Climbing partner recalls Ueli Steck after Everest tragedy
KATHMANDU: Tenji Sherpa and Ueli Steck, as in the past, had set out for mountaineering expeditions together in April. But fate had something unusual in stock for both of them this time.
Steck's long-time climbing partner Sherpa suffered a frostbite on April 20 and moved down to Lukla for some days. The legendary Swiss alipinist, often called Swiss Machine for his mountaineering records, on the other hand, headed to higher camps on Mt Everest for acclimatisation and camp rotation -- only to perish on the lap of Himalayas in the morning of April 30 after a fatal fall from Mt Nuptse.
News of 41-year-old Steck's death has left Sherpa perplexed.
Calling the incident a nightmare, Sherpa vividly recalls challenging moments that he spent together with the Swiss Machine. "I am yet to comprehend what actually could have happened to such a strong climber," he says.
According to him, when he returned to the base camp and joined Steck on April 28 after taking rest for a few days in Lukla, Steck was happy.
“Soon, we will join hands to make rotations in the higher camps once you recover from frostbite injuries...” he recalls Steck telling him.
Then, Steck set out for his journey to the higher camps alone but never returned, the 27-year-old mountaineer, who originally hails form remote Gudel in Solukhumbu, shares with THT Online after returning to Kathmandu today.
"Soon, we will join hands to make rotations....." Steck's words still reverberate in his head.
“Steck has a heart of gold,” he says. In Nepal, nobody knows it better than Sherpa, who gives a credit to the legendary climber for boosting up his professional climbing career.
“Steck was really an extraordinary multiple-record holder climber, a helpful guy with the kindhearted soul,” he pays tribute to the fellow climber.
Steck lost his life in an accident on Mt Nuptse while practicing for a record climb on Mt Everest on Sunday morning. His mortal remains were recovered some 1,000 metrews down at the Nuptse Face on Camp II.
Steck along Tenji headed to the Khumbu region to attempt to climb Mt Everest by never repeated West Ridge/Hornbein Couloir route without using supplemental oxygen in the spring climbing season.
They also set out a plan to make a descend to the South Col before taking the once climbed direct route just below the Lhotse Face to obtain that summit record. The world was so looking forward to his record ascent to Mt Everest when the incident occurred.
"We together climbed Mt Everest in 2012, Mt Cholatse in 2015 and different peaks in Swiss Alps in 2016,” Sherpa recalls their expeditions. Last February, they together had climbed Island peak.
“I feel proud to be a climbing partner of the famed alpinist,” Sherpa, who got a chance to begin his mountaineering career with the greatest climber of his generations, reacts.
“My heart goes out to Steck family, his friends and the mountaineering fraternity.”