Thursday, September 17, 2015

Himalaya Fall 2016: Ueli Steck Prepares to Return to Nepal

No major news to report today in terms of progress on Manaslu, Makalu, or Everest. The climbers there are currently taking advantage of a break in the weather as they continue to acclimatize to the altitude and push towards their respective summits. If all goes well, we could have reports of positive results sometime in the next few days.

As the big commercial squads look for early season success, other smaller teams are preparing for expeditions that are yet to come this fall. They include Swiss climber Ueli Steck, who will be returning to the Himalaya for the first time since he made a daring solo-summit of Annapurna back in the fall of 2013. Ueli says that he is done with those kinds of escapes, but he does have another exciting climb in the works.

Next week, Ueli will depart for Nepal where he'll join American climber Colin Haley for an attempt on the 7804 meter (25,603 ft) Nuptse East along the very difficult Babanov Route. That challenging path has only been completed once in the past, when Russian climbers Valeri Babanov and Yuri Kosholenko completed it along the Southeast Pillar back in 2003. Those two men were able to reach the summit using the typical siege tactics that are common in the Himalaya, but Ueli and Colin will make the attempt in alpine style.

In a recent interview with Stefan Nestler, Ueli says that he is in good physical condition for returning to the Himalaya, after all he is coming off a successful summer campaign to climb all of the mountains in the Alps that exceed 4000 meters (13,123 ft). That project saw him summit 82 mountains in 61 days, once again showing us all why he has earned the nickname of the "Swiss Machine."

In that same interview Ueli talks about his history in Nepal. Not only his triumph on Annapurna, but the infamous encounter with a mob of angry Sherpas who were out to cause him, and his climbing partners Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith, physical harm back in the spring of 2013. But the climber has put both of those events squarely in the past, and he is focused on other challenges now. He also says that he wants to return to Nepal to help the people there. By making this climb he is not only showing that it is safe to go back, but he is also putting Nepali people to work.

Of course, we will be following this expedition as closely as we can while it unfolds. Ueli is expected to leave for Nepal on September 22, after which he'll spend a few days getting his gear prepared for the climb, as well as trekking to Base Camp on Nuptse. Look for updates to start sometime around the first of October as he and Colin look to make another bold climb in the Himalaya.

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