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NotMessner

Gear questions, Ueli Steck

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I have some gear questions about Ueli Steck’s Eiger climb. (I recently watched the DVD “Reel Rock Film Tour 2010” which includes some footage of his 2 hour, 47 minute solo ascent.)

1. Why did he use a pack made out of what appears to be thick nylon, instead of a light Cuben Fiber pack? Because none of his sponsors make Cuben packs?

2. Why did he use off-the-shelf clothes, instead of a custom-tailored full-body suit filled with Eider down, assuming he could get one that wasn't too warm? (I believe Messner used one of these on his Everest solo.) Same answer?

3. If my old brain remembers correctly, Messner also used custom-made titanium ice tools. Would it still make sense to do that today if you could afford it and didn’t have to use sponsors’ gear, or would the weight saving be negligible?

 

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2. Why did he use off-the-shelf clothes, instead of a custom-tailored full-body suit filled with Eider down, assuming he could get one that wasn't too warm? (I believe Messner used one of these on his Everest solo.) Same answer?

 

NOT SURE IF TROLLING OR JUST STUPID

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Steck's original speed ascent was done without the level of sponsorship he enjoys now. And without a film maker at hand.

The photos and video came after the speed record. No film on the actual speed record climb.

 

But much of your answers are directly related to the sponsors he did have and wanted to show case. These days it isn't always about the best gear available but simply the best gear you can get for free.

 

1. Why did he use a pack made out of what appears to be thick nylon

 

What he used is lighter than you might expect and not an issue to Steck's skill. But no question there are lighter packs.

 

2. Why did he use off-the-shelf clothes, instead of a custom-tailored full-body suit filled with Eider down, assuming he could get one that wasn't too warm? (I believe Messner used one of these on his Everest solo.)

 

Down would be inappropriate for a climb like this in the time frame Steck did it, even in winter.

 

Sponsors again. But the issue is to stay dry. Not to stay warm..that part was easy going that quickly. Weight of his clothes is also much less than you might expect.

 

3. If my old brain remembers correctly, Messner also used custom-made titanium ice tools.

 

Gear has changed so much since Messner was really active. Any of us now have the option of climbing in better gear than Messner ever had available. Steck's steel picked tools were likely lighter than the Titanium ones Messner used. Besides the fact that the Eiger is a bit different technically than Everest. Different tools required.

 

Fun comparison for gear is Habler and Messner's '74 10hr record speed ascent of the Eiger and Steck's. Personal gear weight is likely 1/2 or less for Steck while being warmer, drier and easier to climb in all the while with more security. Things have changed drastically in 35 years.

 

Steck was how ever using one-off, custom boots on the recorded speed ascent :)

 

Steck has soloed the Eiger many times....a few still pictures of Steck climbing on the Eiger with his original kit during reinactments of the speed ascent. But lots of video of him soloing on later climbs...where his sponsors gear is show cased. Including the Real Rock tour.

 

 

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Why did he use off-the-shelf clothes, instead of a custom-tailored full-body suit filled with Eider down, assuming he could get one that wasn't too warm? (I believe Messner used one of these on his Everest solo.)

 

Have you ever climbed at 3,000m in Europe in any season? More to the point, have you ever worn such gear? Here's a fun challenge for you: go into any gear store that has an expedition down suit in stock (this is the hard part, there aren't many), you know, the kind of suit that climbers wear on summit day on Everest. Zip it up, put on the hood, close all the velcro, cinch down all the cords.

 

Then stand there for five minutes doing nothing.

 

Then do jumping jacks for five minutes.

 

Then do sit-ups for five minutes.

 

The answer to your question will become immediately apparent.

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Hey "Not", just for the record, they weren't stupid questions. Just as your comments earlier on the boots weren't. LWT down gear as you mention is a viable alternative to what we currently use. But the down clothing that could be made and used for such climbs hasn't been made. Doesn't mean it could not be made.

 

In fact Steck used some prototype synthetic insulation stuff from Mtn Hardware for the speed ascent of the Grand Jorasses the next year in colder condtions. Not down but virtually what you have suggested here. And I suspect he had a reason for doing so.

 

Obviously a pack mentality here and some stupid answers though.

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I would think durability played into his gear decision making as well. The potential for losing gear out of a damaged pack, ripped up pants or a broken tool would be totally unacceptable at that level of commitment.

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Dane, you are a scholar and a gentleman. I admit I AM stupid, very stupid, and not an expert in anything, so that pack of pit bulls is right on target. However, what if Ueli won a billion-dollar lottery, what kind of equipment might he build for his speed climbing?

1. A climbing suit is more efficient than pants and jacket.

2. The amount of fill for the Eiger doesn’t have to be the same amount as the suits used on Everest summit days. You could build several suits, using 1/8 inch fill for one, ½ inch for one, 1 inch, etc, and pick the one suited to the moment.

3. Zips, zips and more zips can meter the amount of ventilation and hence the amount of heat retained.

4. With a billion dollars, you could find a VERY light and VERY breathable down-proof fabric, like Pertex Quantum only better, no?

5. Down from the Eider DUCK is lighter than goose down.

6. How about a Petzl Nomic out of titanium, with removable weights in the head?

7. How about foam boots designed to last 2 or 3 climbs, and using titanium teeth in a fruit boot configuration?

Never mind me, I’m just a doddering old fool, rambling on about nothing.

 

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"Not", you haven't missed the mark by much.

 

"if Ueli won a billion-dollar lottery, what kind of equipment might he build for his speed climbing"

 

In fact Ueli has won "the lottery". He can and does have stuff made to his design/spec on a regular basis, "full custom" and by his sponsors, from what I can see.

 

Boots are a good example. Photo shoots get production Scarpa boots. His own climbing often Scarpa prototypes, "seen only on Ueli's feet" as a partner of his told me.

 

"How about foam boots designed to last 2 or 3 climbs, and using titanium teeth in a fruit boot configuration?"

 

He's BTDT pretty much but without the titanium ;-) His boots used on the "Secret" are a good example.

 

Unlike hoosers like me I suspect Ueli doesn't really care all that much about the gear but more about the climbs and where he is at physically. Gear has seldom definded the limit of what is possible. The climber has. And we all build on those and the gear that came before us.

 

For the alpine climbs Steck has done and the super alpine climbs he is now doing, there are better answers available than down insulation of any sort. The problem is keeping the insulation dry and transporting the body's moisture through the insulation. One reason the only suits available these days are down suits used in really cold (Everest) temps. But generally not other 8Km peaks.

 

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/search?q=steck

 

While some of the stuff you have mentioned seems a little out there it really isn't compared to what is currently cutting edge for gear these days. Ueli isn't lacking on that topic, and I have to wonder on the Lamo as well :)

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Re: consideration of moisture transportation through the insulation: I kept the following just to remind me to keep that idea in mind, but I guess I didn’t give it enough consideration:

“I went to fleece exclusively after topping out on Shoestring in -10º (before wind-chill) temps, with 30-40 mph gusts. We were working hard and sweating heavily while moving, and my Capilene 3 and R2 fleece let the sweat out. My partner was wearing a MicroPuff inside his shell, and it was a frozen mess, stuck to his shell and not warm at all any more.”

 

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As an example of what is available for clothing I climbed at 3800K meters on a regular basis in the Alps for two months this winter (Feb and March).

 

Only one day did I use any down. (a lwt pull over) And the only pile I used was a R1 hoody. Didn't use any Capilene. And used an actual shell garment even less than the R1.

 

More than once I did get chilled at closer to 4K meters but the biggest issue I had on our climbs, was over heating and keeping dry in the consisttant -20C or lower temps we had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Unlike hoosers like me I suspect Ueli doesn't really care all that much about the gear but more about the climbs and where he is at physically. Gear has seldom definded the limit of what is possible."

 

Too true. The old guard still continues to kick my ass. I probably climb at a cutting-edge 1950s standard, sewing it up with my new fancy gear.

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the swiss machine Ueli really does not need all that light stuff.

 

It's for guys like me who use it as a placebo so I think I can be like Ueli and climb harder in the mountains.I have one of those white packs and it does not make me climb any harder.

 

I get what you are asking though and it would be interesting if he took his strick training philosophy to his gear. Wasn't champion brand making some "aero gell" suit?

 

Isn't one of his sponsors MH making packs with NWD? I have seen some partial white packs that are MH.

 

His best "gear" is his body and mind that is really above and beyond anything I could ever do.

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