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Perfect Day (May 2, 2011)



Today was perfect. The moon's light shone right up until daybreak. The weather was perfect as well. It was -12°C at 8000 meters. It was hard to believe that it was so warm this early in the year.

I had not planned to summit Shisha Pangma, or to climb its southface solo. Something like this cannot be planned so far in advance. I decided consciously not to climb any solos anymore, because I was certain that eventually a fatal error would come. But today's climb was inevitable.

I was on the mountain for nearly 20 hours. This was the perfect day for a climb such as this one. It's days like these that make climbing so special. It was tough, but I did not suffer. It was different from my summit success on Makalu. I did not have any headaches, nor did I feel sick. At the end I was a little thirsty, but I also had the opportunity to take my time.

I adapted to the conditions outside and inside. After nearly 20 hours, I was back in my sleeping bag at the ABC. Everything happened so fast. Afterwards people talked about a record. People wanted to know which route I climbed. I didn't know; I had to look myself. I just knew that I started on the British Route, and I decided the rest as I went along. Later on, Don told me my time when I crossed the Bergschrund. On the summit I looked at my watch because I wanted to know how much time I still had to descend. But I still wasn't sure of the descent time, and that's why I didn't stay on the summit for longer than 5 minutes. I wanted to go back.

Now I am back in Nyalam, exactly seven days later. If I could, I would go home right now. Not because I am fed up or tired. But because I am constantly asking myself if I can climb another 8000m peak with the same feeling. At the moment I see this climb as my peak. I do not think I can do any better. I had fun on this climb. Perhaps because it wasn't planned. But it lead to a perfect day.

Here in Nyalam I feel a much greater sense of satisfaction. I have had time to think about a lot of things. I know exactly how ambitious I am. I feel like I have to free myself from this situation.

Exactly three days after my summit success, Daniel Arnold from Switzerland climbed the Eigernorthface in 2 hours and 28 minutes. 19 minutes faster than I did. I knew that this time would come. He used fix ropes in the Hinterstoisser-Quergang, and after the Quarzriss. I climbed everything free. He climbed in the spring, and I climbed in the winter. It is hardly comparable. For the single climber this experience remains unique. For a person on the outside, the only thing that is equivalent is the time.

I climb in order to inspire other climbers, and to bring new ideas to climbing. Many others can do the things I have done; possibly much better than I could ever hope to do them. I will not try to break this record.

I achieved my goal several days ago. I am satisfied with my accomplishments. I reached my zenith with Shisha Pangma.

It is important to be satisfied with one's accomplishments. In my heart I will always be an alpinist. I've already reached the peak. For me personally, higher and faster are no longer possible anymore.

Hopefully I can inspire others in the future!

Ueli Steck

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