“Least difficult” 7000ers ?
In August 2019 I followed and then read the story of a climb to Spantik, a 7027mt mountain in the Hunza Valley in Pakistan; Spantik is a rather common destination for those approaching high altitudes, due to its relative absence of great technical difficulties along the normal route, however not at all easy for the very long development and some technical sections.
If the route is not equipped with fixed ropes and tracks, as in the case in question, the “relative ease” become another affair; in fact, the two climbers will face the bid to the summit starting from 5500mt on completely virgin and unknown terrain, without ropes or tracks. For Graham, after a brilliant start of the climb, the long attack on the summit cost him the first experience of typical symptoms of altitude sickness : hallucinations and exhaustion – fortunately managed in an excellent way and with the help of the great experience of Giampaolo, who chose the fast ascent as both the descent tactic ,without bivouacs , which led the pair to Base Camp happily and without any health consequences.
The protagonists of this story are two mountaineers with very different experience: Graham Wyllie, a young and strong Scottish mountaineer without high altitude experience and the veteran Giampaolo Corona, 47-year-old mountain guide of the Dolomites who has climbed several eight thousand and other important peaks in the Himalaya and Karakorum. Both left alone for Spantik, sharing the logistics with other expeditions, they met and decided to attack the summit together: what follows is the story of this climb written by Graham; an example of good style, of a new friendship and of great perseverance on a terrain unknown to him, with the help – however mutual – of the great experience of “Jumpy” Corona.
While not representing a particular mountaineering relevance, I think this story contains some of the most important values in mountaineering. Thanks to Graham (and Giampaolo, who told his version HERE) for permission to translate the article that appeared on his blog, I wish you a good read.
Giampaolo Corona, the Veteran
Giampaolo Corona is an Alpine Guide with an impressive curriculum, but he has always kept a little under the radar of the big media.
He recounted the climb with Graham to Spantik HERE. During a long and very pleasant chat on the phone, I believe I understood some fundamental things of Giampaolo’s philosophy; first of all, the distinction he made between expedition at “normal” 7/8000rs and lower peaks but much more technical: in the first case, often Giampaolo starts alone, joining the logistics of Base Camp with another commercial expedition, but not using – or doing it at minimum possible – fixed ropes and no porters help. Always climbing in alpine and light style, in both cases. But on the 8000 or 7000 like the Spantik, he generally finds new partners in the climb on the spot, and chooses them with his insightful and inner feeling . His experience allows him to immediately understand if he can share the climb with someone else. In more technical expeditions, on the other hand, he prepares and carefully chooses the team of climbers. He explained how important it is for him to make new friends, meet new people and enjoy the trip a lot. But its preparation is always accurate and thorough. From his first Himalayan experience he told me that he had immersed himself in technical texts and treatises on preparing for high altitude. It is important for him to optimize the acclimatization time very much and then go up as quickly as possible, taking with him the bare minimum.
In fact he writes:
“I consider my body as an engine to prepare, the equipment is my hardware, the head is my software. You have the head or not. Without it it is better not to leave.
I am looking for simplicity, the essential. Perfection is achieved when there is nothing more to remove, not when there is nothing more to add. Fast and light climbing seems easy, in reality it is the result of a huge upstream work (both technical and physical as well as psychological preparation). Nothing is invented. “
And then he explains:
The way up to Spantik is long and complex (ridge, mixed areas, steep slopes of snow and ice, very long “plateau”). A path that winds for 8 kilometers, 2500 meters of ascent. After only 8 days from arriving at base camp, I felt ready. I would have used only one support point at 5500 m above sea level where I had left my tent and bare essentials for a bivouac, skipping the classic camp 1 and 3. I had imposed myself once I reached the top to go straight to the base camp .
I would even have agreed to try climbing completely on my own.
By chance I met a young and strong Scottish mountaineer Graham Wyllie there, who agreed with me on lightness and simplicity, so I said why not try it together?
In the end, Giampaolo got on very well with young Graham, and a real friendship was born.
This, for Giampaolo, is the real added value in living a light,clean and fair mountaineering.
Interview : Graham Wyllie
A.This was my second trip to the Greater ranges. My first was back in 2008 when I was part of a team of 4 that attempted a peak to the south of Masherbrum called Cathedral peak (6247m). The weather was poor and we only reached a little over 5500m. I was 19 at the time and It gave me valuable experience and a reference point to base future trips on. This helped a lot with the Spantik trip as there were far less unknowns on the logistical side of things. I had a few of my climbing partners interested in the trip in Late 2018 but by the time we went in June 2019 there were just two, Andra and myself.
We used the same local tour company as I did in 2008 and took only a base camp service. This takes a lot of stress out of the approach to the mountain and you can relax a bit and focus on acclimatising and taking in the impressive surroundings. Above base camp things are simple. We had one tent, no porters and no fixed ropes.
We climbed as alpine style as we could and I had similar clothing with me that I would use in Scotland in the winter. At a glance ‘Alpine Style’ sounds like it should be lightweight but when you are moving a tent, Sleeping bag, stove, food, etc It doesn’t work out like that! For expedition gear like Radios, Sat phone HA tent, etc, Andra is a member of the Dutch Alpine Club (NKBV) and they let us borrow pretty much all the specific kit we needed which was fantastic.
Q. How did you prepare to high altitude before the trip, if you did it?
A.For the altitude I did nothing specific before the trip. The highest point in Scotland is 1345m so trying to get some natural acclimatization beforehand would have meant going abroad. I was more focused on fitness and my energy levels. I had quit my job at the beginning of the summer of 2018 and spent 2 months in the Alps. This combined with a lot of winter climbing in Scotland inadvertently provided me with a large specific base of aerobic fitness. I had to do some long trips away with work during the spring but It was quite physical work and I could also use the gym so I managed to stay pretty well conditioned. The month before the trip I did a small volume of hill running and some rock climbing. After pushing myself a lot in the winter and then the trips with work, I was careful not to exhaust myself and aimed to arrive in the Karakorum well rested.
Q. How old are you, and can you tell me briefly about your climbing history?
A. I’m 31 and have been enjoying the mountains since I was 9 when my father started taking me hillwalking in Scotland. I stuck with it and by my mid-teens we were going on Walking holidays to the Alps. Seeing peaks like the Dent du Géant and the Weisshorn really inspired me to get into climbing and gain the skills necessary to go to those high places. It was around this time I started reading mountaineering literature as well which added more fuel to the fire. In late 2007 I got taken up my first easy winter route in Scotland and began the long process of building experience and technical knowledge. In 2008 I summitted my first 4000m peaks in the Alps and also went on my first expedition. In the years since I have slowly worked my way up the grades and climbed also a lot in the Alps. For now I am focused on more technical climbing in Scotland both in summer and winter and hopefully I can transition this to exciting objectives in the Alps and Greater Ranges in the coming years.
Spantik: Graham’s Story
I was higher than I had ever been. Somewhere above 6500m on Spantik’s Summit ridge. It had taken three weeks to get here. Three weeks of flying, driving, trekking, climbing and acclimatising. I had felt strong since we left Camp 2 at 5500m at around 0130 but now the altitude meant that the few steps I was taking were backed up by rests and heavy breathing. Progress was slow and I could see Messner in his hooded down jacket ahead of me.
Aside from my body my mind was feeling the altitude too, playing tricks on me and polluting my concentration with confusion and playful misinformation. It was not Messner I reminded myself every so often, It was ‘Jumpy’ an Italian Guide from the Dolomites.
This was our first ever day climbing together, we’d met barely a week ago but circumstances had brought us together.
Along with instances of de-ja-vu I felt another familiar presence with us, an old woman, perhaps somebody’s mother approving of our zig zagging trail through the ankle deep snow. There was a rocky section with steep snow ahead. It didn’t seem to be getting closer. I kept following Jumpy’s tracks, I was now too far behind to take my turn breaking trail. If he had been closer perhaps I would have told him I was going back.
Some time went by with little progress. A constant struggle and the same hallucinations. Before long the icy wind provided us with a new problem and every 5-10 mins we stopped to warm our freezing hands. As time raced by we inched towards the rocky outcrop. This must be it. Just another 20 or 30m of struggle then the summit and we could go down. Eventually we surmounted the the steep section but the ridge continued upwards. I caught up with Jumpy. He said another 50m altitude to go. I tried to break trail but he overtook me.
The struggle went on for so long and then we arrived. A bare plateau of snow. The fruits of an idea I had while alone in a Canazei bar over a year ago and all the planning, travelling and climbing since. I felt emotional. The pure joy that I’ve only experianced a few times before, when dreams are realised, when I am exactly where I know I should be.
We didn’t spend long there, maybe ten minutes leaving to start the descent at 1130. The first part of the descent went well. We retraced our steps down the ridge and reached our bags on the plateau. Then we moved towards the top of the SE ridge and the normal site for Camp 3. The section between this and Camp 2 is the technical crux of the route. Andra and myself had had a bit of an epic here the following week when we tried to establish Camp 3. For most climbers this section is made safe by fixed ropes but no team had fixed it in almost a month leaving them now in an incomplete and dangerous state. Free climbing this upwards in good conditions is easy, downclimbing this while exhausted and after the midday sun has taken it’s toll on the ice is a different matter.
Jumpy went on down. There wasn’t much he could do for me. I methodically front pointed my way down the steep sugary ice stopping often for breaks. I toyed with the idea of making an abolocov to abseil but it wasn’t practical. It would have justified carrying the rope though, it was still coiled in my sack as we had solo’d together all day. Eventually I reached easier ground beyond a bergshund and made quick progress down a snow slope then the rocky spur that runs for about 100m down the centre of the face. Beyond this the lower half of the face is more sugary ice albeit at a less serious angle than higher up. Without exhaustion I would normally make quick work of this terrain despite its poor condition. Today was different. I advanced facing down the slope and constantly struggled for my footing. The first section went ok. Starting down the next section my crampons gave way and I began to slide down the slope. After 10-15m my ice axe arrest held and I came to a halt with an avalanche of sugary ice flowing around me. I front pointed down the rest of the slope.
The rest of the journey to camp 2 was without further incident. There are crevasses but they are obvious and easy to cross or avoid. The only other issue was the snow. Now softened by the heat of the day it was torturous. Nevermind I told myself, soon I could blissfully collapse in my tent at camp 2. At around 1630 when I arrived Jumpy had packed his tent away and was waiting for me. He informed me of incoming bad weather and that I needed to go down to base camp too. It was the last thing I wanted to hear but he was right and staying wasn’t really an option. I packed up the tent, cooking and sleeping equipment and ended up with quite a hefty sack.
I knew the route down from camp 2 well by now. Andra [initial partner and holland climber,NdR]and myself had travelled it a few times in our efforts to acclimatise and prepare for our summit attempt. Between camp 2 at 5500m and camp 1 at 5050m the route is an undulating snow ridge four kilometres long. It’s quite exposed and scenic in places. There are occasional crevasses and cornices but nothing overly serious. The main issue with travelling down at this time is the condition of the snow. Jumpy went on ahead. He kept an eye backwards to make sure I was progressing but there was no point in us both going at my exhausted methodical pace. Sometimes while sinking over my knees into the snow the familiar old woman was there. She knew about the deep snow and she made me feel a bit better about it.
Eventually I arrived into camp one and it was getting dark so I put my headtorch on. I began to feel a bit better and was able to move a little faster. Perhaps this was the lower altitude catching up with me or the fact that the route from here is pretty much completely downhill. The path down to base camp from here is good. It is steep in places but it’s well marked and snow free consisting mainly of dirt, scree and shattered although somewhat stable rock. About two thirds of the way down a headtorch grew close. It was Andra who offered her congratulations. An emotional Paco, our cook/local guide/fixer, emerged from the darkness and gave me a hug. The happiest anyone has ever been to see me I think! He carried my sack the remaining few hundred meters to base camp arriving sometime after 2100 where I was met by the Catalan expedition and Jagged globe’s cooks and HAP’s who congratulated me also.
Base Camp as seen from C1 (c) Graham Wyllie
In the end I am very pleased with the style of my ascent. A long push from camp 2 was never going to be easy especially to come back down to BC the same day. In hindsight had me and Andra managed to establish camp 3 then I believe we would have summited together. This would however have left us stuck at camp 3 through a weekend of bad weather. A long push from camp 2 became the only option given the time we had left and this is certainly not the easy way. The lack of fixed ropes also meant that risk on the serious descent down to camp 2 from the plateau when energy levels are low had to be carefully considered. Both Jumpy, who has considerable experience on 8000m peaks, and myself felt that Spantik was harder than it’s reputation suggests. This may have been down to the long alpine style nature of our ascent but even still I felt that it was not a peak that should be underestimated. It is a 7000m peak with a long route and technical passages that is subject to Karakorum weather and conditions.
Its a lot of time and effort to climb peaks of this scale. It has taken 4 weeks of travelling, trekking, acclimatising and climbing and that is just to have a chance at the summit and does not include preparation before the trip of logistics, kit, permits and visas. How well you acclimatise, staying healthy and being fit enough all are decisive factors and of course tie in with the level of risk you are prepared to take in a hostile environment. The weather always has it’s say and you can easily spend days sitting in Camp waiting for it to change as I did on a previous unsuccessful expedition to a different peak in the range. Even with success about half of our time on Spantik was spent resting or waiting for weather at base camp. The journey itself, namely the places and the people encountered are also to be appreciated because if it is all viewed as a means to a summit then it’s going to be a long and potentially disappointing trip.
Matteo “Berna” Bernasconi, born in 1982, Ragno di Lecco since 2003, mountain guide since 2011, died yesterday 12 May 2020, swept away by an avalanche in the Malgina Colouir in Valtellina.
Matteo Bernasconi (born in Lecco in 1982, Ragno di Lecco in 2003, mountain guide since 2011)
– 2006 new icefall route on the SE face of the Baratro in Val di Mello with Giovanni Ongaro
– 2006 with Hervé Barmasse, Lorenzo Lanfranchi and Giovanni Ongaro he opened a new route on the then untouched north face of San Lorenzo (Patagonia)
– 2008 with Fabio Salini completes the first Italian – and seventh overall – repeat of the legendary via dei Ragni on Cerro Torre (Patagonia)
– between 2010 and 2013 three attempts to climb the last great wall still untouched in the Cerro Torre massif, or the West of the Torre Egger, finally resolved by comrades Matteo della Bordella and Luca Schiera in March 2013 a few days after returning to Italy by Bernasconi for work commitments.
– 2017 in Patagonia with Matteo Della Bordella and David Bacci opens a new route on the east face of Cerro Murallon
– 2020 (February) in Patagonia with Matteo Della Bordella and Matteo Pasquetto he opened The die is taken on the north of the Aguja Standhardt, just before repeating the Via del 40esimo dei Ragni di Lecco on the north face of the Aguja Poincenot.
I have already had occasion to mention the darkest part of my passion in telling Mountain Stories, the confrontation with the death of women, men, friends, friends, family; the poor attitude to confront the mystery of physical disappearance, the inevitability of events that overwhelm even the most prudent in the mountains.
You never get ready when a young father dies, such a beloved figure as that of Bern: with his curls, his smile and his overwhelming sympathy, his humble and professional availability as a mountaineer and mountain guide.
While sipping coffee this morning, I saw a silent post on Riky Felderer’s bulletin board, there was a picture of “Berna” (his nickname). A punch in the stomach.
In 2013 I started writing thanks to a series of messages exchanged with Matteo Bernasconi, who the year before had touched the sensational feat on the West Wall of the Egger Tower together with Matteo Della Bordella, when the two remained hung to life “With a Little Help from … a friend “after a fall, both hanging from a 0.3mm friend.
Matteo Bernasconi e Matteo Della Bordella (arch Ragni Lecco)
This is how my personal story as a modest writer and reporter of mountain things began: for the overwhelming sympathy, for the professionalism, the passion that Matteo Bernasconi immediately transmitted to me – and the same goes for the current President of the Spiders of Lecco, the his great friend Matteo Della Bordella.
The fact that his nickname is like mine, “Berna”, seems funny and silly,but it was something special to me. I don’t write this for rhetoric : without you, Berna, I probably would not have found the courage to write to famous, expert mountaineers to begin my journey in this passion for extraordinary people, capable of extraordinary feats on peaks, like you.
Tentativo sulla Siula Grande, Matteo Bernasconi (arch Ragni Lecco)
Matteo, you went on too early.
A huge hug to your little daughter, to your girlfriend, to the Spiders of Lecco and to all your friends.
Denis Urubko has released an important interview with Russianclimb.com; with his personal permission and that of Elena Laletina, editor of the important Russian site, here the translation of his thoughts
I don’t like the Mountains: I’ve lost too many friends, up there
Denis Urubko – Translation Federico Bernardi with the collaboration of .. some Russian friends
I’d seen a lot of speculation in recent times, lot of people talked about me … “blah blah blah” ; they do it to promote themselves.
Please! How many lies … both from film directors as from other climbers.
It happens that journalists offer to the audience these speculations as the ultimate truth. But most of them are wrong.
The only one I trust about these speculations [about K2 last attempt with polish exp,NdT] is Bohuslav Magrel (Head of the Polish Alpine Club), because he knows me well. And now I prefer to clarify by myself .
There is nothing definitive for me, on the contrary !
Everything I do in the mountains could change, in my opinion: tactics, technique and climbing style. Only the goal remains the same.
Therefore, no one should be surprised if I reappear in the Himalayas, once or a few times … For example: why do not break Juanito Oiarzabal’s record and climb Cho Oyu four times in a season?
Such a thing would be a lot safer and more fun than what I’ve done so far.
But extreme mountaineering, the first and the winter climbs to the peaks of the Himalayas are no longer for me.
However I leave an open door, in case my wife, Maria Jose Cardell, asks me to help me trace a new alpine-style route. In this case I will help her, for sure.
What is certain is that I had decided to close with extreme mountaineering even before trying Broad Peak.
I was joking with my two partners, Don Bowie and Lotta Hintsa, on the fact that this was my last expedition: I was counting the days … I told them: another 45, 30, 20 days before the end of my Himalayan career.
However I put a lot, a lot of strength and all my soul into this last attempt. I did a lot of the route opening job. You have seen my three summit attempts, including two solos when Don was sick.
I have spent many years in extreme mountaineering, I have had enough. I have fulfilled my ambitions and I see nothing else I could do.
What have I managed to do in excellence? “Shine on you crazy diamonds”: my “diamonds” are my five new alpine-style routes on eight thousand meters. I climbed at high speed and set speed records from 4,000 to 8,000 m.
I did two winter climbs on 8,000 mt.
I have climbed extremely difficult routes on rock from 2,000 to 7,000 meters, on bastions and walls in different parts of the world, such as the Kush-Kaya, the Ushba, the Vittoria Peak, the Kali-Himal. I am quite satisfied with what I have done.
From a quantitative point of view … Age is a problem from which nobody escapes. I can’t do what I could do when I was 30! It is important to understand this and not try to run like a hamster on a wheel.
I have worked as a coach for 14 years and I have formed strong teams. But many organizers and participants often did not make enough efforts. Too many confuse freedom as “doing nothing” without effort.
Another reason why I quit is liability. My wife, my childrens and my parents need more attention and support . After all, they rightly told me: a good climber is a living climber.
I want to spend more time with my loved ones.
Above all, I am tired of wasting time. This has happened too often. I spent a lot of time training and I missed my family and friends too often.
The expeditions lasted from two to three months, my partners have often proved to be a burden , as has happened many times with Simone Moro.
And it was the same during the last attempt to climb K2 or Broad Peak this year, and I mean Don Bowie. Being a good person is important, but it is not enough to reach the summit. I have had to stop so many times because of other people’s irresponsibility. Now I prefer to spend my time doing other things.
I don’t like mountains: I’ve lost a lot of friends up there. I like actions and I want to feel free to choose … my way of being free.
Now I intend to live a life common to that of normal people: work, children, hobbies .. I will enjoy life. And rock climbing, at high levels, but safely. I dream of climbing up to 8a.
Yes, it is true, I have saved a dozen people; and I also saved many from freezing and other injuries. And three times others have saved me, so I thank my friends and expedition companions. I saved a dozen people, but this should be seen in a different way: let’s think, for example, of the doctors from the emergency departments who save hundreds of people every day. Medical care is the norm in the life for many people, this makes our life better in Wroclaw or in other places, in Italy where I do live.
All of this while myself and other climbers, in reality, simply realize our selfish or sporting ambitions.
When I rescued Anna and Marchin [on K2, NdT], of course, they both needed my help, but themselves found strength in those situations. Without your own efforts, when you are in trouble, everything would take longer and the risk would be enormous .
I feel sorry for the people who lie before, during and after the expedition. Spending three months on a team full of weak, deceptive and lazy losers? I’d rather have refused.
There were three or four good climbers on the K2 team. These are Marchin, Adam, Rafal and young Maciej. But it was impossible to act in the swamp created by the other climbers, by the organization and by the director of the expedition. In fact, in recent years we have observed almost a complete zero in the true Polish style of high altitude climbing. Yes, there was Andrzej Bargel. I appreciate what it does, but it’s something different.
Many words, too many excuses, this was the reality I saw. Many words have been spent on the heroic past, on the successes of Chihi, Kukuchka, Kurtika and others, but the latest generation is not ready for sport climbing.
Recent successes for Polish mountaineering? Peter Moravsky winter climb on Shishapangma and my new route on Gasherbrum II. It doesn’t seem much to me, right? In case I forget something, I apologize …
I don’t want to force anyone to be eight thousand, but I have to tell the truth.
I hope all that changes soon, the Poles have a good chance of winter climbing on Broad Peak, G1 and K2. New routes on the west face of Annapurna, on the north of Kanchenjunga. High-speed climbing on Broad Peak and Cho Oyu awaits true climbers.
And this could be “our music” in the Himalaya and Karakorum.
Corrado “Korra” Pesce, born in Italy in1981, from Novara ; living in Chamonix since over a decade, he is a very strong climber; now more “transalpine french” than italian, as he himself feels, he has become an Alpine Guide in France, he got a family on the French side of Mont Blanc. He likes difficult and technical routes ; has climbed a lot in the Alps and in Patagonia. He has just published a nice, very interesting story of his latest climb on Cerro Torre on Instagram that we copied here. It is really interesting for having a look at the current and future prospective of Patagonian climbing. It should be remembered that for the whole month of January the weather was bad, therefore the window of good weather caused ….
A traffic day on Cerro Torre
written by Korra Pesce
February finally brought an extended window of good weather here in Chaltén. Together with Jorge Ackerman we went up Noruegos with the same heavy backpack we already had taken down to the valley ready to fly away from this mad place.
We knew conditions were hardly any good for rock walls especially on Torre. We decided to roll the dices on Tiempos Perdidos a route leading up the south side of Colle della Speranza, opened by Andy Parkin and François Marsigny in 1994.
Is a 800mt ice marvel unfortunately thretened by a massive serac. This route has seen repeats by some of the finest ice climbers ever visiting the range people like Bruno Sourzac, Bjorn Eivin Artun it was not completed to the summit until 2005 when Kelly Cordes and Colin Haley linked this route to the Ragni route all the way to the top.
We walked in on Feb 4th, the 5th we started from Noruegos in the afternoon and after basking in the sunshine under Mocho we slowly plodded our way toward our intended line. We were not sure about snow conditions untel we passed the shrund at around 9:30pm.
The route was in mega conditions, unbelievable good snow all the way but impossible to place good protection regularly. We simulclimbed the route in 4:30 hours then climbed up along the Ragni until a good bivy place below the Elmo. At 2:30 am on feb 6th we sat down in our light bivy kit and waited for the light.
After a few hours sleep we quickly realized there were a lot of people above. The Ragni route is one of the most coveted routes in the range for obvious reasons and everyone wanted to make it to the top as early as possible.
It was clearly a mess of people like 7 parties ,and under these circonstances it felt like ascending Ama Dablam or a technical 8000er.
We started at 8:30 and joined the group ahead two pitches below the top, they had done a great job of cleaning an unusual amount of rime up to there. From there, one of the climbers of the second party took over.
If the parties below didn’t seem very psyched of seeing us passing our presence felt welcomed up there. Soon it seemed clear that someone will have to get very tired and wet by digging a tunnel on the last pitch.
I felt like my and Jorge presence up there were looked upon like something very useful, because we had already open the summit mushroom in past years. In fact we were only going to show that most people who had to dig the tunnel then will not be psyched to do it again, unless it’s really the only option available. Of what i remember of rime climbing is that i‘m notconvinced i‘m especially good at that ,and was pretty impressed of the work made by Fabi and now Christophe.
I wouldn’t dare pretending to lead or anything so we did not offer but were there in case they would run out of bullets. It could have been a chance of drying out in the sunshine but it was kinda cold and cloudy, we encouraged Christophe and waited.
he first part had a natural half pipe and was quickly ascended. Come to the overhanging part in order to avoid a massive fall we encouraged him digging a vertical tunnel. After hours of digging he came down wet and tired by the exilarating venture which included a 10mt whipper that had us all a bit stressed.
In the meantime a large group of Italians gathered below the mushroom. They had no bivy gear contrarily to the first parties and were obviously super psyched about making it up asap. Edoardo Saccaro made an amazing job digging his way up. In the meantime the teams with bivy kit or tents prepared for a bivy.
When Edo eventually topped out all of the incertain of the situation disappeared. We all instatly knew we would top out. We let all of the people w/o bivy kit go and with Jorge we crawled in the bivy bag.
The following morning there were not one, not two but three ropes fixed, it was clear that no one really gave a shit about any strict climbing ethics and we were all just firing to the top without getting hurt. It honestly was obvious since longtime that the expérience was altered beyond return.
Jorge made a microtraxion lap and i did the only thing i could think of, warming my frozen body by jugging and taking pictures of the north face. We stand on the top just after sunrise.
The descend went really well and we crossed a lot of people on the way up. I wonder if the actual situation on Torre is any different from the time when there were pitons on the compressor route.
I really see that 80 to 90 percent of the people on Ragni are not doing any of the real workload this ascent require. A lot of people with limited abilities are still making it up. Good for everyone as long as no one will hurt himself. I saw how watered down ice climb tends to become way too popular and the problems will come with this overcrowding. More unskilled people will come giving a try, more guided ascents, more drones.
I will not return to the Ragni in the middle of the season. Good job to Fabian Buhl, Edoardo Saccaro and Christophe Ogier who were keen to embrace the hard work they are the one who climbed Torre we were merély standing on top of it. Still, psyched for simulclimbing most of 1300mt with Jorge.
#cerrotorre #liveclimbrepeat #lasportivagram
Thank you very much to Korra Pesce. All rights reserved by Korra Pesce, previously published on 3 posts Instagram @korra_pesce
THE PERFECT ROUTE
The book : Review
“The Perfect Way / Nanga Parbat : Mummery Spur” is the posthumous book by Daniele Nardi, written with Alessandra Carati (writer, editor and screenwriter) released in November 2019 for Einaudi , available only in italian edition.
The tragic death of the italian mountaineer and his English partner Tom Ballard at the end of February 2019 on the Mummery Spur of Nanga Parbat, has transformed what was to be the story of a long journey towards a dream, into an intimate autobiography, full of self-criticism, sincere and conscious, raw in the contradictions and bitter in the narrative of conflicts and recriminations with others ; at the same time, full of an unstoppable passion, full of love for his wife, friendship, esteem and respect towards the mountaineers with whom Daniele Nardi shared challenging climbs, successes and failures. A story full of falls and subsequent redemptions, against adversity far more fearsome than some Himalayan wall : diseases, both physical as psychic. All of this, narrated between mountaineering feats of increasing thickness, maybe not outstanding but often in remote environments, with real exploration, especially on less famous but iconic and difficult peaks between 6000 or 7000 meters, both in Karakorum as in Himalaya.
The heavy emotional and moral burden of completing and publishing the book was taken on the shoulders of Alessandra Carati : without previous particular passion for the Mountains, much less towards extreme mountaineering, her acquaintance with Daniele Nardi – and with his family, his native environment – had turned into a friendship that led her to embark on the difficult winter trek to the Base Camp of Nanga Parbat, to share some days with . Alessandra wanted, not without hesitation and problems, to really try what extreme winter mountaineering meant. The motivation, she explained us in the following interview, was to understand what drives a man to live in brutal winter conditions, on colossal mountains. Nardi, in those days, showed her and then sent her an email saying that if he didn’t come back from the mountain he wanted her to finish writing the book.
“Because I want the world to know my story”
The first, clear feeling at the end of the reading, is that Nardi has written a sincere story, a true “naked self portrait” – unlike most books written by mountaineers, full of rhetoric, self-celebration or boring lessons of motivation , often lacking in self-analysis, a sight on their own contradictions and human miseries. This, together with the beautiful narrative style, is quite extraordinary, since one of Daniele Nardi’s biggest problems has always been the style of communication : often Gascon and slash, full of drama, over the top, bitter and sometimes lamenting, for the syndrome of isolation always suffered, he mountaineer “de Roma” [“born/of Rome”,ndR ] , nicknamed “Romoletto” [“the little king of Rome”,ndR] by Silvio Mondinelli, against the Northern Italian Alpinism entourage, With few sponsors and great difficulties in financing their own businesses.
It is certainly thanks to the great craft of Alessandra Carati that the reading flows pleasant, pressing and exciting; the narrative system is well structured on the five attempts to climb the Mummery Spur of Nanga Parbat, the large index of rock that points straight to the summit from the base of the Diamir, surrounded by drainage channels, overlooked by huge glacial evenings, accessible only by a dangerous and cracked glacier. The beginning of these attempts is represented by an email, affectionate and concerned, of a friend of Nardi, the great Canadian mountaineer Louis Rousseau, who tries to dissuade the italian from the Project of the Mummery, with touching and impressive words and motivations.
The Mummery : dream and obsession of Daniele Nardi, around which the rest of life flows and takes place; for each of these trials, the mountaineer’s thoughtful gaze on the Diamir wall shifts and lingers on the events of his life, his training as a mountaineer, the first solitary on the Grandes Jorasses at 19, the result of an irrepressible and early passion, developed during the family’s summer holidays in the Alps, and matured almost as a self-taught, even on the crumbly and not easy northern walls of the Central Apennine, on the Gran Sasso and on the Shirt.
Able to reach Everest in 2004, albeit with oxygen, then the middle peak of Shisha Pangma without oxygen. In 2006 he climbed Nanga Parbat via Kinshofer route and Broad Peak. In 2007 he was a expedition leader on K2 and climbed to the summit without oxygen – but a fellow expeditioner, Stefano Zavka, never returns from the mountain, having reached the summit well after sunset.
The book shows Nardi’s self-criticism, inexperienced in emergency management and especially the “after”, in communicating what happened to Zavka’s family. A ghost that will accompany him for a long time. The book continues with dry tales of past successes, does not linger on the mountaineering description of the climbs – except for the one that Daniele Nardi loved most, the new route traced on Baghirathi III with Roberto Dalle Monache, way not finished on the summit but remarkable in its development and difficulties on one of the most beautiful and coveted Himalayan peaks.
Paradoxically, winning the prestigious Italian Alpine Academic Club Council Award for this route, Nardi writes in the book that here begin “interference” to the pure love for the exploration of the high mountain : his desire to feel accepted and recognized by an environment that does not consider it as much as it would like, its desire for revenge, the need for visibility begin to affect its mind.
The story of the attempts to realize his dream, the way of the Mummery Spur- a goal for which he was mocked, blamed as suicidal, exalted, deluded even after death – continues between beautiful pages of mountain : especially in the story of the first attempt, 2013, teamed up with the great French mountaineer Elizabeth Revol; The duo reached the highest point ever reached on the Mummery, 6450 meters, about 250 meters from the end of the technical difficulties and the exit of the Sperone on the “great basin”, the plateau at 7000 meters, between the impressive columns, severe and dangerous, of the glacial evenings Incumbent. Then some words on the missed teaming up with Tomek Mackiewicz and Elizabeth Revol, the conflict of visions and objectives that separates them at Diamir Base Camp; conflict that is mitigated, by the fine words that Nardi reserves to both, full of great affection and esteem.
The fourth chapter – dedicated to the resounding breakage with Alex Txikon and Ali Sadpara at the beginning of 2016 , his partners on previous year during the attempt of First Winter, failed two hundred meters below the summit – is a very detailed account of an “announced conflict” : the Nardi’s attempts at mediation between Bielecki and Txikon, being the spanish worried by economical trouble, the incident on the wall where he saved the life of Bielecki himself ; Nardi’s obvious lack of motivation for Kinshofer route, the first conflicts with Txikon and Sadpara and mutual distrust, immediately, with Simone Moro ; the failure of Elizabeth Revol and Tomek Mackiewitz bid, when at about 7300 meters, with the concrete prospect of a successful summit through the Messner-Eisendle route, they retreated after receiving from Moro weather forecasts revealed to be quite incorrect, perhaps the strangest event that year . This, confirmed by Filippo Thiery, meteorologist of Nardi, who told him that good weather was expected for 3 days ; he did not understand how Karl Gabl – a renowned meteorologist, Moro trusted expert – could have failed those forecasts [see the forecasts of these days]. While the French and the Polish quickly descended on January 22th, on January 25th Nardi, Txikon and Sadpara were at C3, at 6700meters, in good weather. And the Revol left the Nanga: she ran out of expedition time. The polemic and breaking tail between Mackiewicz and Moro was even bitterer [see Sources (1),(2),(3),(4),(5) below]
Then Moro and Lunger’s decision to join Kinshofer route. Daniele Nardi waited three years before explaining how he felt he came first to the decision, then to the break with the rest of the team, handing Carati the recordings of the dialogues at Base Camp and its version. Absolutely questionable version, of course, and biased : but in the book there is also this. And there is further criticism of Moro for letting Tamara Lunger retreat alone, in distress, on the fateful day of the First Winter on Nanga Parbat.
At the time, following that daily expedition, I was not surprised by the distrust of Nardi by Txikon, Sadpara and finally Simone Moro, until his ousting from the team . But no one emerges undepended from errors and ambiguous behaviors, in this chapter, albeit with different nuances. It is, of course, his own version: however, and it’s not negligible, the dialogues are faithful transcriptions of audio recordings – Nardi admitted it was questionable, but not illegal – according to the co-author and that the publisher Einaudi considered their publication lawful and transparent.
To date, several articles from the specialized press on the book have been published; it is curious, euphemistically speaking, to note that any journalist had the curiosity to speak about or ask questions about this uncomfortable, bitter, questionable chapter which is an important part of the book that Nardi wrote.
Is up to the reader each thought or judgment on his own, about an issue that will no longer change anything : History is written and has erased old controversies. Nevertheless, this chapter of Nardi’s life reveals an unpleasant side that is generally preferred to conceal; it strips mountaineering from its supposed idealization, its being not exempt, as no human social activity is, from great rivalries, dirty games, miseries and opportunism. On the contrary: it amplifies to the extent of merits, qualities and fears, defects. Of all, no one excluded.
Certainly, Nardi was not capable of diplomacy and self-control confronting with more experienced climbers, during expedition. He paid a high price for this, even in terms of credibility. It must be said.
The chapter of the “Fourth Attempt” continues with the story of the acquaintance with Tom Ballard, who sought Daniele Nardi, interested in his type of mountaineering: a friendship that was welded in 2017, in a interesting expedition to the remote Kondus Glacier, in Karakorum ; the duo climbed a rock route on an unknown 6000 peak in the Area, and an attempt on an iconic 7000 meter mountain, the Link Sar. The pair, after having opened over 1500 meters through a tricky glacier , until the first difficulties of the North East wall, will have to withdraw due to continuous avalanches and bad weather. Then there is the painful chapter of the Tomek tragedy and the rescue of Elizabeth on Nanga Parbat winter early 2018, when Daniele contributed concretely to the rescue efforts, coordinating and involving all his Pakistani contacts and providing useful information. The thoughts about Tomek, his personality and his intimate dreamer soul are very touching.
In the final chapter, the book’s narrative register changes: Alessandra Carati tells the story in the first person.
She retraces the trek to Base Camp, the difficulties and the frost, her intimate experience as a woman in the relationship with the locals, the enormous esteem and respect that all Pakistanis pay to Daniel, the delivery of materials and humanitarian goods in the very poor villages between Skardu and Diamir Valley; the friendship and good humour between Tom and Daniel, the fearful avalanche rumbles that dumped the mountain “whose bulk covers the sky and overwhelms you immensely”. Then the return to Italy, Daniel’s confident messages and those worried about the material buried by the avalanches.
Until the decisive moment : there is a window of discreet time, it is February 22nd, now for a month now the two are stopped at Base Camp, training on the sass doing drytooling, walking up only to Camp 1. They start with great determination, until the fateful 24th February, where they climb 300 meters of speron from the 6000m of the C4, a curtain in the wall. They are optimistic, full of joy that they communicate to Alessandra for satellite, they found the sack hanging on the wall, at the top. But they tried perhaps too much in the previous two days, with a pull and so much load of materials for the decisive attack. And the final hours, the silence.
The epilogue we know, Alex Txikon generously leaves K2 with a team to rescue and search for Daniel and Tom. After terrible days, between reconnaissance on foot and with drones, while a bad media debate rages, where Messner, then Moro and others claim the safety that the two were buried by an avalanche, that the road was almost suicidal [ see links in Sources] Tom was involved in a feat which was not his own and was not to be done as the first experience out of a 8000ers peak, the fan-tribes dividing and arguing on Social etc – the two unfortunate climbers were spotted by telescope, dead, not killed by an avalanche but hanging on the ropes, in perfect visibility even after 10 days since the accident, probably victims of a rappel accident and/or hypothermia. Their last phone call was reportedly at 8 pm on February 24th, at Base Camp: Daniel said they were coming down the wall, the conditions were terrible. Whatever the reason for leaving the tent and knowing that probably hypothermia was waiting for them into darkness, it was obviously a tragic , extreme and ultimate necessity.
The short epilogue is a touching testimony of life, of pure and sublime sensations on the Nanga and ends like this:
“at least once in a lifetime, everyone should meet a Daniele Nardi who with a smile urges you to go and see what there is beyond the line of the horizon, and to walk with him on the glacier”
Daniele Nardi came out of the scene with his flaws, his humanity as abrupt, distrustful, difficult and sometime ambiguous ; at the same time, as expansive, positive, full of love and an irrepressible passion for mountaineering and constant challenge in facing oneself’s demons. A burning passion that costed him a short life, but not lived unconscious .
A life that deserves respect, which arouses and provokes discussions but a worthy life: a man, a mountaineer who had courage both in the mountains and in testifying, above all, of his most intimate weaknesses without stopping to think positive, to try to get up at every fall to start over and improve; that in the history of Mountaineering will remain as the one who attempted “an incredible winter route, a direttissima, a fucking visionary route on one of the most feared mountains in the world” – as the mountaineer Louis Rousseau wrote to us: the Mummery Spur Route .
Interview with co-author : Alessandra Carati
Alessandra, yours is a solid resume of writing experiences for film and theatre and then as editor and ghost writer on very varied publishing projects; in 2016 you co-authored, with the cyclist Danilo Di Luca, of his autobiographical book “Beasts of Victory”, a harsh act of accusation (and self-incrimination) , of those who no longer have anything to lose and can finally speak in true freedom of the “system” against the huge problem of doping, an intimate unveiling of an athlete who confronts the hypocrisy of those who expelled him from the environment (disqualified for life) as a unique scapegoat of what seems an intolerable tangle of collective interests in sport.
I mention your literary curriculum because I have the idea that in part the meeting with Daniele Nardi has involved you and convinced you to work with him, for his experience – equally problematic, also for several reasons – in the environment to which he dedicated his life : Mountaineering. Is that so? What was, however, the decisive drive – for an author absolutely distant and not involved by a personal passion for the mountains – to undertake the writing of a book with a mountaineer ?
When I approached Daniel’s story, I didn’t know mountaineering and I didn’t know anything about the quality of the environment. I chose to embrace the project because Daniel intrigued me. As I wrote in the book and like many other people, I wondered why someone chose to test themselves so a mountain of 8000 meters, in winter, five times in a row. I wanted to understand what moved him, intimately and as a human being.
Reading the book, I found Daniel’s courage extraordinary for Daniel’s raw and sincere self-analysis, which spares no unpublished details about his period of depression and burnout, he does not discount mistakes in private life as well as those in some shipments, because of his character. Yet, the positive side, of pure sincere, gascon and empathetic passion emerges and is appreciated. How did you experience this contradictory aspect of Daniel?
Daniel was so many things together. Writing, fortunately, resists the temptation to simplisticly reduce people and protects against judgment. In doing so, it allows us to understand more, to accept more, to love more.
While working on the book, did you have to argue with him about how he wanted to expose his emotions, his ideas and the events that happened in the great mountains of Karakorum and the Himalayas?
There was no time to discuss the form with which to build the narrative. We worked together in the collection and choice of materials, then I proceeded to write alone, with all the decisions that come with it.
I cannot avoid to address to you a very sensitive and burning issue. Since the book came out, I have read articles and reviews but for anyone who has read it, there has been an almost total and deafening silence on a precise part: The Attempt Four, that is the 2015-2016 expedition with Txikon and Sadpara, lived between bitter polemics ; what surprised him, at the time, is that Daniel defended himself very tenaciously only from the accusations of Txikon (later turned out to be rather labile and unfounded) of non-financial contribution or even of having “invented” the fall on the Kinshofer wall . Daniel did not respond, punctually, to Moro’s strong accusations.This weighed heavily in the collective judgment towards him. As Daniel himself writes.
In the book it’s striking to read the brutal and polemical dialogues of what happened. And these dialogues differ from Moro and Txikon’s versions. I listened to your interview on Alessandro Milan’s broadcast on Radio24, where you say that the dialogues are written “to the comma” because they come from the recordings that Nardi made in the common tent, while the final meeting was taking place with all others. You said this was not illegal at all, so much so that Einaudi has assessed it as publishable without censorship. Do you confirm that? Has anyone contacted you to specify or disprove what is written? What do you think of the reaction of the press, by the way?
The scenes of the fourth attempt, which take place in the tent and which include Simone Moro, Alex Txikon, Tamara Lunger, Ali Sadpara and of course Daniele, have been reconstructed entirely from the recordings that Daniel had made. I did not draw the jokes and their content from a story mediated by Daniel, but directly and faithfully from the audio. They are the voices of the protagonists.
For example, there is a detail of the story on which conflicting versions have been given, and it is the way it happen the join the two expeditions. Moro stated publicly, in his book “Nanga” and in some interviews, to have been invited by Alex Txikon, while in the audio he repeats several times that it is he who asks to be allowed to join the Kinshofer team, so much so that it insists on how much money has to pay for the material and the work done in equipping the mountain. It is a subtle, yet substantial, difference because it defines the relationships of force, weights and the balance within the team that will attempt the first winter of Nanga Parbat.
No one has so far asked in any way for that part of the book, much less talked about it on printed reviews. Honestly, if I were a journalist, I’d be intrigued, I’d ask questions.
Let’s talk about to the most exciting and painful part, the one you practically wrote yourself. The final attempt: your decision to trek and spend days at Base Camp to really experience a winter expedition; the atmosphere between Daniel and Tom, the long waits and the tragic ending. How did you go through those terrible days? Have you thought about quitting everything, despite Daniel’s request in his famous email?
During the weeks of the rescue the project of the book did not even touch me, each energy, each thought were for Daniele and Tom. I was distressed to know how to lose them inside the gigantic Nanga massif. And then there was Daniela and Mattia [Nardi’s son,NdR], I couldn’t even imagine what they could feel at the time. Later I was tempted to let it go, but the will expressed by Daniele was very clear and his mandate nailed me. I gave him my word.
What conclusion, if ever, have you elaborated in your soul, about Daniel’s life and death?
I have no conclusions, no ideas, let alone opinions, about Daniel’s death. Everything I’ve touched, guessed and tried to shape is inside the book. Each reader can move from there to let the feeling with which to look at his figure, his life.
Interview with Louis Rousseau
Louis Rousseau is one of the strongest Canadian climbers. He was born in 1977 in Quebec and began to climb at 15 years old. Between 1999 and 2010 he climbed many peaks in the Andes, accumulating experience on the 6000ers. From 2007 he began to climb the great mountains of the Karakorum and the Himalayas, opening a partial new route on Nanga Parbat in 2009 ; he tried a new winter route on the South face of Gasherbrum I. He climbed Gasherbrum II, Broad Peak and attempted K2 several times. He climbed 7000ers peak as the Khan Tengri and the Tilicho Peak. Always without oxygen, pursuing the alpine style and following a very strong climbing ethic. His climbing partners on high altitude expeditions were Adam Bielecki, Gerfried Goschl, Alex Txikon, Rick Allen and many others.
How did you meet , if you did it live, with Daniele ?
I never met Daniele in person. Since 2015 we had sporadic contact via internet. I heard about Daniele after the 2011 Bhagirathi route and the 2013 winter attempt with Elizabeth Revol. After that, Alex Txikon contacted me to join him, Daniel and Ali Sadpara for the winter attempt of Nanga Parbat in 2016. I said no. Daniele invited me for the Nanga 2019 attempt but again I refuse and I tried to convince him no to go again. During the expedition we had regular contacts via WhatsApp especially when they lost a lot of equipment. I propose to send some equipment from my deposit in Pakistan. After all, it was ok, they had the essential to continue their ascent.
What do you think about Daniele, what impressions and feelings gave him to you – as climber first, then as a man?
Really motivated and goal oriented climber. He could climb hard technical routes as much as perform very well in high altitude. During our conversation, I could see that he was a real nice guy. Very idealistic and a dreamer who always want to improve and be a better version of himself. During our last conversation he told me one important thing, that he wanted: “to try to help people to change their life by inspiring them.» So for sure Daniele was a man who wanted to change the world around him, it was not about alpinism, collecting summits or seeking for first ascents, it was way more than about is own person.
I know he asked you to join in for his Nanga dream; then, you have some correspondence before telling him that you choose not to go in and asked him to rethink about it. Can you explain me, after your experience of a partial new-route on Nanga in 2009, what drove you to the feeling that you have done, with that mountain?
I will start my answer with something I wrote to Daniele : “You’ll find it a bit esoteric, but I believe in the curse of the killer mountain. There is something with Nanga Parbat that blinds us climbers and draws us even more towards danger compared to the other 8000m.” I think it is because of all the folklore around this mountain. When you start to read a lot about it, it turns into fascination and passion. It is really attractive and you want to go. Then, when I was there in 2009, two people lost their lives and there was a lot of discord after that. The recent history of winter attempts is also filled with discord, accidents, backstage games and now deaths. It is a real tragedy. There is no other words to describe the past few years. Just think of the 2013 terrorist attack. I saw Daniele go back into this again and I wanted to do something to discourage him. I asked him if he wanted to find a completely different and positive project with me, but he told me that : “if I change idea and I want to join him and Tom, to let him know.”
Do you think that danger starts, for a climber, in the moment he got too much emotional about a mountain, a goal ?
For a climber, danger starts as soon as he step inside the jeep that will bring him at the beginning of the trail going to base camp, that means at the very beginning of the expedition there is dangers. Mountaineering is an extremely dangerous sport. There are not many other sports in which you go on a vacation and you come back without your friend. Even if you are “too much emotional” about a project or a mountain, that does not mean that you are more in danger. Can this influence our decision-making? Certainly yes, or when there are other goals than climbing and feeling free, even goals that you don’t admit to yourself. You are always going to bring on an expedition the things that are not settled at home. Nothing that you will do in the mountains can resolve them, on the contrary.
I know that Daniele and Tom were professionals and they had the experience to climb Nanga Parbat in winter by a new route, but they unfortunately had a terrible accident. We will never know exactly what happened and it is terrible for the families. More than anything, we will never know their state of mind before the accident. Was it a distraction, was it a result of bad decisions like several accidents in the mountains? We do not know. What we do know is that the two climbers had strong experience and they completed each other very well in their team. Daniele had a solid high altitude and winter expedition background and Tom was one of the best technical climbers in the world. I don’t think their emotional state has anything to do with their death. It was a tragic accident.
References and Sources
Nanga Parbat ed Elizabeth Revol, Mummery Spur 1st attempt : http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201212505/Nanga-Parbat-Diamir-Face-Mummery-Rib-winter-attempt
Translimes Expedition with Tom Ballard, Kondus Glacier, Link Sar :
Farol West,unclimbed peaks in Karakorum :
Baghirathi III :
Thalay Sagar, with Alex Txikon, Ferran Latorre e altri :
The Six Northern Alps Great Walls, winter , solo :
Drytooling, the most difficolt route so far :
The long post after 2016 Nanga Expedition :
on Mummery, Nardi and Ballard
on Nardi , 2016 expedition
Mckiewitz/Revol and the aborted summit bid due to ..bad weather
(1) 19th January 2016 : “Decisive days on Nanga.Tomek Mackiewitz & Elizabeth Revol spotted the colouir leading to the summit pyramidal [..]”
(5) weather forecasts during those days: