Andreas Steindl runs five 4000m peaks from Zermatt to Saas Fee in 07h45

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 21/08/2015
Photo: Michael Portmann/ Adidas Outdoor
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Swiss alpinist Andreas Steindl (26) has ticked off a very impressive speed crossing. He ran 30.66km from Zermatt to Saas Fee across five 4000m peaks (including the Dom, the highest mountain lying entirely in Switzerland) on pathless terrain, glaciers and exposed ridges in 7 hours, 45 minutes and 44 seconds.

 Here's the story of his day out.

The night before his speed crossing Andy Steindl is nervous. His legs felt a bit sore during his last run. But as he steps outside his home at 2:55am he is confident. He wears ear phones and listens to 'Run Boy Run' by Woodkid. Dressed in a tight long-sleeve shirt and trail running shoes, he follows the shine of his headlight to Zermatt’s church square.

In his small backpack he only carries what’s absolutely necessary: a light jacket, a headband, gloves, sunglasses, crampons, a lightweight ice pick, three carbo bars and gels as well as a camelback filled with an isotonic drink. It’s supposed to get hot during the day.

Steindl grew up in Zermatt, surrounded by thirty-eight 4000m high peaks. His father is a mountain guide, his mother a passionate mountaineer. At the age of 14, he did his first 4000m ascent on the Matterhorn. 12 years later, now a mountain guide himself, he has stood more than 80 times on the summit of this iconic mountain. Steindl even holds the Matterhorn speed record for the ascent from Zermatt (2h57). 

Climbing up the Matterhorn is like a training session for the passionate mountaineer. The mountains are his playing field, both in summer and in winter. In 2013, Steindl won the Ski Mountaineering World Championship with the Swiss National Team. He likes speedy ascents and descents, just to fit in more climbs in a day.

That explains how the 26-year-old came up with the idea to cross five 4000m peaks in a row. “This project evolved because I always see the Taeschhorn and the Dom from my home: two beautiful pyramids that glow in the evening sun”, Andy Steindl explains. “I was eager to climb them. But the descent from the Dom is quite tricky. I wanted to find a safe way down to the valley, since I’m on my own out there. That’s why I chose the route across the five peaks Alphubel (4,206m), Taeschhorn (4,491m), Dom (4,545m), Lenzspitze (4,294m) and Nadelhorn (4,327m).“

In the summer of 2013, the Swiss Alpinist completed this spectacular crossing for the first time, in an impressive 9h03. Since then Steindl has waited for the opportunity to repeat his 5-peaks tour and beat his own time.

“Many factors have to come together to realise this project”, Steindl says. “The conditions on the mountain must be perfect, meaning the exposed ridges must free of snow and the firn must be frozen at the same time, which is why I start at night; the weather needs to be good and I must be in excellent shape, both physically and mentally.”

It took two years for the perfect day to arrive. 

The church clock says 3:15am Andy Steindl starts his stopwatch and runs off into the dark. The first hour and a half lead on hiking trails through the forest to Taeschalp and then onwards to the Taesch hut, where most mountaineers start their ascents to Alphubel or Taeschhorn.

As Steindl reaches the glacier at Alphubeljoch, the sun rises. He puts his crampons on and continues across the ice. On the summit of Alphubel, his first checkpoint, he realises he is 22 minutes early. On the summit of Taeschhorn he is 41 minutes ahead of schedule.

The cameraman has a tough time following and spotting the tiny human being in the monumental landscape. Crossing from Taeschhorn to Dom is what Steindl is most concerned about. “The rock of the ridge is extremely brittle. It is the high risk section and I must be very focused,” he says.

Nevertheless he manages to traverse from Taeschhorn to Dom in 1h05. As he runs down the glacier towards Lenzjoch, the 26-year-old passes several roped parties, who seem staggered watching his downhill run.

After 6h07 Andy Steindl stands on top of his fourth 4000m peak, after 6h37 he reaches the fifth summit. He needs only 1h09 from the top of Nadelhorn to the church square in Saas Fee. Exhausted he sits down on the church stairs and stops the time: 7:45:44. Steindl is over the moon.

"Of course I wanted to be faster than last time, but I had the feeling that I wasn’t as fit as I was two years ago. I just wanted to do my best, but I never expected such a time. In the beginning I thought my watch was faulty. It was an amazing day for me. I'm tired but satisfied and happy. You cannot top such a perfect day in the mountains. And now it has been captured it forever.”


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From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t do it without you.

Did you know that we've launched a U27 membership offer for just £1.50 / month? And with full membership from £2.50 / month, it's never been easier to join and support our work: 

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/join-the-bmc-for-1-month-U27-membership


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