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ExWeb interview: Nives Meroi - ready for a double header
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Mar 1, 2005 02: 44 EST
Italian Nives Meroi is rushed. Chatting on the phone with Explorersweb, she sounds upbeat and cheerful. That’s because in just a few weeks, she’ll be doing what she likes most; climbing in the Himalayas. Her husband Romano Benet and long time friend Luca Vuerich are also going. After testing their patience on K2 last summer, the trio is back to speed up to the summit of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna in alpine style. But this time, the trio will be a quartet: Spaniard Iñaki Ochoa de Olza is also joining the team.

“We are leaving at the end of March, but there’s a lot to do. We have to get the logistics ready for two expeditions,” says Nives.

Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, the toughest double

“First of all, we will be climbing Dhaulagiri along with two Italians and one Slovenian climber. Afterwards, our Italian friends will go back home from Dhaula, but the four of us (Romano, Luca, Iñaki and I) we will be airlifted to Annapurna base camp.”

“We are attempting Annapurna in alpine style, as usual. But we have to be fast and do our best before the end of May, when the weather fouls up.”

Back to action after K2

The trio is aching for action after being forced to remain in their tents during most of their K2 attempt last summer. Back then, the weather gave them no choice to even launch a summit bid.

“The weather was impossible. We spent forty days in a never-ending blizzard. When the sky finally cleared up, we had to wait two days for the snow to settle. We had 50cm of fresh snow all over the north ridge. We went for the summit, but then the storm came back. We couldn’t climb higher than 7000 m.”

A reason to return to the North Side

So why did Nives and company choose to attempt the North side of K2 from China, instead of joining the huge Italian team on the Southern (Pakistan) side of the mountain?

“We really wanted to go to the North side. First of all, because we had previously attempted a variation on the Japanese route through the North ridge on K2 back in 1994 - we reached 8450 meters - and we would have loved to complete it. But the main reason was that the North side requires a totally different kind of expedition: The one we really wanted!"

The choice of solitude and exploration

"K2 north side is isolated and far from everything. Compared to the jammed Pakistan-side base camp, we enjoyed solitude and a sense of exploration. There were only seven of us there, we had the mountain to ourselves. It was an amazing experience!"

An alpinist’s dream

"The north side of Karakorum is an incredible place we know well. In 2000, we climbed GII from the North side. The weather was also awful, and we could not get above 6500. But it didn’t matter. Afterwards, we climbed several surrounding peaks, all of them unclimbed and with no name. It was wonderful: A real alpinist’s dream.”

Nives has always insisted on the value of the climb over the summit. The memory of it is what really counts, she claims. Nevertheless, she has summited six 8000ers plus Shisha Pangma central summit.

Climbing fast when needed

As for GII, the Italian trio returned in 2003, and wasted no time contemplating the landscape. In just 20 days, they climbed both Gasherbrums and Broad Peak, all of them in alpine style.

This spring, they are planning on a similar strategy: “We must take advantage of the good weather and move to Annapurna as soon as possible. Therefore, we are not testing new routes on Dhaulagiri. We will climb the classic route and bet on efficiency. The season ends by the end of May, and by then we must have summited Annapurna.”

It is true that pre-monsoon climbing season in the Nepali Himalaya ends by the first of June. However, the date also sets the beginning of the season in Pakistan. Nives and Romano have climbed all the Pakistan 8000ers… except one: K2 is still resisting their attempts. So does she have any plans to return?

K2...we have no money

“Oh my God, I wish I had. We would have loved to return to K2. In fact we tried… but we have no money. I don’t know. Next year perhaps we will be able to return.”

Nives is by far the most accomplished Italian female climber. A professional mountain guide with six 8000ers, it should be easy for her to find sponsors.

“Oh no, it's not easy at all. Not when you are Italian, at least. Moreover, we live in Tarvisio, not far from the border with Austria and Slovenia. Sometimes we feel quite forgotten in our far northeastern corner!”

Nives Meroi was born in Bergamo in September, 1961. She has summited Nanga Parbat, Shisha Pangma (Central Summit), Cho Oyu, G II, G I, Broad Peak and Lhotse. Nives has attempted K2 twice (1994 and 2003) through the north side and Everest in 1999. She typically travels light, climbing alpine-style, without oxygen or high-altitude porters.

Romano Benet was born in Tarvisio in April, 1962. Alpine guide and, he has 6 8,000ers, plus Shisha’s central summit, and has attempted K2 three times. He has opened many difficult routes in the Alps and a new line on Bhagirathi II (6,450 m), Garwahl Himalaya.

Luca Vuerich was born in Gemona del Friuli in December, 1975. In 2003, the trio summited GI, GII and Broad Peak to complete a hat-trick in 20 days. Only the Swiss Erhard Loretan and Marcel Ruedi (15 days) and Jean-Claude Sonnenwyl (17 days) achieved it in lesser time.

Last year they summited Lhotse and attempted K2’s North ridge.

Images of Nives Meroi (top), the trio on the summit of GII and in BC (bottom), courtesy of Nives Meroi.
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