The North Face of Cholatse.Photo courtesy of www.mountain-dreams.ch.
Twenty-nine-year-old Ueli Steck from Switzerland exported the “enchainment” concept from the Alps to the Himalaya this spring, attempting to solo three difficult north faces in the Everest region. In mid-April, Steck made the first solo ascent of the extremely difficult North Face of 21,129-foot Cholatse, carrying only a 13-pound pack and bivying twice, once on the face and a second time, with no food, during his descent of the South Face. He likened the superb 5,000-foot face to the classic North Face of the Eiger—though topping out a mile and a half higher, with no possibility of rescue in case of a problem.
Psychologically drained by the Cholatse climb, Steck rested for more than a week in basecamp and then soloed the East Face of 21,342-foot Tawoche, choosing a relatively moderate ice line on the left side of the face over the dangerously loose rock wall on the right. Steck raced up that face in just four and a half hours; it was the first solo ascent of the peak, and thought to be the first ascent by any climber in seven years.
Next on the list was an attempt at the third ascent of the Northeast Face of 22,356-foot Ama Dablam (solo again), but dangerous snow conditions ground the Khumbu Express to a halt at just over 19,000 feet.
Steck has climbed new routes on the Eiger and Mount Dickey in Alaska (with Sean Easton), and has linked the north faces of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in 25 hours with Stephan Siegrist.
For photos, visit Steck’s web site, www.mountain-dreams.ch.