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Interlaken, Switzerland

Mountaineer & adventurer

From speed records ascending the Eiger and climbing Everest without oxygen support to conquering peaks across the world - Ueli Steck is a sporting legend in every sense of the word. Two-time winner of the Piolet d’Orfor for his outstanding achievements of mountaineering, we were honored to talk to him about his many (many) feats and achievements living a life outdoors.

Firstly, wow.
I guess we need to ask, how did it all begin?

It is a simple story. I got the chance when I was 12 to go climbing with a friend of my father. He took me to the Schrattenfluh. There we climbed a small limestone spire. That was the beginning and I got hooked immediately. After that, I spent every free moment I had going to the climbing wall or just practicing rappelling and self -rescuing at my parent’s house.

At a guess, how high in total do you think you have climbed over your career – all the mountains, training walls, if they were stacked up?

Ha! No idea! I guess I have done a lot of vertical meters in my life and I hope there are still many more to climb!

What is the single event that stands out most when you think of all your achievements?

For me every experience is unique. I don’t live in the past. As soon I have climbed something, I want something new again. So right now the most important climb for me is the next climb I will do.

What about the most beautiful summit you’ve conquered?

For sure it was special to stand on the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. I had the chance to be up there with only a few people. Another of the most impressive summits I have witnessed was Makalu – also an 8000-meter peak. I reached the summit very late and was completely exhausted. I will never forget that moment. Finally, the Eiger every time I climb it. It’s nice to be up there, kind of like the feeling of being home.

Many people compare mountain climbing to ultra marathons: pushing your mind and body to the max. That said, what do you think about when on the mountains?

I think everybody can find their own challenge. It does not matter how fast or how high - you just need to figure out what you like and what you want. I am in love with both ultra-running and mountaineering, but they’re completely different experiences.

And how do you keep your body in top physical shape for these efforts?

Simple - it’s just training! I try to figure out what kind of things I enjoy, and do them as training. If you have to train and it’s not working, change the activity until you find something you enjoy, then do that as your training. That is how you become successful.

How does the decent compare to an ascent?

Going down is easier but also dangerous because you think you have finished with the mountain. But you’re not truly done with it until you are back in the valley!

And from the mountain to the valley, how do you go with the world of trail running?

I really got hooked by trail running. I love it. I believe it helps a lot for my mountaineering. But I have to be careful because mountaineering is not trail running, so when it comes to true training, I train for mountaineering. But I love trail running still. Just last weekend I ran the Eiger Ultratrail which was as much fun as climbing Mount Everest!

Where do you tend to run most?

I run everywhere. But of course, most of time I spend here in Interlaken so I am lucky to have a huge amount of amazing trails nearby. Hardergrat or towards Grindelwald Mürren is incredible and seems to be nearly endless!

What’s next for you?

I am training to go back to Everest. I still have a work to do on the big mountain.

Finally, any tips for people wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Make sure you know the reason why you doing what you are doing. If you try to perform to impress other people, you’re wrong. If you train for yourself - to get better for you - you will be successful. It’s all about your personal challenge to yourself!

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