ExWeb special: Emilio Previtali's soulride

Posted: Oct 02, 2007 02:47 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) "The sky was a perfect blue. My friend Marco 'Zaffa' Zaffaroni, in camp 3 with Silvio Mondinelli, Mario Merelli and Mario Panzeri was at the right place at the right time. I watched them reaching the Central summit in my binoculars... That's life." So ended Emilio's debrief from Shisha last year.
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<b>2006 recap</b>

One day earlier in windy conditions, descending from about 7600 m - after 45 minutes at about 5600m just short of the penitents - Emilio felt his perfect wave was ending. He had climbed fast, in spite of having to carry all his gear.

"I like to spend time on the mountain climbing and riding fast, not staying parked for days at end in high camps, boiling water and hanging out like a comatose. To me, climbing should be a display of style, not just get the summit," he wrote to ExWeb. "Just before the glacier of penitents, I felt my perfect wave was ending. Cool."

Nobody made it to the true summit on that occasion; winds, lack of joint infrastructure and bad conditions on the upper sections eventually forced all climbers back, until Inaki Ochoa took an alternative way to the top from C3.

Days after Inaki's descent two Peruvians also reached Shishas main summit - setting the total score of a mere three summits last fall until a Portuguese team one month later closed the season with a final victory - tragically at the price of a team mate's life.

<b>Back and bolder</b>

Now Emilio has returned to Shisha - and with an even more ambitious goal this time. Not only does snowboarding open up both ascents and descents, but also there are some great lines at 8000 meters. Plus, Emilio likes the challenge that the thin air affords him. He never fails to mention lines on the mountain itself and on other surrounding peaks. When he looks at any mountain, he sees opportunities for epic descents.

It is not so much the summit, but the ride down that Emilio is looking forward to. It is not enough to bring a snowboard and take pictures with it on your back.

For Everest and other mountains, he has two rules: without oxygen and he must ride down. His view on oxygen is pretty firm, Its like going to the Tour de France or Giro dItalia and competing with a motorcycleI would rather climb a smaller mountain without than a bigger with.

<b>Faster is safer</b>

In 2005, Luis Stitzinger did a speed ascent on G2 followed by a complete ski descent, investing a total of 17 hours from ABC to ABC. Late August this year, Luis did the top of Peak Lenin in less then 10 hours and skied down its north face.

If you are fast, you spend less time in the danger zone," he told ExWeb. "Short breaks of good weather can be utilized, whereas in regular style you have not even made up your mind to leave before it´s over.

When Emilio boarded down Peak Lenin, he stood atop the summit at 3 in the afternoon with a Russian, He was good, had climbed Everest without oxygen. Emilio boarded down on, one of the best lines of my life, and was in Camp I before 4 oclock just in time for dinner. The Russian arrived the next morning at 5 AM. The snowboard allowed Emilio to descend quickly, and in Italy, quickly is safely, he said in agreement with Luis's remark.

<b>The cons of speed in Himalaya</b>

Nevertheless, the speed style also implies risks. "I think that Tomas felt a little hurried," Tormod Granheim said about his partner's accident on Everest Great Culoir in 2006. "We still had 2500 meters (8000 ft) to go down, and he was on broken skis. Below the snow field, we came on a cliff, about 150 ft high. It was impossible to ski so we decided to rappel." The anchor broke, and Thomas Olsson was lost in a fall.

"Sometimes the safety margin concerning your endurance is very thin," Luis Stitzinger said a few weeks back. If you want to ski down you have to save a portion of stamina and concentration for this demanding task, too. You really need to know what you are doing. And you have to be acclimatized to an optimum."

<b>The mix-breeds</b>

"I'm a skier - not a climber," Tormod commented after the Everest accident. Speaking with Emilio, it becomes clear that he too is not your typical mountaineer or your typical snowboarder. You must remember, I am a snowboarder before a mountaineer, he told ExWeb.

8000+ ski-mountaineering is a new challenge, requiring added skills of the new generation. "There are many freeride and freestyle boarders who only want to go down, and there are many climbers, but they just want to go up it is difficult to find people with the same ideas as me," Emilio told ExWeb.

<b>Everest legends: Marco, Yuichiro, Davo</b>

While Yuichiro Miura became internationally famous back in the 70s for screaming down Everests Lhotse Face on a pair of skis, with a parachute in tow to keep his speed in check, Himalaya 8000+ snowboarding and skiing really took off only in the new millennium.

The first complete Everest ski descent took place on October 7, 2000 when Davo Karnicar skied down from the summit on Everest south side, and several teams attempted to ski/snowboard from 8000m peaks in the following years. Doug Stoup and Emilio Previtali both led expeditions going for snowboard descents of Cho Oyu a few years later.

A big tragedy was when Marco Siffredi died while attempting his second descent from Everests summit. Some time later, snowboarder Stephen Koch appeared on, Late Night with Conan OBrien, a popular, late-night talk show in the US, with his quest to snowboard down all the seven summits which ended in a failed attempt on Everest Hornbein Couloir, the same descent line that took the life of Marco.

<b>The descent strategy</b>

The motto of the grand old man of extreme skiing, Pierre Tardivel from France was "climb what you aim to ski," but the question is what Emilio will decide.

The <i>Soulride</i> is Emilio's second attempt to snowboard Shisha. And while he hopes to ascend without oxygen on the normal route, the descent is what it's all about: Emilio hopes to snowboard & ski down along a direct and pure line either inside the Hinks Couloir or the legendary Couloir Chamoux, one of the most challenging lines of extreme skiing in the world.

"The North Side of Shishapangma, with a vertical drop of 3000 meters, is great," Emilio says. "The very last section of the climb looks like a 4 kilometers huge white face, over 1000 meters high, with three main lines."

"The 'Couloir Chamoux' is a fantastic line on the north side of the mountain. Dropping immediately under the top, the Couloir Chamoux is falling on the perpendicular line just below the Middle Top. The snowboard descent from the summit of Shisha is the main objective of the expedition; if possible through this legendary line."

"The descent is really steep, and theres a 55°degrees inclined face, with an impressive continuity. This is a step into the future of extreme skiing in Himalaya," Emilio said.

<b>"Go there for fun"</b>

In his latest dispatch before the weekend, Emilio reported that the snow was bad, and the Spanish Al Filo climbers came back down from C1, exhausted. "At the moment to even think of the main summit is an utopia," Emilio dispatched. (There's a video on his website). The guys receive a forecast from Chamonix every 15 minutes, which showed improvement from October 1st. Even so, Emilio notes, the climbers will then have to break trail in the aftermath and between avalanches.

No matter the outcome, the last thing Emilio shared during his interview with ExWeb was a simple message: Never to forget, we go there for fun, not for any other things, not for the glory or the money.

<i>Marco Siffredi snowboarded down the Norton Couloir in 2001, after summitting through the normal route with Himex. Only one year later, on September 8, 2002 Marco attempted a snowboard descent of the steep Hornbein Couloir. He arrived at the summit at approximately 2:00 p.m. and waited for about an hour for the clouds to dissipate before starting on his way down. Teammate Olivier Besson watched Siffredi through a telescope at Advanced Base Camp. At about 3:30 p.m., Siffredi slipped from view and was never seen nor heard from again.

There have been 20 partial ski descents from Everest (latest an American team skied parts of the Lhotse face last fall), but only one complete - from summit to BC: On October 7, 2000 Davo Karnicar skied down from the summit on Everest south side. Hans Kammerlander skied down the north side in May 1996, but his descent was from 7800m and not complete.

Emilio's roots were in sport climbing. Along with his childhood friend Simone Moro, Emilio would keep on pushing the envelope; the two kept challenging each other to improve. One year Emilio would climb a 7c, the next, Simone would pull down 7c+. Then Emilio would push even further and climb an 8b. Unfortunately a shoulder injury slowed down Emilios climbing, but he just found another outlet to challenge himself with. Over the years he has competed in 9 Ironman triathlons. Thats a 2-mile swim, 100-mile bike ride, finished with a full marathon, 26 miles. Unreal, most people cant comprehend running 3 miles, let alone a full marathon, let alone a full Ironman.

From an 820 km mountain bike race to a 240 km marathon, Emilio does what he does for the love of sport. Right now he loves to snowboard. In the late 90s he competed in lots of major international freeride contests in Europe and in America. After that, he turned his attention to riding high-altitude peaks and the creation of Free.ride magazine, Italys first and only magazine dedicated to freeriding. Skiers, snowboarders, and telemarkers are all included.</i>



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"Taliban" image (insert) of Emilio Previtali approaching Peak Lenin, courtesy of his website.
Image of Emilio Previtali tearing it up courtesy of FreeRideSpirit.com.
Close-up courtesy Emilio Previtali (click to enlarge).

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