On April 20, 2017, Swiss climber Ueli Steck fell while soloing from the slopes of Nuptse at the age of 40. He was one of the world’s most cutting-edge alpinists who’d climbed Gasherbrum II and Makalu in 2009, Shisha Pangma and Cho Oyu in 2011, Everest in 2012 and Annapurna I in 2013.
Steck fell while acclimatizing for his project of the Everest to Lhotse traverse via the Hornbein Couloir to the summit of Everest before descending to the South Col and to the summit of Lhotse. He was climbing without supplementary oxygen.
Steck held a number of speed records over the years, received two Piolet d’Or and climbed difficult new routes around the world, including in Canada. While we’ll never know what happened to Steck on Nuptse, his English-language biography, Ueli Steck: My Life in Climbing, offers revelations about his later years. In the memoir, Steck wrote, ” “I had no guarantee that I would not take such great risks again. In fact, I was afraid I would. I had to get this under control. I was a climber and not someone wanting to commit suicide.”
Steck will be remembered as one of the boldest alpine climbers of his generation, with bar-raising ascents and a streak of history-making climbs. “The most important thing was to stay aware of the risk at any given moment and control it,” he writes.
“If I managed to do this, I would certainly be able to experience more exciting and beautiful moments in the mountains without killing myself.”