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Simone Moro – interview for Mountain Portal

/ Climbing

Undoubtedly, the most important and spectacular event of the last winter in the world of mountains was the first winter ascend on the summit of Nanga Parbat in Himalaya Mountains. After many years of the defense the mountain has finally given in to Simone Moro, Alex Txikon and Muhammad Ali who altogether stood on its peak. Unfortunately, just before summit push Tamara Lunger had to quit.

Immediately after the historical ascend some people started to argue about reaching the top by Moro’s team and comment it as a cheat. These people are not assured by photos from the summit, relations or even statements of the most honored mountain people who give their clear opinions, as for example: Krzysztof Wielicki or Ryszard Pawłowski.

Krzysztof Wielicki: “ what we can see in the photos taken by the members of this winter expedition clearly shows us that the mountaineers stood on the summit. In the photos we can see elements characteristic for the summit. The team have reached the top in great weather which has also given us opportunity to see Nanga’s surrounding. I have no doubts. Nanga Parbat was won in winter.

Ryszard Pawłowski: “ I am sure that Alex Txikon, Muhammad Ali and Simone Moro stood on Nanga Parbat this winter. I reached the same top myself in 1993. On page no 117 of my book entitled “40 years in mountains.” there is a summit photo. Even then there was a characteristic element, so called piton which is also visible in the photos taken by Moro’s team. It is seen very clearly, as the weather and visibility on that day were fantastic. It would be hard to believe that Muhammad Ali hasn’t stood on the summit although he had reached Nanga twice before.”

During VI Open Climbing Days which took place in Małe Dolomity complex in Hucisko one of the main guests was Simone Moro – a member of the historical, winning expedition. Specially for the readers of Mountain Portal he has spoken about some – also controversial – matters and answered many thorough questions. What has he spoken about? We encourage you to read the whole interview made by Bartosz Andrzejewski.

simone moro wywiad 1 sB.A. : Simone, on 26th February 2016 together with Alex Txikon and Muhammad Ali you reached the summit of Nanga Parbat. You have made a legendary summiting. How do you remember your first moments of standing on the summit? What feelings did you have?

S.M. : It was, let’s say, a realization of a long time dream. I got few minutes to enjoy because it was quite late and we were very tired so I knew that I could dedicate maximum 10 minutes to this moment. But I enjoyed every second of those 10 minutes. My story with the winter climbing on eight-thousanders started in a tragic way. I attempted Annapurna with Anatolij Burkiejew, it was a tragic expedition, so let’s say in 1997 I started my dream with this kind of adventure and in 2016 I closed the gates of winter climbing with Nanga after my previous 3 winter successes on Shisha Pangma, Makalu and Gasherbrum 2. It took me nearly 20 years of my climbing career and for those 10 minutes I was the happiest person in the world.

B.A. : Was there a moment during your climb when you were sure of reaching the top?

S.M. : Yes. It could be strange but I had known since the beginning of this expedition that this year – with Tamara or whoever would climb with me – I was able to reach the top. I even assured Tamara at the base camp that we would go to the top.

B.A. : What was the most memorable moment of a summit push for you?

S.M. : The most memorable moment was when the sun hit us for the first time. We started from 7100, we were in the shadow, it was cold and windy. The best moment that I will always remember was when the sun rose, I was waiting for the sun, it was hitting the rock, but we were still in the shadow. From that moment I rushed like in a competition to that rock. I still remember the good feeling when the sun hit me.

B.A. : Do you think that without joining the two expeditions – yours with Alex Txikon’s - you would have reached the top? At the beginning you were choosing solutions different from those chosen by Txikon’s team.

S.M. : A good point of this expedition was that we were a perfect team which means that without any of us the rest couldn’t have climbed. The success came because we worked together, we matched perfectly, nobody cared less or stood behind. We were generous in the same way which can be magic. Only few times in my career I had such a good team.

B.A. : Tamara decided to give up summit push almost at the last point of it. How do you consider Tamara’s attitude while making such a difficult decision?

S.M. : Tamara had always been strong like us but on the day of the summit push she was at the beginning of her period and she wasn’t in her best condition. She was the only person who after waking up vomited and few minutes after her breakfast she lost everything and was dehydrated and without energy. So she pushed until she felt safe and could go back. And I remember that when she was about 100 m before the summit she said “Simone if I want to go to the summit you have to help me go down.” It’s not a good sentence to listen to. It was very clever to push until the moment when she felt she was crossing the line of safety. So Tamara’s attitude on that day was amazing and very smart, she stopped 70 meters below the summit and she was the first one who went back to the tent. We stayed and then it got completely dark, Tamara turned the light inside the tent and were able to see it and come back safely to the tent. It was an amazing moment.

B.A. : How, after such emotional situation as ascending the eight-thousander can you find strength to descend safely?

S.M. : This time was probably the hardest descent of my life when it comes to the summit day. You usually specialize in coming down very fast. For example I came down from the Everest summit in four and half hour. My idea was to push as much as I could to the summit because I thought I was able to rush down very fast but I couldn’t. It was very slow. It was also because me and Tamara were not acclimatized enough, we just spent one night at 6100, so 2000 m below the summit. They have never heard that someone else in history had spent only one night at 6100 and then gone to the summit to above 8000 meters. So for us it was a really big effort and the demonstration of reaching the limits (for example for Tamara). I found the strength because I knew that after the summit, after these 10 minutes of joy you are fully concentrated on the idea of going down. To survive you have to go down, my real goal, my real summit was to descend to the base camp.

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B.A. : After reaching the top of Nanga by you, there were some opinions of disbelief about your success. One of the first people to publish negative opinions was Tomek Mackiewicz.

S.M. : Every time there is a big success, there is a big discussion as well. For example on K2 in 1954 or when Hillary climbed Everest in 1953 – people argued who was the first Hillary or Tenzing Norgay. Also on Nanga Parbat in 1970 with Reinchold Messner when he climbed Rupal side and descended in Diamir when he lost his brother. Every time you reach an important and historical goal you have to understand that someone will argue. It was quite physiological, I was expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting was that they doubted although there were 4 people on the same summit and 20 people were watching the climb through binocular from the base camp. I have photos and a video from the summit. There is also the famous Summit Rock Pitons in the photos and the video with the thin blue rope which has appeared in the summit photos from Nanga Parbat for the last 15 years. I collected all these photos of the last decade and we all reached the same place, the real and the only summit. Ali had already been there 2 times before. On the event “Open Climbing Days” there is also Sandy Allan and I bought two of his books. Few minutes ago I was briefly browsing the books and what have I seen in one of his photos? The same Summit Rock Pitons! Exactly the same like in my photo! So it is not a game of Photoshop, and I’m disgusted by this low level of polemic. I understood that it had no sense to run a polemic about it because when I have such big evidence, witnesses, proofs, it means that with that climb probably I had just destroyed Tomek’s dream to go where we had been, the summit of Nanga Parbat. The only way for him to continue having this dream in mind is trying to contradict the person who had already done that before. Climbing history was written on Nanga and this fact has to be accepted forever also by Tomek. It’s stupid to try to change history and build false and ridiculous accusations. He shows how pitiable he is arguing about it and this is exactly what many of the best Polish mountaineers told me. Our summit is one of the most proven. Once, a very famous friend of mine told me “When you go so high and there is someone who is not able to go so high, he will try to pull you down”. He was right. All the most famous mountaineers of Poland and all around the world told me that they have no doubts, and immediately recognized the spot of the summit in my photo, so why should I be afraid of one single person? Is Tomek accusing all of them, the entire climbing history and all Nanga Parbat summiters since 1953? Doesn’t he think and feel that “being silent” is the only thing he has to do? Instead of running polemic he needs healthy life and he needs to start training as an athlete!!! Truly saying I should answer your question with other simple questions, everybody should do it – “how many eight-thousanders has he climbed?” If none, how does he try to teach me and all the summit team if he has never been over a certain altitude? Failing for 6 times on Nanga he has built a good experience to go and survive above 7000 in winter, but it is not enough to write the story. Summits are higher… The credibility of one opinion and one person is only based on the results and history of the person who speaks.

B.A. : Mackiewicz also claimed that at some time you had made his expedition impossible. Is it true that you had called to Pakistani services to do so? This version was confirmed by Arslan Ahmed who was also climbing with Revol and Mackiewicz.

S.M. : Well, this is another way to justify he didn’t summited. I gave Tomek and Arslan electricity, satellite connection, sometimes food, batteries with walkie-talkie. So, if he claims that I put any obstacles to this expedition these are the examples of what I shouldn’t have done. Thank God, this year there were 6 expeditions in the base camp. So it’s absolutely not true! Why don’t you ask them what they think?! The truth is that when Tomek left the base camp and said that he had finished the expedition he went to Chilas and had a debriefing – it’s an official statement about finishing the expedition. When he came back, the only message I sent him was that I didn’t have enough food, gas, etc. to support him and he should talk with Alex to get permission to climb along Kinshofer route and fix ropes. It was honest and clear of me. Is this something to be considered “making his expedition impossible”??!! This is another part of the story in which he tries to justify the fact that he came back home without reaching the summit. He was not alone when he tried to return up, he was with a policeman because it was mandatory to have a policeman for security reasons. They had nearly no food or anything else and Tomek was really sick. Tomek decided to return down and when he reached Kutgully he spent a night there, at 2 hours from the base camp, but the policeman decided to go up to us because he was so hungry! He told us that Tomek was not physically able to go up even to reach the base camp. It was a neutral policeman who declared this story, he was not a person paid by me. But we also have to be very clear and honest to say what people know but too often prefer avoiding to talk about. Some of Tomek’s declarations are often given under the evident influence of drugs and/or alcohol. So I think that what is said under that influence is not to be fully believed. That’s why we shouldn’t take into consideration what he said or be angry with him. All of the people from those 6 expeditions can confirm what I had done for Tomek and that I had informed him about not having enough food, gas, and so on. He put up his tent exactly attached to my camp and I burned his garbage at the end of the expedition as well. I also helped Tomek in his previous Nanga Parbat expeditions and he should remember it very well. I wish him that one day he could climb an eight-thousander, even in summer and than in winter and I wish him to be healthy and out of the darkness which – for me – are drugs and/or alcohol. That’s why I’m not so extremely angry with him, I’m sad because I know that it’s not really him who is speaking. As far as the matter of calling Pakistani services is taken into consideration I must say – no, I only called Gilgit, to my sirdar Faquir.

B.A. : How was your achievement commented in Italy after you came back? Were you welcomed like a hero?

S.M. : It was the first time when the press put such big attention on climbing after many years. But from the beginning I described it as our common success – mine, Tamara’s, Alex’s, Ali’s and I was paying attention to this information. Also in this interview I want to point out that I consider us as a team, it’s not an individual success. And anyone who puts in doubt this success they put in doubt the success of the entire team. And in Italy it’s been for the first time since 30 years ago when “La Gazzetta dello Sport” – a very famous sport newspaper printed colorful pictures and the news about Nanga Parbat on the front page. The last time was when Messner accomplished climbing all 8 thousand meters peaks in 1986. So it was also a big success from the press’ perspective.

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B.A. : Do you think you could ever take part in an expedition organized by Poles?

S.M. : Yes, of course. I remember when I was on Shisha Pangma in 2003/2004 with Piotr Morawski, Darek Załuski, Jan Szulc we were a Polish team with an Italian guy. One year later, in 2005 there was the same team and I was feeling very, very well. In 2008 I was visiting Krzysztof Wielicki in Nanga Parbat Rupal side base camp in winter while I was waiting for the helicopter to go Broad Peak and I spent two days with him. Honestly speaking he is the person with whom I feel very good, sometimes much better than with the others. That’s why I have a lot of friends here.

B.A. : Would you like to have a go to K2?

S.M. : I would like to but I have promised to myself to respect the feeling that my wife had in 2011 immediately after Gasherbrum II. People started sending me e-mails like: “After G2, K2”. She was very nervous, had some bad dreams and superstitions in which there was a clear vision of me dying during K2 expedition. So when I came home she told me about her visions and also asked me to climb whichever mountain I wanted except K2. I don’t want to check whether she was right or wrong so that’s why I will not go there in winter, maybe in summer, I don’t know.

B.A. : Are there any moments in the mountains when you are afraid and want to escape but despite that something pushes you to go further up?

S.M. : It has never happened to me. I quit expeditions and summit climbs many times, also in winter. For example in 2008 I was on Broad Peak in winter. I was alone on the col, between Broad Peak Central and Broad Peak Middle and I knew I was very close to become history, my partner was far away and he stopped to go back. And I decided to quit and come down just because it was 2.30 p.m. and I understood that it could be too dangerous to come to the summit late. So I wasn’t blinded by the goal. In Makalu in 1993 I stopped 163 meters before the summit, in Annapurna 100 meters near the summit so honestly I was like Tamara, very clever and smart even in front of such a great success.

B.A. : When will it be possible to meet you in Poland again?

S.M. : Well, now I am negotiating about going to Zakopane. I’ve been there only two times. I like coming to Poland because I feel that I am as well-known here as in Italy. I even think that before Nanga Parbat I have been more popular here than in Italy. It’s not because I like popularity so much but when you are well-known people appreciate what you do. And here people understand what alpinism and winter alpinism are very well. I always declare how inspired I’ve been by the giants: Kukuczka, Wielicki, Zawada, Berbeka, Cichy, Kurtyka. These people inspire me a lot. When you are in Italy and you are Italian you’ve got names like: Cassin, Bonatti, Messner before you and to follow their footprints is very difficult. So I had to think what I could do and when I realized that nobody had never done a winter ascend I thought maybe this is my way. So very patiently I started this project and learned because winter climbing is not a colder version of summer climbing, it’s a completely different thing. That’s why I like coming here, because of all those inspirations and soon there will be my third book published here in Polish language.

B.A. : Thank you Simone very much for an honest and valuable conversation. On behalf of myself and all your Polish fans I wish you more spectacular successes both in the mountains and in the lowlands and always a safe way back home.

S.M. : You’re welcome. I would like to go back for the last time to the dark side of this expedition. I’m talking about Tomek. I don’t want the polemic to hide the success, the beauty of a team work. We should talk only and always about the climb and not about a single delirious declaration. Tomek could be in our team, everybody could and nobody was forbidden to be there. But to be a team you need to be in a base camp, be healthy, well trained, with experience and in a good mood. Adam Bielecki, Jacek Czech, Danielle Nardi, Elizabeth Revol were potentially in the team. Tomek also could be, but you have to be in a base camp, and he had never reached it again and there was nobody to stop him from doing that. I think it’s energy loss for him to try to justify the fact that he didn’t climb. He didn’t because he wasn’t there at the right time. I saw that Tomek was really in love with this mountain and probably now he thinks that he broke that love but it’s not true. He can go there back next year and do the Messner route for the first time in winter. He shouldn’t consider this dream lost forever, and he should keep his dream alive instead of arguing. But sometimes it’s easier to argue than to follow your dream because following your dream is an effort. If you argue you don’t have to move your legs anywhere. I try to understand him from a human perspective. Nanga Parbat was like a love for him, a nice love to keep his motivation to look into the future in a positive way, a motivation to raise and save money. And now he probably feels like his love has been broken. And it’s more difficult for him to look positively into the future in a self-standing way. This will be really the last time that I take into consideration any polemic, especially stupid and trash polemic about the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. I don’t want to waste time with people that just hunt for attention in that disgusting way.

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Tomasz Mackiewicz and other unconvinced people were encouraged to take part in VI Open Climbing Days. There was an opportunity for them to confront their conclusions with what Simone Moro has told us. Unfortunately, after Moro’s speech during the event there were no people willing to ask questions connected with the controversies and present their doubts. What is more, Tomek Mackiewicz had his own speech on 20th May in Będzin, a town situated not more than 50 km from Hucisko. He could come to Małe Dolomity on his way back home. Unfortunately, nobody saw Tomek there…

editing and translation: Karolina Andrzejewska
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Summit photos of a winter Nanga Parbat expedition:

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Summit photos of the summiters of Nanga Parbat where there is a characteristic rock piton:

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Photos:
Arch. Simone Moro
Bartosz Andrzejewski

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