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ExWeb Everest debrief: Simone Moro
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Jun 8, 2004 16: 54 EST
"I saw a kind of surprise at my not having made it to the top after everything Denis and I had shown ourselves capable of. But life is not always a victory and success and surprises like aches and pains come indiscriminately to the strong and the weak, the rich and poor and to the ugly and the beautiful." - Simone Moro

The Italian/Kazakh combo Simone Moro and Denis Urubko climbed the North Wall on Baruntse, 7129m this Spring. They reached the Kali Himal (Black Summit), also known as the North Summit at 7014m via a new route up the North Face, later named after Patrick Berhault who passed away this year in the Alps. The true summit of Baruntse was left untouched due to hard wind.

Next, Simone and Denis moved to Annapurna’s North Face. Difficulties along the way forced the duo to head over the the French route and later turned Simone back just before the summit. Denis reached the summit a few days after the other part of their team; Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovits, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Boris Korshunov. Denis climbed Anna to honor Anotali Boukreev, who lost his life on that mountain.

“Climbing is a way to discover one’s personal limits, techniques and psychology," commented Simone. "It is a way to become aware of the limits that one can overcome with determination, motivation and training. At bottom, these are the same qualities that motivate people to change their environment at work or adjust and better their emotional and/or social life. So if individuals are moved by the same stimuli, although in different directions, isn’t it time to stop calling alpine climbers crazy!?”

Here is Simone's definitely-not-crazy post expedition report:

"Here we are at this latest human climbing adventure which began over a month ago on March 28th, 2004. And everything went well—or almost everything. This word 'almost' is obviously referring to the last attempt to climb Annapurna where the cold and other factors decided for me that this time, even so close to the peak as I was, would not be THE time.

The facts: Everything went fine until the night of May 29th. Denis and I had been working intensively for weeks to fix the ropes, establish the camps and become familiar with various stretches of the way up. We also tested ourselves with climbing up in only five hours from base camp to camp 2 (nearly 2000m of height difference)."

Only a week earlier Piotr Pultelnik and team, who were climbing Annapurna South Face via the classic Bonnington route announced that they aborted their climb due to unforeseen bad weather. On May 29th Simone sent out this dispatch:

"Last night I had big problem with my stomach and so we decided to continue on the normal route. Now we are in camp IV at 7300 meters and this night at 1 o’clock Denis and I will start for our summit attempt."

Boris goes missing

"The night of May 29th, the eve of my and Denis' attempt to reach the peak, we were informed by Ralf that Boris Korshunov had not yet come back to camp 2. His dissappearance and the dark led us to consider that an accident could have happened on the way back from the peak on the dangerous crevace between 6900m and 6000m. At that moment, after this news, Denis and I decided to prepare for an emergency and to forget about our own ascent to the peak. Quickly, we got ready in our small tent in camp 4, studying a way to go look for our friend and companion everywhere possible.

Upon leaving the tent, good news arrived. Boris was alive! He had returned a few minutes before to camp 2. He had lost his sunglasses and orientation due to the glare coming from the surrounding walls of snow and chunks of ice. As we were already ready to act, Denis and I decided to try to make the peak then, instead of waiting for the early morning hours. MISTAKE…(for me)!

Sickness near the summit

The cold was piercing me, and knowing the sun wouldn’t come until the day only aggravated the situation. At 7600m I started to feel cold in my stomach and moments after I began vomiting. After a few heaves and more and more frequent shaking I felt my energy waning. We were still walking very fast (it took Denis 4 hours and 20 minutes to get from camp 4 to the peak) but I felt my condition getting worse, and my feet and hands were losing feeling.

By the light of the moon I was able to see the trapezoid form of the last stretch of the way up and the peak, but my stomach was giving out on me. Contortions and vomiting.

It was that moment that I decided not to be a hero, blind and insensitive, guided only by ambition.

I told Denis that I would go back because of the way I was feeling. I told him to continue without me. I would have waited for him awake in our little tent with a light as the dark would have prevented our camp from easily being found. That’s how it went. Denis Urubko on the peak in the middle of the night, 8091m!

The rest of the team made it to the peak without a problem.

Simone Moro"

"Everyone of us has a unique way to follow, a future which is probably already written down somewhere, unbeknownst to us. Written down for May 29th, for Simone Moro, was everything I have just shared with you, and I have accepted this page in my life with serenity and am enthusiastically getting ready for my next adventure."

Born in 1967 in Bergamo, Italy, Simone Moro is an alpine guide, athlete, federal instructor and, from 1992 to 1996 he was the trainer of the Italian National Sport Climbing Team (F.A.S.I.). He has been climbing since the age of thirteen, and today he does it full time as an alpine expedition climber of the world’s highest mountains (Himalayas, Karakorum, Thien Shan, Pamir, Andes, Patagonia, and Antartica).

By the end of the 1980’s he accomplished many feats of sport climbing including 10° (8b/8b+) of difficulty. Today he maintains that high level of mountain climbing and also dedicates himself at an equal level to climbing frozen waterfalls.

He recently received the gold medal of honor and bravery form Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and the Fair Play award from UNESCO in Paris.

Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the most dangerous peak of all the eight thousanders. The overall summit/fatality rate is 41% (although not all climbers summit of course).

Annapurna was the very first 8,000m peak ever summited. In 1950, French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal used only a rough map as a guide, and picked their way up an untried route to the summit. Their descent turned into a hellish nightmare, leaving them near death, with their extremities completely deadened by frostbite. Herzog and Lachenal survived their ordeal, but too many others have tragically lost their lives over the years.

On Christmas Day 1997, Anatoli Boukreev was killed in an avalanche, an event that shocked the mountaineering community. In total, only 134 climbers have summited Annapurna.

Year after year, climbers return to Annapurna despite its reputation as a difficult, dangerous mountain, a reputation earned in large part due to the high risk of avalanche.

Image of Simone and route on Anna (classic in yellow, planned in red) courtesy of Simone Moro.

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