A renowned Swiss climber has died in a mountaineering accident near Mount Everest in Nepal.
Ueli Steck, 40, nicknamed the Swiss Machine, died after falling to the foot of Mount Nuptse, a smaller peak in the area, said Mingma Sherpa of the Seven Summits Treks company that organised Steck’s expedition.
His body has been recovered from the site and taken to Lukla, where the only airport in the Mount Everest area is located.
Steck had been planning to climb 8,848-metre (29,029-ft) Mount Everest and nearby Mount Lhotse next month.
He was the first casualty in the spring mountaineering season in Nepal that began in March and will end in May. Hundreds of foreign climbers are on the mountains to attempt to scale Himalayan peaks in May, when there are a few windows of favourable weather.
RIP Ueli Steck, possibly the greatest mountaineer ever. He was famous for solo speed ascents on the world's highest mountains. pic.twitter.com/1rDPFXD345
— Stephen Hicks (@seismo_steve) April 30, 2017
Today while Yannick, Hans and me were climbing to C3, Ueli Steck died at the Nuptse. Yesterday we were having lunch together in C2. Too sad.
— Ferran Latorre (@ferranlatorre) April 30, 2017
Steck was one of the most renowned mountaineers of his generation. He was best known for his speed climbing, including setting several records for ascending the north face of the Eiger, a classic mountaineering peak in the Bernese Alps that he climbed in two hours and 47 minutes without using a rope.
In 2013 he achieved the first solo climb of the Annapurna south face in Nepal, having almost died in a fall there in 2007. He received the Piolet d’Or, considered the Oscar of mountaineering, in 2014.
In 2015 Steck climbed all 82 Alpine peaks higher than 4,000 metres, travelling between mountains by foot, bike and paraglider only. He completed the feat in 62 days.
Last year, Steck and a German climber discovered the bodies of two famed American climbers, Alex Lowe and David Bridges, who were swept away in 1999 by an avalanche during their attempt to scale the world’s 14th highest peak, Shishapangma.
In an interview last month with the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger, Steck said he considered himself an outsider in the mountaineering scene because athletic achievement was more important to him than adventure.
Asked about his upcoming Everest-Lhotse expedition, involving a quick climb from one peak to the other, including an overnight in the “death zone”, Steck said: “When I’m on Everest I can stop at any point. The risk is therefore quite small. For me it’s primarily a physical project. Either I get through or I don’t have the strength.”
Asked what he would consider to be success on his expedition, Steck told Tages-Anzeiger: “Of course I want to climb Everest and Lhotse. But that’s a very high goal. Failure for me would be to die and not come home.”
On hearing the news of his death, renowned climber Alan Arnette commented from Colorado: “I can’t express what a loss this is to the mountaineering community, Ueli loved Nepal, Everest and the Himalaya.”