(By Kyle Henning) Italian mountaineer and cyclist Danio Callegari has finished his 153-day expedition linking the Himalayan Mountains to the Indian Ocean. He climbed solo to 7150m on Shisha Pangma (8013m) on the Ochoa Route (north face) in Tibet before aborting the summit due to bad weather. After returning to Kathmandu, he cycled solo out of Nepal and through India to the southernmost of the subcontinent. Now back in Italy, he speaks to ExplorersWeb about the expedition.
ExWeb: What are the details from your climb of Shisha Pangma? What made you decide to abort the summit?
Callegari: I solo climbed, alpine style without high altitude porters, guides, fixed ropes, or supplemental oxygen. Nobody carried my equipment on the mountain. I climbed to set up all high camps and attempted to reach the summit five times.
The weather was favorable until the day before my first attempt. From Camp 2 at approximately 7000m, I went another 150m toward Camp 3 to check the snow conditions and feasibility of climbing. Heavy snow had covered the path, so I returned to Advanced Base Camp.
Despite no change in the weather for several days, I decided to attempt the summit. Leaving from ABC, I reached C1 after dark. I left C2 in the early morning, but after a few hours of walking I had to make the difficult decision to give up because of an increasing number of avalanches and high risk of hidden crevasses. That decision was not easy, but facing a mountain telling you ‘no, this is not the right moment’, you have to respect it. I spent 40 days on the mountain, reaching 7150m.
ExWeb: From Tibet, how did you get to Kathmandu for the bicycle section?
Callegari: From Base Camp, a Nepali trekking agency vehicle took me to Kathmandu. I accidentally left my passport inside a backpack at C2, so I had to apply for a new passport and visas for Nepal and India. This forced me to stay in Kathmandu for another 20 days. From there, I began cycling solo west through Nepal and into (northwestern) India.
ExWeb: How was the Thar Desert crossing on a bicycle?
Callegari: I crossed from east to west, reaching close to the Pakistan border. I followed deep, sandy paths, reaching its most remote area. It reached 49°C in the inner areas, and I had to orient myself with poor maps, GPS, and a compass.
From there I cycled south the entirety of India, reaching its southernmost point in the city of Kanyakumari. I did the whole crossing from Kathmandu using only my own strength.
ExWeb: What were the challenges of cycling the western coast of India?
Callegari: I wanted to reach the end and finish this log journey. I crossed the Konkan Hills, a very dangerous and dense jungle area with varied fauna. There were continuous up and downhill sections, and humid temperatures never below 40°C. It tired me out, but in my opinion was one of the most interesting tracks.
The final kilometers were the most emotional of all. I was starting to feel and see the end of a journey that had lasted 153 days. Reaching the highest hill in Kanyakumari and staring at the infinity of the ocean left me speechless. I had spent 74 days on my bicycle, riding 4,877km.
Danilo Callegari is now home in Italy. In a few days he will begin training for his Africa Extreme 2014 project. In September he plans to travel to Tanzania, swim for 50km in the ocean, run 700km to the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and attempt to climb nonstop to the summit and back without intermediate camps.
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