Legendary Swiss climber cremated near Everest

TENGBOCHE: The body of legendary Swiss climber Ueli Steck, who died on Mount Everest, was cremated on Thursday at a Buddhist monastery that lies in the shadow of the world’s highest peak.
Steck — one of the most feted mountaineers of his generation — became the first fatality of this year’s spring season on Everest when he fell from a ridge during an acclimatisation climb on Sunday.
The adventurer’s body was flown by helicopter on Thursday to the Tengboche Monastery that lies on the trail to the peaks that claimed his life.
Steck’s wife Nicole and close family members arrived with the body from Kathmandu for the Buddhist funeral ceremony. They had arrived in Nepal earlier this week.
Steck’s body was carried from the helipad to the top of a craggy cliff face a few hundred metres from the monastery, which is surrounded by sheer Himalayan peaks, including Everest’s towering 8,848 metre (29,030 feet) summit.
Monks in flowing maroon robes had decorated the cremation site with multicoloured Buddhist prayer flags and offered prayers and music as the funeral pyre was lit.
A number of climbers were expected to trek down from Everest base camp — some 20 kilometres from Tengboche — to attend the cremation, according to Nimesh Karki of Seven Summits, a trekking company that helped Steck organise his Everest attempt.
It was unclear if any had arrived in time for the ceremony.
Steck was famed for his record speed ascents in the Alps, which earned him the nickname the “Swiss Machine” — an epithet that he himself disliked.
“He lived with it, but Ueli was very modest,” Billi Bierling, a climber and journalist who is currently translating Steck’s latest book from German to English, said.
“In a way he knew he was quite extraordinary, but on the other hand he thought that, ‘If I can do it, everybody can’.”
Steck was attempting to achieve another first this year by charting a rarely climbed route to summit both Everest and Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain, all without the use of supplemental oxygen. — AFP