'Swiss Machine' Ueli Steck dies on Everest

In a video recorded in early April and posted on YouTube, Steck said he would judge the attempt a success regardless of whether he reached the top -- as long as he returned alive.

AFP| Updated: Apr 30, 2017, 22:46 PM IST
'Swiss Machine' Ueli Steck dies on Everest
Courtesy: Twitter

Kathmandu: Swiss climber Ueli Steck, one of the most feted mountaineers of his generation and famed for his speed ascents of iconic Alpine routes, died on Mount Everest today, officials said.

"Today morning, he had an accident on the Nuptse wall and died. It seems he slipped," Ang Tsering Sherpa, head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told AFP.

Steck, 40, was on Everest to acclimatise before attempting in May to summit the world's tallest peak followed by neighbouring Lhotse, connecting a series of ridges to design a never before climbed route.

Everest and neighbouring peak Nuptse share a common ridge, which is where Steck slipped and fell, according to a government official.

"He skidded off about 1,000 metres from (Mt Nuptse) camp two early morning on Sunday. Other climbers ascending Everest saw him and asked for his rescue," said Dinesh Bhattarai, director general at the Department of Tourism.

Steck was climbing alone when he died. His partner, Tenji Sherpa, had sustained severe frostbite earlier and was recovering at a lower camp.

His body was recovered by Nepali guides and flown by helicopter to Kathmandu.

The accomplished alpinist sought to pioneer new routes throughout his career, earning the nickname "the Swiss Machine" for his record solo ascents in the Alps.

He was attempting to achieve another first this year by charting a rarely climbed route to summit both Everest and Lhotse, the world's fourth highest mountain, all without the use of supplemental oxygen.

Steck was due to summit Everest via the West Ridge -- a route that has recorded more fatalities than summits -- before climbing Lhotse.

In a video recorded in early April and posted on YouTube, Steck said he would judge the attempt a success regardless of whether he reached the top -- as long as he returned alive.

Mingma Sherpa, the first Nepali to summit all 14 of the world's peaks above 8,000 metres, said the accident -- the first fatality of this year's spring climbing season on Everest -- underscored the unpredictability of mountaineering.

"It is very sad news, he is a very experienced climber," he said of Steck's death.

"Things can be so unpredictable in the mountains and it can be challenging even for the most seasoned climbers."

Tributes poured in for Steck on social media, with British climber Kenton Cool -- who has scaled Everest 12 times -- describing him as "a true inspiration to all".

"A man that showed us all what was possible in the mountains and beyond," Cool tweeted.