Zurich-based EFG International is part of a breakneck expedition which aims to make headlines and set a world record: the private bank sponsors 40-year-old extreme alpinist Ueli Steck.
The 40-year-old Swiss athlete is in the Himalayas to climb Mount Everest, at 8,848 meters the world’s highest peak and one Steck has done before – without oxygen.
Swiss banks have often used alpine peaks as a publicity device, from a private bank named after the Clariden peak in the Glarus Alps to the beautifully-photographed pictures of alpine ranges which illustrate many a private bank’s annual report.
A traverse and dual Everest-Lhotse climb as Steck, a native of the Bernese Oberland, is planning is a technically risky maneuver. The route has only been successfully completed once – in 1963.
This is different. Steck and Nepalese climbing partner, Tenji Sherpa. are attempting a tricky traverse: climb up Everest and the gigantic mountain beside it, 8,516-meter-high Lhotse, in one go (pictured above with Everest at left and Lhotse, middle) – as usual, without any artificial oxygen.
The two climbers plan to divert from the conventional route on Everest’s south side into the west ridge, crossing into the Tibetan side of the mountain’s north face in order to reach the peak via the notorious Hornbein-Couloir, a steep ascent that is the most direct – and dangerous – approach to the summit.
Then the two plan to descent to roughly 8,000 meters to South Col for a «tea break» before subsequently attempting to climb Lhotse.
Survival? A Question of Time
The two climbers will spend several days in a region described by American author and climber Jon Krakauer in his 1997 bestseller «Into Thin Air»: the combination of scarce oxygen and extreme cold make human survival without a supply of artificial oxygen a question of time.
A highly-trained extreme alpinist, Steck and Tenji Sherpa risk cerebral or pulmonary edema due to lack of oxygen, as well as frostbite on fingers and toes.
Too Much Risk
The climber, who told a climbing magazine he wants to «go and find out» how much strain his body can take, attempted the nearly 3,500-meter-high south face of Annapurna in 2013. He later admitted that he had risked too much in the 28-hour, non-stop climb.
Steck later said he was ambivalent about coming off the mountain alive during his descent. Several months previously, Steck had interrupted a trip up Everest after he and a climbing partner were physically threatened by Tibetan sherpas in a tense standoff.
Perfect Timing for EFG
Steck is returning to Everest, sponsored by EFG International. The timing is perfect for the majority Greek-owned private bank, which recently renewed its brand after snapping up rival Banca della Svizzera Italiana, or BSI.
Traveling to Nepal, Steck wrote that he has come to terms with being a public figure. «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.»
Why has he chosen such an audacious project? «The answer is simple: I get to stay longer in the mountains. I get to spend more time with myself, Tenji Sherpa and the Himalaya.»