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The South Face of Annapurna
Photo by Ueli Steck
Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck
Photo by Erminio Ferrari

Destination Annapurna South Face for Ueli Steck and Don Bowie


Ueli Steck from Switzerland and Don Bowie from Canada are currently on their way to the South Face Base Camp of Annapurna 8091m (Nepal, Himalaya) where they will attempt to climb one of the most difficult and dangerous faces in the Himalaya.

Ueli Steck and Don Bowie reached Kathmandu on 16 September. And now they're already heading to their destination: the South Face of Annapurna, one of the most difficult and dangerous faces in the entire 14 eight-thousanders "circuit". For both Steck and Bowie this is the third attempt up this great wall but at present little or nothing is known about their project except that they will establish Advanced Base Camp at circa 5000/5500 metres and then choose a line depending on the conditions.This being Steck though, one of the strongest climbers in the world, it is reasonable to believe that he has his sights set on a difficult, new route. It's worth noting that his partner Don Bowie is perfectly poised for such an ambitious project, seeing that back in 2008 the Canadian made an attempt up Annapurna's East Ridge that ground to a halt at 7300m. More importantly though, the two alpinists know each other well: in 2011 they successfully climbed Cho Oyu together.

For Steck this return to the South Face of Annapurna is accompanied by other, perhaps more profound and important meanings. It was on this face in 2008 that he, together with Simon Anthamatten, made a desperate attempt to rescue Spanish climber Iñaki Ochoa de Olza. An attempt that unfortunately failed and, apart from putting an end to the expedition, left a deep mark on the Swissman. "After the death of Iñaki" Steck declared in an interview with swissinfo.ch from Kathmandu - "... I had to get off the face immediately and needed some time to get over it. If I had gone back the following season, I would not have been prepared for it. I would have been too scared. After a few years and some good experiences on 8,000m peaks, I feel that the fire is back and I want to finish this project."

But there is of course more as one cannot avoid pointing out that this expedition also marks the return of Ueli Steck to the Himalaya, and in particular to Nepal, after last spring's incident that included him, Simone Moro and Jon Griffith on Everest. As everyone will remember we're talking about the incredible "aggression and protest" that the three endured at Camp 2 on Everest, carried out against them by a team of Sherpa. This occurred after an altercation at circa 7200m as the three mountaineers were acclimatising while a group of Sherpa was fixing ropes for other commercial expeditions. An ugly episode that, apart from bringing their expedition to an abrubt end, shocked Steck deeply. So much so that just a few months ago at the Friedrichshafen OutDoor trade show he told us that he simply did not want to talk about this episode any longer.

The Swiss climber reiterated to swissinfo.ch that has not yet forgotten. For him that Everest incident remains an open wound. "I am far from being over the Everest story. This is something different and it will take years. But life goes on, and you have to move on" said Steck before adding that after those events - even if they have rendered him "more human" - he will find it more difficult to trust people. From now on his focus will be on more technical faces concluded Steck: " ... nobody can bother me. That‘s what I am interested in. There is still a lot of work to be done on these 8,000m peaks, and there is certainly a lot of space to go climbing.."

Interview swissinfo.ch: www.swissinfo.ch





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