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He must have been going very fast, as usual, when calamity struck on 30 April. The extreme mountain climber Ueli Steck was training on Nuptse in Nepal for a record attempt on Mount Everest. The conditions were ideal, but for some inexplicable reason Steck plunged thousands of metres to his death. He was well aware of the mortal danger of what he did. Destiny has now caught up with him.
Originally from the Bernese Oberland, he was regarded as the world’s best solo climber and was well known for his speed. Steck did not just climb, he sped, and actually ran where inclines permitted. Steck broke record after record, surmounting the North Face of the Eiger solo in two hours and 22 minutes – a milestone in mountaineering. He was just 40 years old when he lost his life.
His death caused great dismay throughout the nation but also sparked a debate over how far extreme climbers should go in their ambition to conquer the eight-thousanders of this world ever more quickly. Steck lived his dream and was at one with nature, some said. He diced with death and lost, was the view of others.
The debate has now abated, and the next extreme mountaineers are gearing up to follow in Ueli Steck’s footsteps.