(Tina Sjogren) Last week in San Francisco we sat down with Simone Moro to get his take on current events. Today is all about the upcoming winter climbs; check in later this week for Simone's part in a tech roundtable. Here goes.
ExplorersWeb: You rekindled Himalaya winter climbing and now the last ones are happening without you. How do you feel about that?
Simone: I will just start later this time… Winter alpinism is not my propriety and I didn’t invent it. I just decided to become one of the protagonists, maybe a new ambassador after the Polish giants and golden age.
I’m really happy that after my winter successes on Shisha Pangma, Makalu and G2 the cold games on high altitude were recharged and new players arrived. The Polish regained their leadership and in a way I’m happy for them. Although I’m sad of course about the tragic accident they had on winter Broad Peak and the G1 tragedy with Gerfried.
ExplorersWeb: Why didn’t you go with Denis to K2?
Simone: After our winter success on G2 my wife suddenly god a bad feeling about winter K2. She has been right before and now she told me that she had a persistent sense I would die on K2. It came to her in a dream and I don’t want to gamble it. I believe we know the dangers and should listen to our instincts, especially if they are so explicit.
ExplorersWeb: We know you don’t like competition on high peaks in winter for the danger of such a situation. Is that’s why you aren’t there at all now? Have you stepped away?
Simone: Some people probably consider alpinism to be a competition but exploration is far from it. Exploration is not related to the success but to the unknown. So really I’m not worried but excited about other people winter climbing. I would be proud to know that I contributed to inspire some to start those kind of climbs.
I have so many projects in my mind that 10 lives wouldn’t be enough to realize them. Why would I be afraid or unhappy if someone else is doing the same things I like. I will choose something different.
ExplorersWeb: If you had winter climbed K2, what approach would you have had?
Simone: It’s hard to say. It’s easy to theorize any climb, much more difficult to realize it. Going in from China is surely a lot more complicated than Pakistan, especially in winter. But most important is to climb the mountain differently in winter compared to summer. It’s vital to be fast, acclimatized - maybe on a smaller peak before - and have a good feeling with your partner.
ExplorersWeb: Denis and you have been very successful in teams of only 2-3 people. This time Denis has expanded to 5. What’s your ideal team size and why?
Simone: Yes this is unusual and potentially new, perhaps also dangerous. But you need more hands on the north side, including logistics to base camp. There are no porters on that side of K2. He also needs money and I think he shared the project and the cost with more people to reduce the personal budget. It’s a quite normal solution.
ExplorersWeb: Denis told us he chose this route to minimize rope fixing. Explain to those of us who haven’t climbed in winter the difference between fixing line in summer vs winter?
Simone: Except for a few dozen meters in the technical parts on Shisha Pangma in 2005 we honestly never fixed ropes in winter. Rope fixing is better avoided in winter because it sucks days of work; the few good days are better used to climb.
It’s very hard to fix rope in winter, especially for the partner who has to belay and sometimes wait in one spot for a long time until the leader reaches the anchor point. Due to the lack of weather windows it’s better to use good days for climbing, in winter it’s mandatory to be fast and strong - also technically.
ExplorersWeb: Denis also said snow accumulation is almost non-existent on fields in winter yet isn’t that what got Gerfried’s team? Any thoughts on snow accumulation in winter in general and on Denis route in particular?
Simone: Heavy snowfall is rare in winter but wind can accumulate snow easily, mainly in the flat and bottom plateau (which is probably what happened to Gerfried during his G1 expedition). Denis route could be affected only in the first part, most of it will run along the long K2 ridge between the north and east side of the mountain.
ExplorersWeb: Compared to 8000ers in winter Everest is a beach in spring. Yet each season quite a few people come down Everest with frostbite while you and Denis seem intact. What’s the secret?
Simone: First of all I like to reinforce the concept that nothing is easy, included Everest in Spring. It would be the biggest mistake to underestimate the danger of any climb and not only in Himalaya. It has to be made clear that mountaineers and clients had to train hard (and hard means HARD!). This has to be the mandatory attitude 365 days per year. Jogging 4 days a week is not enough…
This is not a secret, and should be obvious, but too often you see people on the mountain spending hours on something that should have been done in minutes. Many mountaineers as well as Denis and I are fanatic and train very hard, which probably gives us a wider margin - more skills and energy to use while we climb. That doesn’t mean we are better or stronger than others, but simply more focused on what is demanded for a high altitude climb.
Climbing with a margin is safer. I was also able to turn back very close to the summit; sometimes it’s a smart thing to do to avoid serious problems. Because of summit fever or blind ambition too many people are unable to do that while they still can. I lost too many friends and we lost too many members of the mountain community just because they took the wrong decisions or the right decisions too late…
ExplorersWeb: Last spring Everest was shut down due to the accidents in the icefall. Usually the climb continues on high peaks even after fatalities. How common do you think it will become in the future that peaks are closed down after accidents?
Simone: I was not there so I can’t comment on the tragic days. Respecting the death of any person who passes is something we have to think about and pray over.
In a free world and activity such as alpinism, decisions have to be made and not be imposed. So I just wish and hope that people will always take decisions, individual or mutual, in total freedom. We don’t need dictators on the mountains.
ExplorersWeb: What are you up to these days and any future plans for Himalaya?
Simone: I’m here in USA to run my “usual” December 50 miles race organized by my sponsor The North Face (Endurance challenge). For the past 3 years it has been my last step of preparation before my winter expeditions. I’m going again in fact, but it’s neither K2 or Nanga Parbat. The plan is still confidential but will happen soon. It will be in the second part of the winter…
Some 50 expeditions later Simone Moro has done it all: Himalaya winter ascents, new lines, hard traverse attempts, a commercial helicopter pilot license, mountain rescues, surviving an Everest attack, and two kids. Simone likes to live large, and he fought for every step. Check his website for timelines, stories and pics.
Part-1: Exweb Interview with Simone Moro, “My wife said, please don’t go to K2”
K2 Winter Special: ExWeb Interview with Denis Urubko
Winter 2015: Tomek Mackiewicz Begins Acclimatization in Rupal Valley
History of Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat
History of Winter Climbing K2
Winter 2014/15: Preparations Underway for Exciting Ventures
K2 Winter: New Route and Two More Russians
Veteran trio to attempt K2 North Face
ExWeb Gasherbrum II winter summit exclusive: BC interview with Simone and Cory
Renaissance explorers: ExWeb interview with Simone Moro about Cho Oyu SW face new route attempt