When reading Annapurna, I was fascinated by the perseverance and determination of the expedition team. Members of the expedition declared their loyalty to follow their leader - these men were ready to risk their lives in order to conquer the peak and their ability to face so many unknowns is remarkable. Beginning with only rough (and flawed) sketches of the region, this was truly an exploration. The team spends months on reconnaissance trips to discover potential routes before the real ascent even starts. Herzog’s determination to make it to the summit pushes his team beyond their physical and emotional limits. His desire to reach the summit leads him to disregard his team’s deteriorating health and push on (altitude sickness and concerns of frostbite) as he was willing to put his life on the line in order to reach the summit.
I was stunned when I found an interview with Switzerland’s Ueli Steck who had recently solo’d Annapurna’s south face. Ueli’s trip took only 28 hours from Base Camp to summit and back again! Following his ascent, Ueli said: “I would never be willing to die for such a mountain... If I do something like that I must be absolutely sure that I can do it. If I had the slightest fear [I could] die, I would not have gone for it.1” More than 60 years later, speed climbs have replaced first ascents as the new extreme adventure. As Andrew Jillings said in the Glen House last week, we’re chumps – they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Today, modern mountaineers climbs with high-tech equipment, GPS, satellite phones, helping to remove uncertainty from the equation. I’m not trying to say that Ueli Steck’s lacks skill or willpower but after reading Annapurna, Ueli’s feat somehow seems less impressive.
Bierling, Billi. "Speed Climber Steck Breaks Annapurna Record." Swissinfo.ch. SWI, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Feb. 2014