November 18, 2015 - Swiss speedster Ueli Steck has reclaimed the speed record for the north face of the Eiger, climbing the ca. 5,500-foot face in 2 hours 22 minutes 50 seconds, about five minutes faster than the old record. Steck climbed the classic 1938 route (Heckmair Route) on November 16, enjoying superb conditions.
Steck first set a speed record on the Eiger in 2007, when he climbed the face in 3 hours 54 minutes. Convinced he could do it much, much faster, he trained specifically for the ascent and in 2008 set a mark of 2 hours 47 minutes. In 2011, Dani Arnold, a young Swiss climber, smashed that record with a time of 2 hours 28 minutes, using some aid.
For Steck, who recently turned 39, the difference between 2008 and 2015 was a matter of conditions and style. "Today I had a good track, good conditions, and I was pulling some gear that made it quite safe, and I believe it makes much more sense this way," he said in a press release from Mountain Hardwear, one of his sponsors. "I didn't push myself as hard as in 2008, and I felt very comfortable." When Steck set the record in 2008, he climbed the route entirely free, bypassing the fixed rope across the Hinterstoisser Traverse, which Arnold used in his ascent.
Steck has climbed the Eiger north face at least four times in the last two weeks, making some other very impressive ascents along the way. On November 8, he and the Spanish mountain running superstar Kilian Jornet made a 10-hour "car to car" ascent of the face from Grindelwald, a round-trip of nearly 10,000 vertical feet. On November 11, he teamed up with the Swiss climber Nicolas Hojac and climbed the 1938 route in 3 hours 46 minutes, nearly 40 minutes faster than the previous record for a team ascent.
Unusually good conditions for November made all the difference, Steck said, explaining that, "We can never compare ascents in a face like the Eiger. Conditions and weather are always different. But this is what makes alpinism interesting and unique. For me it is the personal challenge and your own experience that really matters.”