Ueli Steck's Annapurna Kit

Pack like a speed-record holder to move faster

How much gear do you need for a new route on an 8,000-foot Himalayan face? Traditional, expedition-style ascents required so much in the past that an army of porters and yaks had to haul it all to base camp. But times have changed.

In early October 2013, the bold and talented Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck carried less than 18 pounds on his back for a new route up the super-steep south face of 26,545-foot Annapurna in Nepal. (Steck had previously established Camp 1 on Annapurna, but this gear was all he used above 20,000 feet.) With no partner and minimal equipment, Steck relied on great skill and fitness to get up and down Annapurna in just 28 hours. (See p. 54 for more on this ascent.) “There is not a lot of reserve when you climb like this,” Steck says. “I was up there with nothing. This allows you to move fast, but if you can’t move anymore, then it gets very serious very quickly.”

Though few will ever plan such bold climbs, all alpinists engage in similar decision making while packing for a route, and some of Steck’s thinking applies to every ascent.
Too much weight, and you move too slowly. Too little, and you could be stranded—or worse—if something goes wrong. In addition to his basic clothing and warm boots with integrated gaiters, here’s what Steck opted to carry for his historic climb.

40-liter pack

850-fill down jacket with hood; synthetic-fill jacket with hood
Steck chose this combination to layer for the extreme variation in temperature between day and night, and for 8,000 feet of elevation change. “During the day, usually a thin layer is enough, so I just wear the synthetic insulated jacket. Later, at night, the down jacket would not be enough, but together with the synthetic one, it was perfect.”

Down mittens and gloves
While examining a photo of the face on his camera, Steck dropped the camera and one of his mittens. He had to continue through the night wearing his liner gloves, alternating the warmer mitten on each hand.

Helmet

Ultralight harness

60-meter rope (6 mm)
This super-thin rope—essentially a tag line or accessory cord—was only carried for the descent. “My decision was to climb the face without a rope. If it got so technical that I could not climb without a rope, I would have to turn back,” he says. Even on the way down, the rope was used sparingly. “With [only] 60 meters of 6mm rope and five pitons, you don’t rappel a 2,500-meter face!”

2 ice screws

5 pitons

Abalakov hook
The Abalakov hook, or V-threader, was named for Russian climber Vitaly Abalakov, who invented the technique of drilling two intersecting holes in solid ice and threading a sling through them for a rappel anchor. V-threads allow climbers to make many rappels with minimal anchor equipment. See how to do it at climbing.com/skill/low-cost-rappels-on-ice.

Knife

Carabiners and slings

Crampons

Ice tools

Tent
Steck carried a super-light (2 lbs., 8 oz.) single-wall tent up the route but left his sleeping bag at Camp 1. Why? He didn’t plan to stop long enough to need the sleeping bag, but “the tent is very important. It protects you from the wind [while you melt snow] to brew some drinks,” he says.

Stove and integrated pot

1 gas cartridge

Water bottle

Sunglasses and goggles
Why both sunglasses and goggles? Because, Steck says, “If you don’t have any protection for your eyes, you get snow blind very fast, which means you are dead. So you have extra glasses. Plus, goggles protect your face from the wind, but are not comfortable during the day when it’s hot.”

Headlamp

Spare batteries

Satellite phone

Camera

First aid kit
Steck carried a small but varied medical kit: ibuprofen for pain and inflammation; dexamethasone for altitude sickness; Adalat (nifedipine) for altitude sickness; Tramal (tramadol) for pain relief; Imodium for diarrhea.

Sunscreen

Energy food
The Swiss climber brought about 3.5 ounces of cheese but left it at Camp 1. Instead, he relied on six PowerBars and two packets each of PowerGel, Performance Energy Blend, and Peronin Cacao energy-drink mix, for a total of about 3,200 calories.

Pre-climb ritual:
According to photographer Dan Patitucci, Steck likes to eat a Hostess cupcake before starting up an 8,000-meter peak.


Comments

I couldn't help but read this article in Ueli's voice.

stephen - 03/06/2014 9:59:47

"Traditional, expedition-style ascents required so much in the past that an army of porters and yaks had to haul it all to base camp. But times have changed." The article was spot on for discussion of strategy in going fast and light up high, and carried good caveats, like about getting stuck with minimal gear, or losing gear. However if I may ask, is the above quote accurate? Did Steck's group in fact use no porters? Did it carry into ABC all its food and equipment? If not, you are confusing fast and light high up on the mountain, with something more like what Goran Kropp did. Ueli Steck fully deserves recognition for his achievements, including good judgment on avalanche conditions, which stopped Bukreev unfortunately, but please give credit where it is due and do not conflate styles. Goran, RIP. If there is any other western summiteer who could hump his stuff in from Jiri, who has ever done it besides Kropp, who would that be? Just maybe, climbers might spend some time on the trails watching the locals use a naamlo. And then there was Babu Chiri Sherpa, 21 hours on top Everest in a little tent, for a total of ten summits. He got his start portering loads to base camps in Solu Khumbu.

Kami Sherpa - 02/27/2014 2:14:54

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