Ueli Steck stops the clock atop the Eiger north face: 2:47:33. Photo courtesy of Ueli Steck / Bergsteigen.at.
Switzerland’s Ueli Steck has chopped more than an hour off his own speed record for climbing the north face of the Eiger. Steck soloed the 6,000-foot Alpine wall in 2 hours 47 minutes 33 seconds.
Last March, Steck broke the previous solo record, also by a large margin, with a time of 3 hours 54 minutes. The old record had been set by Italian Christoph Hainz in 2003.
Steck increased his speed this year by only occasionally clipping a sling to fixed pieces for protection. Last year he self-belayed three times with a 15-meter cord. Steck also said he lightened his equipment by three kilograms (about six and a half pounds), and that hard training had reduced his weight by five kilos.
Ueli Steck, just a speck on the Eiger nordwand. Photo courtesy of Ueli Steck / Bergsteigen.at.
“In the lower section of the wall there was much snow, and that cost me a lot of power,” Steck said. “After the Difficult Crack, the conditions were perfect. The hard sections were dry and climbable without gloves.”
Steck’s speed is even greater than it seems at first glance, because the Eiger’s classic 1938 route zigzags significantly, adding up to more than 13,000 feet of climbing distance. Put another way, Steck averaged more than 75 feet a minute.
This is the year for Eiger records: At the end of January, the Swiss climbers Simon Anthamatten and Roger Schali raced up the classic north face route in 6 hours 50 minutes, the fastest time ever for a roped team. Remarkably, though Schali had done the route many times, Anthamatten had never climbed the 1938 route, although he had spend significant time on the north face during guiding and film projects.
The Eiger north face. Photo courtesy of Ueli Steck / Bergsteigen.at.
Interestingly, the fastest time for climbing the world’s two most iconic walls is now almost identical. Last fall, Alexander and Thomas Huber set a new mark on the Nose of El Capitan: 2:45:45.
Date of Ascent: February 13, 2008