'Rockstar' mountaineer Ueli Steck dies during climb

One of the world's most daring and accomplished mountain climbers has fallen to his death near Mt Everest.

Ueli Steck was known as the David Beckham of the mountaineering world for his star quality and ability to climb icy cliff faces at great speed.

"What he achieved in last few years meant he's a rockstar," Kiwi mountaineer Peter Hillary said.

In 2015, Steck smashed his own record for climbing the north face of Eiger in Switzerland.

It's a climb that would take most mountaineers several days but he did in two hours and 22 minutes - without using a rope.

The 40-year-old was planning to climb Everest and nearby Mt Lhotse next month.

But he died on Sunday after falling to the foot of Mt Nuptse, a smaller peak in the area, where he was acclimatising for the mission.

"It's a terrible tragedy for him, his family and the entire mountaineering community because... he was the man of the moment for alpinism, for sure," Hillary said.

On one of his Himalayan adventures, Steck's party was attacked by a group of 100 Sherpas who mistakenly thought they'd kicked ice onto the climbing group below.

He managed to escape that close call, and it's that aura of indestructibility which has made his sudden death all the more tragic.