May 1, 2017

"Climbers I find are assholes at the end of the day!"

Said a climbing partner of Ueli Steck, greatest mountain climber in the world, who recently fell to his death near Mount Everest. The quote appears in a short New Yorker piece by Nick Paumgarten, who expresses surprise that Steck "had returned to a place he disdained for its crowds and its bitter base-camp politics." Back in 2013, he'd had to abandon an Everest climb:
He and his climbing partner that year, the Italian Simone Moro, had got into a dispute with a group of Sherpas who were fixing ropes on the Lhotse Face and felt that the climbers were endangering them. Moro called one of them a “motherfucker” in Nepali, a grave insult. A group of Sherpas later attacked Steck and Moro with rocks, at Camp 2. The climbers, convinced that their lives were in danger, fled down the Khumbu Icefall.
Paumgarten quotes Steck's own description of his personality, and I invite you to consider this as an account of how it feels, from the inside, to be what they call an asshole:
I have repeatedly asked myself, why I do this. The answer is pretty simple: because I want to do it and because I like it. I don’t like being restricted. When I climb, I feel free and unrestricted; away from any social commitments. This is what I am looking for.

I am a public figure. This has gradually happened and I can no longer change it. I have accepted it and the only thing I can do is change my attitude. I have sacrificed some of the lightness of being for it. It doesn’t bother me as long as I can still follow my path. I can no longer do what I want, and I am aware of it, but I still can lead a life, which makes me feel happy and content in the evenings.

I still need the liberty to do the things I love doing, though. I don’t worry about other people, and I don’t let them influence me too much. I try to find out what I want to do, and not what other people want me to do.

41 comments:

TML said...

Messner is the greatest.

TML said...

I mean, the dude climbed Everest ALONE and without oxygen. The greatest ever.

Bay Area Guy said...

Don't know much about climbing, but it's probably not a good idea to call the Sherpas "motherfuckers", while scaling Mt. Everest.

M Jordan said...

He didn't sound too assholian to me. He sounds like a guy that needs a place to getaway from people ... like the rest of us menfolk do much of the time.

tim in vermont said...

I still need the liberty to do the things I love doing, though. I don’t worry about other people, and I don’t let them influence me too much. I try to find out what I want to do, and not what other people want me to do.

This is the problem with Pascal's wager. Do you think that this guy would sacrifice his freedom on the off chance that there was some hypothetical reason he shouldn't do it because some other person sincerely believed in it? Pascal's wager undervalues human freedom.

Rene' Saunce said...

Insulting your Sherpa. Not a good idea, idiot.

wwww said...



His ability to climb was beautiful.


His death reminds me of Willi Unsoeld. Even the technically brilliant ones can run out of luck.

chickelit said...

Most climbers look up to assholes so I'm not surprised.

Rene' Saunce said...

"I have repeatedly asked myself, why I do this. The answer is pretty simple: because I want to do it and because I like it. I don’t like being restricted. When I climb, I feel free and unrestricted...

Then do it without the help and guide of a Sherpa. (Unless it is required?)

walter said...

Well..it's not like they climb for "the greater good".
Too bad about his lightness of being though..damn.

wwww said...

Insulting your Sherpa. Not a good idea, idiot.



He didn't need a Sherpa.

He climbed much faster then the Sherpas in that 2013 incident. They offered to help the Sherpas put in the lines.

And you were thinking of the Italian climber, who regularly rescues people off Everest with his helicopter. And, yes, regularly rescues Sherpas.

Everest for amateurs is big business. The Sherpas can haul your ass up the mountain, but that will never make someone a climber.


Offering to help put in the lines and flying people off Everest in high altitude conditions is not an "asshole" thing to do.

wwww said...

Then do it without the help and guide of a Sherpa. (Unless it is required?)


You don't know what you're talking about.

John Tuffnell said...

Mother Nature eventually wins.

Chicklit's comment also wins.

Rene' Saunce said...

www - OK - Then why are the Sherpas even there? Is it required?

Rene' Saunce said...

WWW - I'm asking.. If you are an expert climber and you do not need a Sherpa, why would you climb with a Sherpa?

(I'm asking because i do not know)

Nonapod said...

He and his climbing partner that year, the Italian Simone Moro, had got into a dispute with a group of Sherpas who were fixing ropes on the Lhotse Face and felt that the climbers were endangering them.

I hate sentences like this. Who "felt that the climbers were endangering them"? Was it the group of Sherpas or Ueli Steck?

stever said...

Gravity is always in play

wwww said...

www - OK - Then why are the Sherpas even there? Is it required?


Not required.

Climbers like Ueli Steck and Willi Unsoeld don't need the ropes or the Sherpas.

https://www.outsideonline.com/1929126/brawl-everest-ueli-stecks-story

or watch High Tension by Reel Rock. Clips on You Tube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAaVK8eJsfo

traditionalguy said...

With a friend like Ueli Steck you can count your days until the betrayal comes.

CStanley said...

@Rene and Nonapod- Steck and Moro were not climbing with the aid of sherpas and were asked by the sherpas to hang back because the sherpas were fixing ropes. The climbers thought they'd reached an agreement to climb further ahead without disturbing the ropes, but the sherpas do not seem to have agreed to that and complained that the climbers dislodged some ice that injured one of them. A large (100+) group of the sherpas later confronted the climbers at the base camp and it turned ugly.

Basically elite climbers can do it without aid of the sherpas (though I'm not sure if they too rely on some of the infrastructure they've provided at the base camps) but tourist climbers absolutely require the sherpas to take them up.

Fernandinande said...

Climbing on rocks is all fine and good for children of all ages, but you really want to be a bird.
If you want to be a bird
It won't take much
To get you up there
But when you come down
Land on your feet

wwww said...

WWW - I'm asking.. If you are an expert climber and you do not need a Sherpa, why would you climb with a Sherpa?


They weren't climbing with the Sherpas. Watch clips of Ueli Streck climbing & it will be clear how he doesn't need ropes.

Sherpas were laying ropes for commercial groups going up the next day. They make their $$ from these commercial groups.

Steck & the other 2 climbers don't need ropes. They were climbing from Camp 2 to Camp 3 where they had a tent already set up. Were acclimatizing.

They were climbing to the left of the Sherpas, well out of their way.

As some point they had to cross their lines to get to their tent. The lead Sherpa took offence. Felt the other climbers shouldn't be on the mountain climbing at all that day.

When they crossed the line there was a dispute. Sherpas claimed that some ice fell on them. The western climbers claimed they were careful not to send ice down on the Sherpas.

When they crossed the line the Sherpas were roped in. The western climbers weren't. As they crossed a Sherpa lunged w/ at the Italian climber who yelled "What are you doing ####?!?".

He shouldn't have sworn. But the Italian wasn't roped in. Could have fallen off the cliff.

Commercial Everest is Big Money for people who need the ropes to get to the top of Everest.

The Italian climber has worked w/ charity & educational groups for Sherpas. Rescues people off the Mt. ever year in his helicopter.

Rene' Saunce said...

www - OK -that makes sense. Thank you. You were right, I don't know what I am talking about. ;-)

David said...

Did he really understand the gravity of the situation?

mockturtle said...

OK, I've known quite a few climbers, male and female. They are goal-driven people and some are assholes. Most are not. Sherpas can play a lot of games with climbers, too, like deciding at Camp 3 to go on strike for more money. They have what amounts to a strong union. Not to diminish, in any way, what they do but there are politics involved.

Jupiter said...

Fuck with the bull, you get the horn.

gspencer said...

"Said a climbing partner of Ueli Steck, greatest mountain climber in the world, who recently fell to his death near Mount Everest."

Sometimes editors, in reading a description, just don't get the obvious.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Whenever I hear of deaths on the mountain I reflexively hope it's dumb foreigners, not the locals.

No, not all the climbers are dumb or rude or arrogant, as pointed out above. But it seems so pointless to keep doing the same climb, over and over again. It's not like they're carrying out scientific research or replacing instruments or whatever. They're just going up, endangering themselves and usually others along the way.

To be fair, the locals WANT the funds from the climbers, so they put up with the jerks in their number.

Pillage Idiot said...

WWWW has a good account, and appears to be a knowledgeable about climbing. However, his account obscures the critical point.

"They were climbing to the left of the Sherpas, well out of their way.

As some point they had to cross their lines to get to their tent. The lead Sherpa took offence. Felt the other climbers shouldn't be on the mountain climbing at all that day."

Once you climb past someone, you must not cross their lines. If you cross, any rock or ice you dislodge is easily fatal if it contacts a person below. Calling someone an "asshole" that would do such a thing, is being far too conciliatory in your choice of language.

Adding the sentence for the lead Sherpa's motivation, he "Felt the other climbers shouldn't be on the mountain climbing at all that day." is an artful deflection to make it appear that the Sherpas are "hogging" the mountain. I wasn't there, but I suspect the conversation was quite heated about the risk of death that you imposed on my fellow Sherpas by climbing above us.

Earnest Prole said...

Have a look at this video to get a sense of his skills. Climbing unroped on these rock faces meant accepting that death was possible with every step.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

If my math is right, Steck turned 40 last October.

I've been reading a book of obits from the London Telegraph. A couple of climbers/adventurers:
- Goren Krupp, "died aged thirty-five from a fall while rock climbing" in 2002. He also had a big Everest adventure, which was actually only part of a bigger one: "cycling 7,000 miles from Sweden to Nepal, climbing Everest without porters or bottled oxygen, then cycling back to Sweden." He left Stockholm in October 1995, reached Everest Base Camp in April 1996, and became "the first climber to carry all his equipment (weighing 143 lb) [from Kathmandu] to Everest Base Camp, at 17,100 feet." He succeeded in reaching the summit only on his third try. He stayed for "just four minutes, deeming it prudent to get his blue, oxygen-deprived fingers to a lower altitude as soon as possible." Almost incredibly, between his second and third attempt, the famous storm blew in, affecting dozens of people in an increasingly crowded area of Everest. Eight died, as recounted in Krakauer, Into Thin Air.
- Kurt Albert, died aged 56 "from injuries sustained after falling eighteen metres from the Hohenglucksteig via ferrata in Bavaria," in 2010. He "invented the 'redpoint' or free style of climbing--in which the ascent is performed without pitons or ropes." "Asshole" may be too strong, but eccentricities? "Albert was not a typical fitness fanatic. He liked strong coffee and cigarettes, and confessed to being 'lazy' at home. ... He considered it a point of honour to get to the rock face which he intended to climb using 'natural,' non-mechanical means of transport and using no advance supplies or porters."

Rick said...

Steck & the other 2 climbers don't need ropes.

The dead body seems strong evidence this is not accurate.

wwww said...


The dead body seems strong evidence this is not accurate.

"What – you want me to die of a heart attack, drinking beer, eating potato chips, and watching a golf tournament on TV???" - Willi Unsoeld

urbane legend said...

. . . Ueli Steck, greatest mountain climber in the world, who recently fell to his death near Mount Everest.

One of these things is not like the other.

I am a public figure.
File under Legend In My Own Mind.

Unknown said...

climbers? don't know.....but cyclist are.....from a cyclist. other cyclist are embarrassing.

Earnest Prole said...

Steck climbed without fear for his own safety, so is it any surprise that he climbed without consideration for the Sherpas below him? Genius and asshole are merely two words describing the same thing in the same person.

mockturtle said...

Unknown, I heartily agree. Cyclists really are assholes.

Mark said...

I would be surprised if Steel hauled all his equipment to base camp and back ouy again.

He might not have climbed with sherpas, but you can bet he had them haul his equipment in and equipment/shit out.

mockturtle said...

He might not have climbed with sherpas, but you can bet he had them haul his equipment in and equipment/shit out.

Solo climbs are not rare. The trick to a solo climb is to maximize your speed because you have minimized your gear.

wwww said...
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wwww said...
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