5 days on the North Face of the Eiger for the first solo, first repeat and first winter ascent of The Young Spider. From 7 to 11 January 2006 Ueli Steck added another important piece to his personal interpretation of mountaineering which, unsurprisingly, continues to aim increasingly higher and which was recently rewarded with a nomination for the "Piolet d'or 2005" for the solo ascents carried out during Steck's "Khumbu Express" (Cholatse, Tawoche, Ama Dablam).
This time round the 29 year old Swiss mountaineer has returned to his "local wall" in the Bernese Oberland to set the record straight with the North Face of the Eiger. "A chapter still left open" as he himself says with the great mountain and above all with The Young Spider, first ascended by Steck and Stephan Siegrist in 2001 on the most famous wall in the Alps. But in 2001 Siegrist and Steck did not climb the route in a single push, and this was the missing piece in perfection (read alpine style) which constitues a fundamental aspect of Steck's mountaineering.
This new winter solo adventure came about under this pretext on "his" Young Spider, the 1800m high route which encounters difficulties up to 7a/A2 on rock, WI 6 ice and M7 mixed terrain. Steck defines it as "a modern route, complete and of the highest standards, on steep rock and ice." With regards to the 5 days spent out on the wall, Steck recounts that the greatest difficulty was the slow speed of the actual climbing, seeing that due to the extreme nature of the route he self-belayed up almost the entire line. Furthermore, he hauled 50 kg of gear up the face, including the portaledge. To get an idea of the magnitude of the undertaking, on the classic Heckmair Steck had needed just 11 hours, while on the hardest sections of The Young Spider he managed to climb just 3-4 pitches a day.
The hardest sections on Young Spider are located on the first step which climbs close the Stollenloch (the gallery window of the train tunnel) to then continue beneath the famous Ragno nevee field. 5 pitches climb this and the 45m crux pitch is comprised of a difficult, precarious ice drip with water running within it... Steck remembers "When I climbed the ice it snapped and I fell about 10m... I cut a vein beneath my knee. But since it was so cold (about -25 °C) it stopped bleeding on its own. Later, when I returned home and I warmed up, I felt a terrible pain and I immediately went to the doctor, to whom though I didn’t explain everything... Do you want to know what the doctor said? "Keep moving!"