It is hard to believe that 2016 is quickly drawing to an end, and soon we’ll turn the page to a new year. That means lots of new opportunities of course, and a time to start look ahead to some big adventures to come, including the spring climbing season on Everest, which is sure to be a busy and interesting place after a return to normalcy this year. One climber who is already anticipating his expeditions to the mountain is Ueli Steck, who as usual has some big things planned.
Steck, who climbed Everest without bottled oxygen back in 2012, only to return the following year and find himself embroiled in a high-profile brawl with Sherpa guides, is now gearing up for a very ambitious expedition in the spring of 2017. The Swiss climber will return to the South Side of Everest to attempt what he calls the Lhotse Traverse, which will start with a summit of Everest and continue with him – and his climbing partner Tenji Sherpa – continuing across the saddle ridge to the summit of Lhotse, Everest’s closest neighbor and the fourth highest mountain in the world at 8516 meters (27,940 ft). As with his last expedition to the world’s tallest mountain, Ueli plans to make the climb without supplemental O’s.
Recently, Steck sat down for an interview with journalist Stefan Nestler, during which he talked about this upcoming expedition, which he has already started preparing for. In that interview, Ueli says that he hopes to climb the Everest along the tough West Shoulder, and then after summiting, continue on to Lhotse in a single long, and difficult push. But, that said, he has also acknowledged that conditions might not be right for such a route, so he may shift to the normal route of Everest first, and complete the traverse that way instead. But, he says that this project is one of his dream expeditions, so there is a likelihood that if he does have to take the normal route, he may return in the future to try the West Shoulder again.
In the interview, Ueli also touches on the 2013 brawl, saying that he has now put that ugly incident behind him. It impacted him greatly immediately after the incident, leading to him not trusting other climbers quite so much and taking a different approach to his expeditions. He says that it has shaped his perspective moving forward, but that he is at peace with what happened and is ready to just concentrate on climbing in the High Himalaya instead.
As he prepares for the altitude he’ll face on Everest and Lhotse, Ueli says he has begun picking up the volume of his training to get ready for the challenge ahead. Dong lots of vertical climbing at a rapid pace – something he is well known for – allows him to stay in the Alps and still prepare for the Himalaya, and while the start of the expedition is still more than three months away, he is already getting his body ready.
If successful, Ueli will be the first person to complete the Lhotse Traverse without the use of bottled oxygen. He seems very confident that he can pull this off, and knowing what I know about the “Swiss Machine,” I wouldn’t bet against him.
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