A new 90-minute documentary following the exploits of Swiss speed solo alpinists Ueli Steck and Dani Arnold launches on Netflix today.
Dani Arnold and the late Ueli Steck found themselves competing for speed records up the most dangerous north faces of the Alps, each setting rapid ascent times on the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses north faces in under three hours.
Steck - known as 'the Swiss Machine" - died aged 40 on Nuptse in 2017 (UKC News) after a fall during an acclimatisation ascent for an attempt at the unrepeated Everest West Ridge/Hornbein Couloir route without supplementary oxygen. He held numerous speed records, notably for the north face trilogy in the Alps.
His compatriot Dani Arnold, now 39, soon came to break some of Steck's records. Arnold shot to fame in 2011 when he slashed Steck's Eiger north face solo time by 20 minutes, finishing in 2 hours 28 minutes. Steck then beat Arnold's time by six minutes in 2015.
Arnold set a new solo speed record on the north face of the Matterhorn in 2015 with a time of 1 hour and 46 minutes. In 2018, he broke another record on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, climbing the Walker Spur via the Cassin route in 2 hours and 4 minutes. He currently holds speed records on two out of the three hardest great north faces in the Alps - on the Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses - while Steck's Eiger north face record (2 hours 22 minutes) remains unbroken.
'Climbing against the clock is merciless.'
The film deftly explores how for Arnold, Steck evolved from being a role model to a rival. Featuring archive interviews with the climbers and those closest to them, plus insight from soloists Alex Honnold and Don Bowie - and never-before-seen-footage from the Himalayas and French Alps - viewers get an insight into the mindset of these men and how introducing an element of competition to solo endeavours can stir up a media frenzy and potentially influence climbers' motivations. The controversy surrounding some of Steck's solo summit claims due to a lack of proof is also broached.
"Race To The Summit is - we hope - Europe's long-awaited answer to the award-winning climbing features like Fourteen Peaks and Free Solo," director Nicholas de Taranto said.
Pitch Productions' previous credits include Pelé (2021), The Figo Affair (2022) and Mark Cavendish: Never Enough (2023).