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Steck Solos Shishapangma in 10.5 Hours

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Ueli Steck's route up Shishapangma. Photo by Ueli Steck

UPDATED:4/22/11 – More details have emerged on Ueli Steck’s extremely rapid ascent of Shishapangma, including specific times along the route. When he started up the face, Steck says, he was still anticipating just an acclimatization trip up to 7,000m to 7,200m, though he had discussed a summit bid with teammates Don Bowie and Rob Frost. Steck left advanced base camp at 5,800m at 10:30 p.m. and reached the bergschrund below the south face 2.5 hours later. He crossed the bergschrund and started up the main face at 1:10 a.m., according to an email to Freddie Wilkinson, with whom he had acclimatized in Nepal before going to Shishapangma. On the face, he climbed mostly along the British Route, along with sections of Krzysztof Wielicki’s solo route and the Spanish Route.

When he passed 7,200m, Steck said he still felt strong. On his website, he wrote, “I promised my wife not to do any solos anymore. But this is not really a solo. In this area a roped party would not really belay. You would lose too much time, and it is not really necessary. I think I can do it, and I can already see the exit. Up or down. Down is also far. So up!”

Once he hit the ridge, Steck made the long traverse to Shishapangma’s true summit, which he reached at 11:40, according to Wilkinson, 10.5 hours after crossing the bergschrund. He returned to the gear he had left where he topped out on the face, and then continued along the north side of the ridge to a saddle, from which he downclimbed by a different route than he had climbed. He reached advanced base camp again at 6:30 p.m., 20 hours after leaving.

Steck has posted a first-person account of this remarkable climb at his website.

4/18/11 – Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck, 34, has soloed the 2,000-meter south face of Shishapangma (8,027m/26,335′) in 10.5 hours.

After just two days in base camp, Steck climbed to advanced base camp at 5,800 meters (19,029′) with Canadian partner Don Bowie, who did not feel sufficiently acclimatized to make an attempt. With excellent weather, Steck decided to go for it alone. He left camp at 10:30 p.m. Saturday night and was on the summit of the world’s 14th-highest peak at 9 a.m. the next morning. It is not yet known which route Steck climbed. Steck and Bowie were back in base camp less than 20 hours later.

Before traveling to Shishapangma base camp in Tibet, Steck had acclimatized in Nepal with American Freddie Wilkinson, climbing Lobuche and the French Route on the north face of Cholatse (6,440m/21,129′). Steck and Bowie are now headed to Cho Oyu (8,201m/26,906′), the world’s sixth-highest peak, where they will attempt a route on the north side.

Steck, who holds the speed-climbing records for the north face of the Eiger, Matterhorn, and Grandes Jorasses, as well as several Himalayan summits, is featured in an in-depth profile in the May 2011 issue of Climbing magazine.

Date of Ascent: April 17, 2011

Source: Ueli Steck