The context : Nims incredible feats, press about him, the records
When Nirmal Purja, then an unkown climber to the community, declared his intention to climb all 14 8000ers peaks within a year, initial reactions from public, other climbers and media was rather incredulous. I include myself in the early critics . Then, the former gurkha and SAS soldier, showed to the World his strength, his sharp focus and his incredible leadership. He climbed the 14×8000 in about six month, and the last one was K2, in Winter – the last 8000ers never climbed in the cold Karakorum season.
He used a combination of his military skills to build a super strong Sherpa team supporting him, an extraordinary effort in logistics, a large use of any means – as supplementary oxygen used by himself and his team mates, helicopter flights to race between Base Camps and carry the necessary amount of equipment – and he just did it.
He faced brutal conditions on some peaks, as happened on Dhaulagiri ; he also led some rescues at high altitude during his climbs, such as on Kangchenjunga ; he also summited some 8000ers declaring that he didn’t use supplementary O2, as for the incredible winter collective ascent on K2, which led him to a World popularity.
Soon NETFLIX aired a movie about his feat ; Nirmal Purja then reinforced and took to great level of business his own agency, Elite Exped (established by him some years ago, when he started the planning of his climbing career), took the leadership of all Sherpas community and without any doubt he changed the “routine” on 8000ers Commercial Expedition. After decades, Sherpa took the led, the organization, the logistics and a new successful season of guiding clients on the high altitude peaks, both in Himalaya as well in Karakorum, changed the rule.
Said this, one critical aspect shown up quite evident : Nirmal management of his relationship with press, at least with some journalists : especially, with those who asked him uncomfortable questions. From the beginning, not without some real reasons, he claimed to be attacked by media in a way that “no westerners climbers” had never confronted. His enormous social success and the majority of Press about him, indeed, made his fears sounds quite strange , as his declared feeling to be considered as a “target” of envy, hidden attempts by “westerners agents” to sabotage his success and so on.
Attempts to interview him and ask him about some doubts or question during is 14×8000 rush were often dismissed by him with total silence or answers like “for all the envious and doubtful who try to spread negativity, there will be time to show them who am I” or “I will show photos/video proofs” when asked to details all his summit in his claimed 14×8000 record.
I’m an indipendent chronicler ; I’m not a professional journalists with any conflict of interests nor nothing to hide when I write about some climbers ; I have a strong principle: try to fact check anything, specially when the claims are very exceptionals ; NO ONE , in my opinion, with a so strong public position, can’t avoid questions from Press . Of course, it’s up to him substantiate his legitimate critics and/or rights to don’t answer to some questions. But then, please accept the consequences.
In alpinism there aren’t fixed rules about claims or records. Anyway, there are indipendent experts – not only journalists! – who are hard working on statistics and fact checking the claims made by climbers. The Himalayan Database is the most famous institution in charge of recording climbers ascents in Himalaya – anyone could freely install the database on a device and access to all expeditions data; 8000ers.com is another one, extending the realm of climbs to Karakorum. There is more than a valid reason why almost all climbers stop in Kathmandu, on the way back from their expeditions, and meet the experts – until few years ago, they sat with the respected and late Mr.Elizabeth Hawley , sharing their ascent stories and if she suspected that they were not saying the truth, the ascents were marked as “DISPUTED” in the Database ; high altitude climbing isn’t a traditional sport, there isn’t any “international panel of jury”, anyway having someone who “certify” the ascent is considered important for the climbers, as they use their records and claim to gain media attention, sponsorship as happens for others outdoor activities. This tradition continues with the HDB Team led by Billi Biering. The same is for 8000ers.com , where Eberhard Jurgalski is working since decades validating, studying, reporting about any kind of statistics about both Himalayan and Karakorum high peaks, from 6000ers to the 8000ers.
It is worth to note that both Himalayan Database as 8000ers.com are truly independent “institutions” and got NO FINANCIAL SUPPORT, other than on voluntary base. People working from them spend lot of their time to analyze data, photos, reports and they deserve the maximum respect from the mountaineering community.
Even one exceptional leader and athlete as Nirmal Purja should accept a normal scrutiny or questions about his extraordinary feats.
Of course he can decide to DON’T CARE about it. But then again, he should accept the critics, the questions and doubts if asked politely.
What happened ?
Few days ago, Nirmal Purja and his Elite Exped team summited Kangchenjunga , after a very fast rush on the mountain . Nims was guiding a very important client with him, the Qatari Princess Asma Al Thani . Angela Benavides, a veteran, respected journalists which has a long experience on writing about climbers and ascent , who in the past tried to ask Purja questions like I mentioned above, wrote this article :
I must tell that I checked the post done by Elite Exped Sherpas, I understood that it was more a misunderstanding. Anyway, Angela raised some doubts, and after double checking in an interview with Mingma, she corrected and clarified that Nims climbed from BC to C2, then from C2 to summit in a push.
Anyway, considering the massive use of helicopters of last years – done by Nims and many other climbers – to carry gears and or to lift climbers from a peak BC to the next one , in a constant rush to “link up” more 8000ers in a row or in a single expedition, the questions were neither an insult nor something odd.
But Nirmal Purja got triggered and in a social post – both published in Instagram as in Facebook – he had a brutal, awful reaction, attacking personally Angela Benavides.
The “Racism” issue raised by Nirmal Purja
“Angela Benavides, you are the most racist journalist I have ever seen. Get your facts right before you comment on myself or any Nepalese guiding company. It’s not the first time you have done this explores web, your information all the way from #k2winter has been false !!!! Get your shit sorted before you claim yourself as a journalist ! ” #stopracism
My personal thoughts and the general reaction .
Frankly, besides the totally unacceptable tones – I could think Nims was quite stressed because is unstoppable rushing up and down at high altitudes – the “RACISM” issue is nothing I have seen, nor in the past articles, nor in the article which triggered his reaction.
Nirmal Purja is an exceptional leader and it’s clear to me his huge contribution to all the Sherpa community and, in general, to his native country, Nepal. He set a high level standard organizing 8000ers expeditions with cutting edge team, logistics and results. His business has disrupted a long history of “Western Agencies” (US,Europe founded) and for sure, many people are not happy about this.
But the critics about the commercialization of 8000ers climbing, the issues about environment, about the negative effects that this could affect the high peaks, were discussed well before Nirmal Purja began his career. And as far as I recall, many journalists, climbers, experts were quite vocals in the past about this with anyone, not caring about his country of origin, the color of his skin or whatever.
It is also to be noted that ExplorersWeb is not a “mainstream” magazine, and you may have a look at the total “social/web” audience of this outlet – about 10.000 followers – comparing it to the Nirmal Purja massive social influence, which is TWO MILLIONS FOLLOWERS on Instagram page and a HALF MILLION on his Facebook Page.
MY PERSONAL STATEMENT ABOUT THIS: I think that Nirmal Purja should reconsider his brutal attack against Angela Benavides. His words are TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE, he lacked respect and the racism accuse is wrong ; this led to a very dangerous shitstorm on a single person.
Angela Benavides, as any other journalists, could be criticised and discussed for his writings and reports ; I don’t always agree with some of her considerations, but anyone must pay respect to each other. Cilmbers and journalists.
It’s easy to have a look at the comments under the Nirmal post : a shitstorm on Angela and ExplorersWeb. No mainstream media reported the issue, besides a bunch of journalists ; no solidarity at all to Angela. Frankly said : going against a powerful influencer like Nirmal Purja could lead to real trouble for anyone.
Nirmal new records and a “ghost comment” about his past 14×8000 claimed record
After this unpleasant issue, Nirmal claimed a couple of new records : Kangchenjunga without o2 , then Everest and Lhotse in 8 days, 23hours. Everest and Lhotse “traverse” (a linkup – from Everest summit to C4 SouthCol then Lhotse summit) in just 26 hours.
Then, few days ago, NO ONE noticed a comment in another “self-celebrating” Nirmal Purja post.
The comment above, since it was written by the maximum expert and known as serious fact-checker, has to be taken seriously BY ANYONE. Eberhard Jurgalski himself told Nims that his claimed 14×8000 records, in his opinion was NOT VALID, because he didn’t climb until the real summit on Dhaulagiri as in Manaslu. The Manaslu true summit question is well known , as many of you should recall when it was discussed and had huge public impact .But then, Eberhard DROP ANOTHER HUGE statement : he recognized Nirmal Purja AS THE ONLY ONE CLIMBER WHO TOPPED ALL 14 8000RS EVER (after Nims climbed again in Autumn Dhaulagiri and Manaslu). We will need to wait until 8000ers.com will publish a full report about this.
Said this, Nirmal Purja will be not affected by the question by The Himalayan Database, as for their public statement below – where they recognize the true summit question but also said they will not change the paste achievements.
How to avoid such unpleasant issues between climbers and reporters ?
Brief conclusion: it is up to reporters and journalists to do their best to fact-check and verify any information without hurrying too much to publish their findings ; in our society , where news are spreading fast as social networks became the most influential place to find informations, there is a tendency to be “always on” and “fast as possible”. This is not very good for the quality of information.
For the climbers is quite simple : if they declare important goals, if they claim great exploits, they must be accountable about their story telling, providing info as much as they can ; photos, gps recordings, videos, and truthful reports.
Both the categories should always show respect to their respective jobs and personal integrity.
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.
Many thanks to Denis, Elena Laletina of russianclimb.com and Matteo Gallizioli for their kidness.
“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.
Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi. Nanga Parbat
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.
Adam just released this statement, regarding their acclimatization goal :
“At last we can see our first goal – Langtang Lirung 7227 m. The local people, when they hear we want to climb it, react with laughter or disbelief . When we talk with them we slowly realize how serious our aclimatisation summit is. [..] the last ascent took place on 1995. The owner of our hotel promised that if we climb it we can drink for free all the alcohol he has in his restaurant “
Langtang Lirung is a beatiful and technical peak,located in Langtang Himal, rarely climbed in the past. First summit by a Japanese Expedition, 1978, through dangerous Lirung Glacier and East ridge, after 8 previous attempts.
Each face is a technical challenge.
In 1982, an italian expedition led by the great climber Bruno Crepaz summited Langtang, but Bruno died on descent .
His huge 3km South Face, still unclimbed, it’s the most technical and dangerous.
Described by an English team (*) in 1980 as a continuous ” train of avalanches through all the face channels”, the last climber who tried it was Tomaz Humar, who died on the wall in 2009 after suffering a fall, at about 6000 mt. His body was found by a rescue team by heli much lower than he reported by radio on his last call, at 5600 mt .
K2: a Fort for Txikon, reinforcements for the Russians and the wait for good weather
The two expedition on the K2 do not have any kind of human contact or technical exchange. A pity but it was predictable.
The abysmal differences in strategy, as well as cultural and personal ones, have become widely manifest in the last 20 days, when the action on the mountain has been reduced to the minimum due to the continuous bad weather.
However, the Russians-Kyrgyz-Kazakhs have continued rotations between Base Camp, Advanced Base and up to Camp 2, bringing materials and maintaining a minimum level of acclimatization; moreover, unlike Txikon, they have already practically passed the Black Pyramid and have the material ready to set up the upper Camps, the C3 at about 7300 meters and the C4 on the shoulder, at about 7950 meters.
Black Pyramid zone, russian team shot
Alex Txikon has chosen not to move, and not to move any of his Sherpa, even in the presence of moderate bad weather. His strategy is “save energy for when there will come the good weather”. In the meantime, he kept busy by setting up a “wall” of ice, on the principle already used to build the igloos, to protect the tents from the strong winds expected in the last days; the visual effect … is that of a military fort!
The team of the Russians-Kyrgyz-Kazakhs led by Braun and Plivstov remained in action, though obviously reduced, after February 1, when the team had equipped until the 7200 meters of the Black Pyramid zone; in these 20 days, rotations were made up to C1 and a bet to C2, moreover 3 Kazakh mountaineers arrived at Base Camp, thanks to a late sponsorship.
In an interesting interview with Wspinaie.pl, the great Polish mountaineer Leszek Cichy, geodesist expert and protagonist, among others, of the first winter at Everest with Krzysztof Wielicki in 1980, expresses his thoughts on the strategies of the teams, about the terrain that will challenge the team between the Black Pyramid (which he faced in the winter 1987-88) and the summit of K2, in a very sharp way :
“The Black Pyramid does not present great technical difficulties but it is long, compared to the Tatra I would say a III / IV degree, moreover there are many ropes, not particularly ruined given the exposure and the rocky area, which allow a fairly fast progression in good condition “
“… the real problem will be in the area between C3, at the end of the Black Pyramid and the Shoulder: there are about 700-800 meters of route that, from the sketches and stories of Denis Urubko in the last attempt [last winter,ndR] is considerably full of crevasses and dangerous, depending on the presence of snow or ice, and it could be difficult to find the right path “
On acclimatization: “the Russians, if they think they are going to climb by the end of February – that they consider the real end of winter – they need to sleep at least one night over 7000 meters.. “.
But it is speaking of Alex Txikon that Cichy is lashing: “his two expeditions to Everest and what he has done so far to K2, that is to remain almost always at Base Camp, show that something with him is really wrong, either is logistics, or strategic…he’s not prepared at all, he never managed to climb even the Everest South Saddle [..] now he and his team have no acclimatization, which is only [gained] by making active efforts ; putting the fixed parallel ropes has been insane. “
Also Denis Urubko expressed his thoughts in a similar way, and he is convinced that none of the 2 teams will manage to climb by February 28th, the end of Winter for the mountaineer of Kazakh origin. In a newly released interview, Denis said he was rather tired of 8000ers expeditions, and he think he will do three more before retiring: one at Gasherbrum II this summer to make a new route, one at Broad Peak in winter and in two years the decisive one, at K2 winter..
“The good mountaineer is the old mountaineer,” said Urubko, who in this winter has perfected himself on rock in Patagonia with his partner Pipi Cardell.
In the next days is predicted a rather long window of good weather, all to be confirmed – both on K2 and Nanga, and soon we will see if there are minimal chances of success by one of the teams present ..
Nanga Parbat : snow, snow and snow again
A brief update from Nanga Parbat: Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard have been practically stopped for over 2 weeks at the Base Camp, except for a few run at C1 and one at C2 (5700 meters), to dig up the bag with the material.
At Nanga the amount of snowfall has been considerable, even if normal for the season; above all, in the short windows of good weather, the two could not move much for the avalanches resulting from the accumulations, very dangerous right in the C2-C3 area, at the base of the Mummery Spur.
In the meantime, bearers arrived with supplies of food and technical gear [the duo lost lot of material buriedby snow at Mummery bottom] , hoping to be able to climb the Mummery in speed during a good weather window.
The acclimatization is now lost, even if the two remain very positive and active at Base Camp, where Nardi and Ballard often train in drytooling on Boulder boulders and lately Tom Ballard in a nice downhill skiing from a side gully of Nanga
Tom Ballardsaid :
“This expedition seems more and more a nice holiday, we are well at Base Camp, we always find new problems of drytooling on the boulders around, and lately I had a lot of fun skiing on magnificent snow …”
Even for them, waiting for a window long enough in good weather is the dream of the moment …
As expected and written in the previous update, Alex Txikon’s team has moved on the Abruzzi Spur route, where is already in action the Russian-Kyrgyz-Kazakh team .
Although Txikon had clearly written that he would have return to check the East wall (and the way of the Americans), the day after the facts showed that he had already decided not to return there, and suddenly the Basque declared “that the mountain was discharging all the avalanches on that side [East, ndR] and that the traverse [to rejoin the Abruzzi, above 7500,ndR] was too dangerous “.
Alex’s sherpa team, and Alex himself, have equipped up to over Camp 1, parallel to the ropes already installed by the other team. The Russians have already equipped up to 6500 meters, at the beginning of the famous and technical Camino Bill.
Both have stayed at C1, we will see today the conditions of … traffic on the way.
At the moment, considering the team last communications, there are no great possibilities to join forces on the “Normal” of K2: it would have been desirable, a massive set up of ropes certainly does not help an easy progression ; however we believe – and hope – for a pact between the two team leader, as for not to hinder each others, along the progression on the route – especially on the technical Bill’s Chimney and the “black pyramid” , towards the 7200 meters of Campo 3, which does not have large spaces for tents.
*** Update 13:53 GMT+1 Waldemar Kowalewski, member of Txikon team, got hurt by a falling stone while carrying heavy sack of gear at 6000mt. During his retreat due to pain, he fell again then got lost on the glacier before BC, when it was dark. Then Alex got radio contact with him, sending help ; he’s now at BC, waiting to be airlifted : expedition is over for him
Really difficult situation, for Simone Moro, Pemba Sherpa and the 2 assistant chefs at the Manaslu Base Camp.
An exceptional amount of snow has literally buried the tents of the climbers, forcing them to disassemble the little tents and shelter everyone in the large kitchen tent, turning continuously to shovel the terrifying accumulation – “Terrible situation [..] Fuck, 6 meters of snow! ” the understandable words of Simone, which continues:
“If the kitchen tent would break, we’d be really fucked in. Gas and gasoline are enough for 6 days, food for a few days longer, here is an ocean of moving snow, giant avalanches everywhere. The Base Camp has been wisely placed on a hilltop , windy but super safe “
An equally problematic situation for the Daniele Nardi team. Daniele and Tom Ballard went up to Camp 2, they slept there surrounded by frightening avalanches, fortunately passed to the side; they proceeded to the C1, writes Daniele, with a huge effort causing a lot of snow; besides at C2 a tent, with a lot of material and crampons by Karim Hayat, has disappeared; Rahmat Baig is practically out of the game, he had to go down to Gilgit to treat throat problems with antibiotics but he did not get well.
In addition, Karim declared “he does not want to die in this mountain”.
Therefore, the defection of the two Pakistanis from the expedition appears certain. In fact, Daniele wrote :
“I feel that we’ll need only one tent”
Daniele and Tom do not give up and proceed to check the conditions of C3, but will not sleep there because of the high danger of avalanches.
Unfortunately, in the lost tent, there was a lot of important gear for climbing …