Requiem for a 76er

Once upon a time, there was a BMXer-turned-MTB pro rider named John Tomac who dominated the early mountainbike race scene. He later did road racing too, during which period I heard news about him crashing after attempting to avoid another racer who fell in front of him. By avoiding I mean, well he meant, bunnyhopping over. That kind of approach to things intrigues me. However, if something worse happens to those that take that kind of approach, I’m bummed.

Alpinist Ueli Steck reportedly passed away a few days ago. He’s not my personal friend but someone I’m a fan of, and someone born in the same year. What a bummer.

As you may know, Ueli a.k.a. the Swiss Machine was recognized most widely for his ultra high speed climbing, as in his infamous Eiger ascent in way less than three hours, as opposed to a few days it takes most world famous alpinists. Some say he was actually very precise and careful contrary to that public image, but I see no wonder. Without utmost carefulness, he wouldn’t have been climbing for decades. That is, one mistake can just be literally fatal.

One of the reasons I’m fascinated by such radical styles of mountaineering like what he has demonstrated is because of this insight that other sports like bike riding have in common. That’s about your stance as to how to handle the dilemma concerning safety, by which I mean it’s sometimes safer to forget about ropes and climb fast. Safety equipment such as bells and brakes, if equipped on Keirin bikes, will only make it more dangerous. Likewise, spending time on ensuring more safety in high altitudes than necessary is nothing but ridiculous in consideration of weather, fatigue, equipment weight, and other factors. Although, the “necessary” level largely depends on the skill of the person, so it’s virtually impossible to discuss it from a neutral, objective viewpoint. The only comprehensible index left will be, sadly, whether the person died in the mountains.

It breaks my heart that Ueli went to that side of the story, but the inspiration he has given to the world will still live on. Climb in peace.

  • Article Category

  • Monthly Archive