A tribute to Ueli Steck and the visionaries of alpinism. By Ivo Ferrari
A look back at Ueli Steck and his solo ascent of the South Face of Annapurna... I've been surprised for years, and I don't envy them because the great thing is knowing and realising that these "visionaries" are up there, unattainable yet key to all of us who dream. They have always made me happy. By Ivo Ferrari
Alpinism, what a passion, once it gets inside you, you can rarely shake it off. One day, many years ago, my father gave me a magazine that talked about Alpinism and Alpinists and while I flicked through the pages I became "enraptured" by the words: Matterhorn, Eiger and Grandes Jorasses climbed from the north in a single winter by a young lone climber! I read and reread the words and began to feel something overwhelming build up inside. I tried as best I could to feel the cold and solitude. But I simply couldn't believe that this had been achieved, perhaps it had just been carried out by people who were anything but "ordinary".
How on earth had Ivan Ghirardini climbed those three north faces alone between December 1977 and March 1978? Alone in the kingdom of ice and mixed terrain, how did he prepare himself? These questions began to whirl through my mind, so much so that I even ventured into an unknown, unimportant gully in the Orobiche Alps! But my questions remained unanswered, I simply risked life and limb without understanding much!
Shortly afterwards I began to follow my new love with more interest, I bought and devoured magazines while playing at being an alpinist on every week end. And once again I was struck by another young Frenchman, Christophe Profit!
He climbed high mountain routes at an incredible speed, in both summer and winter he enchained fantastic lines, "disintegrating" everything that had been, up until then, nothing but science fiction in my mind! I was now certain that "some" are born take things further.
Now that my heart has calmed down and I've learnt to recognise its beats, I've finally started to ask questions again, beautiful ones, full of adrenaline! Ueli Steck up and down the South Face of Annapurna! The news spread like wildfire from one end of the cosmos to the other, both beautiful and shocking. Before turning off my computer, with my chin resting in my palms, my thoughts are finally answered. After uncertainty and perplexity I have realised that tomorrow night it's time to train hard. And they weren't and aren't merely "ace" climbers - the world is full of these - they are simply VISIONARIES, capable of providing us with beautiful dreams!
by Ivo Ferrari
>> Ueli Steck and Annapurna: the interview after his South Face solo
>> Ueli Steck summits Annapurna, alone up South Face