enough acclimatised to go back to Everest. I hope that this time the cold will not stop me.
The journey will start on April 5, 2012 right after my last slide-show tour of Speed.