Archive for May, 2017

The bravery of a coward, the importance of fear.

The famous mountaineer Ueli Speck died today, and I noticed an interview he did within the last couple of years (I don’t see a publication date) which gives really good advice for games players.

You can see it here in German.  I reprint it below in English from google translate. It is very readable – German translates well with machine translation.


THE RED BULLETIN: Mr. Steck, I do not want to talk to you today about the mountaineers . But over fear. For example, whether you need the anxiety in your job, as tickling, whether you are looking for it or if you are afraid of the fear. How to overcome fear or whether to overcome fear at all. Whether fear takes energy or gives energy. Whether anxiety is important for survival or the joy of life stands in the way. But before we begin, would someone who is a profession in whom every minute mistake can lead to death, would like to talk about fear at all?

UELI STECK: Sure. Because no one believes me, but I am an extreme fear bunny.

Because you are now flirting. If you were really a fear bunny, you would die of fear if you climbed unsecured through a hundreds of meters high wall.

On the contrary. Fear is the reason why I am still alive. Fear is something fundamental. Who does not fear, underestimates his task and exaggerates. If you are not afraid, do not prepare yourself well enough for a task. I am very grateful for my fear.

They now say: Fear is an extremely cunning nature warning device. I say that fear is at least as much emotional ballast. He who is afraid can not be happy at the same time.

Let’s go analytically, then it becomes quite simple. What are we afraid of? Before a situation that we do not feel like. Something strange that we can not classify. On which we have no influence. If we’re not prepared for a task well enough. And that’s where my system starts: I’m looking for the unknown. I am looking for this challenge, which scares me, that has something extremely fascinating, that challenges me. And then I begin to deal with the triggers of anxiety. But completely rational. My fear shows me the problems I need to find solutions for. It becomes a question of logic, and thereby the intangible becomes tangible. In the end, when I have done everything right, the fear is gone. Then I am well prepared. Then I’m ready. Then I know:

And if not?

Then I do not. Then I know: It is too much, it overcomes me, and in such a situation I would not want to go.

We live in a world where heroism is associated with daredevils and courage, Mr Steck. Especially in your profession, right?

I am neither daring nor courageous. Of course you could overcome the fear of a tour , especially courageous. But that would be stupid. For what happens then? Then fear comes on the road. And that is quite bad. The main task is to show you gaps. You can close before the tour starts. But on the road? Very bad. This is no longer possible. Fatal. Fear during a project is quite, very bad. This shows that you made a mistake in the preparation. Then you have given yourself up to something that overpowers you.

The best remedy for anxiety is control, correct?

Completely correct.

But you can not tell me that projects like yours always keep to plans. Since everything can not be controlled. 

A good plan is not limited to Plan A. He also has Plan B, Plan C and so on. If this or that happens, I have to be prepared for it.

Plan C, Plan D, Plan E, you can continue it for so long, there will always be a residual risk. You are not a Nordic Walker, you are one of the most extreme mountaineers in the world! 

Residual risk we have everywhere in life. And believe me, I only accept the absolute minimum. I am a scary hare, do not forget! It is clear to me that you can die while climbing. The risk of an accident is there, just as it is when driving or skiing . I have to accept that there is a rest to which I have no access. I can minimize that very much, but I can never get it anywhere. But why not drive a car , do not ski, do not climb? That would be wrong. So: accept or finger away.

Have you been scared on the mountain yet?


I would now like three examples, please.

The first and largest: 2013, on Mount Everest, an escalated conflict with Sherpas . The attacked us, for a completely void reason, it was incomprehensible, violence, a completely arbitrary situation, irrational, completely unaffected for me. They attacked us with stones, screaming that they would kill us. That someone can get so frightened, that shook me.

So much so that you have really thought about hanging out your mountaineering career. With all respect: Was not that a little overreacted?

No. My whole picture of the world was shattered, I had not thought such a thing possible! It took me months to get back half-way with the world and myself. I had to sort everything again. This experience has changed my system. Today, I approach people differently, more suspicious, more critical.

Do you have a second anxiety situation?

In 2014 with my wife in Peru, on the descent I overlooked that the wind had blown snow. A snowboard broke loose, I was spilled, my mouth full of snow, but fortunately my wife saw my backpack, could pull me out. That was really tight, because it was about seconds. I thought now it’s done with me. My wife saved my life. I was particularly annoyed in this situation, because I have brought us both into such a situation through a few minutes of carelessness. I could only thank my wife and apologize. So it was mainly anger.

I would have a few suggestions on situations that would be appropriate for fear. In 2007, for example, the Annapurna south wall, you crashed 200 meters.

This went too fast for fear. At first I was unconscious. And when I came to the glacier, it was clear what was to be done: first, check whether something was broken. And then implement a plan, as I rauskomme there. Completely rational.

2008, again Annapurna south wall: The Spaniard Iñaki Ochoa collapsed, They tried to save him, he died before your eyes.

No second fear. Mourning, yes. And trouble that he did not have a dexamethasone, a medicine for altitude sickness. He had not taken it for ethical reasons. If he had, he would still be alive.

If on 7000 meters in the icy wind someone dies in my arms, I would indeed take it with me.

I can turn emotions off very well in extreme situations. How is the situation? What is the next step? Whining does not help. Think about it, that helps. If I climb without rope, for example, I could think: Uh, under me 500 meters nothing, now just do not make a shit. That would be wrong. Or there is the possibility to think of the next handle. That’s right.


One of your most spectacular projects was the solo climb of the Annapurna South Wall in 28 hours. They were celebrated world-wide, great Heldenstory. Afterwards, you said that the decision to go completely up was spontaneous, the dynamics of the situation had taken possession of you, you spoke of a risk, so great that it would not be possible for a second time. That does not suit you! Was not that terribly unreasonable?

In fact, you’re right. I had really gone too far. In an area I do not want to push forward. That was a mistake! The fact that such a mistake happened to me, rightly thrown me out of the way.

But you were a hero.

It does not matter if it is good whether I am celebrated for it. An error remains an error. I really had to think for myself: How do I manage this? How can I make sure that I never act the same way, really: never let myself be seduced again into something I had not planned? Because that is what really scares me. It was a brutal process to get out again. It goes deep into themes such as ego, such as ambition.

They are not a fan of our heroic concept, it seems. 

The more daring, the better, that’s how it works, but that’s swindling! For me, a perfect mountain tour is the opposite of it! It is perfect when you end up saying: It was easy. Perfect is to have everything under control, because the preparation was perfect. Everything else is not worthwhile for me; all these oh so heroic ascents, as Reinhold Messner has done so many times, has so often been lucky! I do not want that! Perfection needs no luck!

I understand what you mean, but when I go to my chief editor with a headline like ” Bergtour problem-free “, he will offer me his help in professional reorientation.

I also want to move borders, test my own limits, make new ones possible. But not by diligence in the implementation, but by special quality of the preparation. I am convinced that alone with perfect preparation, you can move borders without leaving your comfort zone. A record is always the result of a perfect process, and it is the process that interests me, not the result. You are also much happier in life, if you are processor-oriented, not result-oriented. Success is not measured by the result but by the quality of the process.

You now think less theoretically than it sounds.

I’ll tell you. 2011, Mount Everest, my first attempt without oxygen. I was at 8700 meters, there was still a ridiculous hour on the summit. But I had no feeling in my toes, and I knew: Everest without oxygen, the biggest problem is the cold. So I had a look, shoes pulled out, my feet were white as the snow, felt like wood. Then I knew it was too cold, now I have to go down. An hour before peak! They all trudged past me, even the weekend mountaineers, who could be carried over there. Only the professional mountaineer Ueli Steck, who turns to 8700 meters. And that was a success! That I have implemented my own plan. I have not been pressured.

Mr. Steck, you are a professional. And no sponsor will be happy if you wear his products and say: With this or that mountain shoe I managed to turn around in time before the summit.

Exactly what you appeal to is the art. Do not let anybody else influence my comfort zone. I am going to Nepal soon, and months before I withdraw from all communication. That’s why. Do not answer any e-mails, no matter who wants me. This is part of my preparation and responsibility.

My last question is now about mountaineering. From 2007 to 2015 the marathon world record was improved from 2:04:26 to 2:02:57, one and a half minutes. In 2007 they set the record for the ascent of the Eiger North Face, 3:54 hours. In 2015, you screwed it to 2:22, an hour and a half less! How are these jumps in a serious sport still possible? 

Because mountaineering as a sport is still in the children’s shoes. As a performance sport it comes only in the aisles, very slowly. I know I’m not making friends now, but when you look at the Himalayan mountaineering, even with the boys, that still has the level of the 1980s. Do not get me wrong, I love the mountains, they are far more than just a sports device, but the sporty, the performance-oriented approach, with a targeted, professional training , we can still learn a lot from the marathoners. Everyone can keep it as he wants, but if you ask me, we are still too much in this adventurer mentality.


May 1, 2017 at 4:13 am Leave a comment

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