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ExWeb interview: Silvio Mondinelli, Five in one shot!
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Apr 2, 2005 18: 31 EST
Previously published Mar 16, 2005 11: 30 EST

Italian Silvio Mondinelli is ready to leave for Nepal. His goal: Annapurna, which he will climb from the north alongside long time friend and partner Mario Merelli and fellow teammates Mario Panzieri and Daniele Bernasconi, with whom he climbed K2 last summer. Silvio’s friend, Christian Gobbi, will also join the team for his first Himalayan experience.

Setting sights past Annapurna

Mondinelli’s ambition aims far beyond Annapurna. He wants the 14 8000ers and he wants them now.

“I can't waste much time. I'm getting old!” he told ExplorersWeb, only half joking. In the multilingual chat that followed – we spoke in a mix of Italian, English and Spanish – Mondinelli revealed his real plan: He does want to climb Annapurna, perhaps by a different route than the one Viesturs and his team will be climbing. But afterwards he plans on climbing four more 8000ers! If he succeeds, he'll finish the year as a brand new member of the 14 8000er summiteers’ club.

Annapurna approach

“We want to get to Annapurna’s BC as soon as possible. Abele Blanc and Christian Kuntner will be there too, and we probably share the works on the route. We're considering climbing the Czech-Slovak route. We won’t be able to confirm that fact until we actually get there and check the conditions though.”

The most visited route on Annapurna’s north side is the one climbed by the French team that achieved the first ascent in 1950. Although not so straight, it is usually the safest – or, specifically, the least exposed to avalanches.

The experienced meets the inexperienced

They are all experienced climbers, though Christian has never climbed an 8000er before. Annapurna will be a true first Himalayan challenge.

“Christian is not experienced in 8000 meter climbing, but otherwise he's a very strong climber. We work together as rescuers in the Italian Alps. He is skilled and motivated enough. In fact, he has been dreaming of climbing Annapurna all his life, and now that he has been given the chance he is really looking forward to it.”

Mondinelli, Kuntner, Blanc and Merelli are all Annapurna veterans. They have all attempted the highly technical south face (where there will be only one team this spring, led by Polish Piotr Pustelnik). Silvio still misses giving it a try… But time rules.

Eye on the prize

“Ah, the south face… It is magnificent! I couldn't launch a proper bid when I was there. The weather was simply too bad. It would be nice to check it again… But not this time! To be totally honest, my goal is the summit, and the possibilities are higher when climbing from the north side. So there we go!”

Otherwise, Annapurna might just be a first step in Silvio’s plans. The Italian is really concerned about the mountain.

“Annapurna is in my mind all the time. It's hard and dangerous. Yeah, I’ve got other projects, but it's Annapurna that really matters. If everything goes well there, I’ll be satisfied for the rest of the season, whatever happens. All the summits I can get afterwards will be kind of an ‘extra gift.’

Pending issues with Lhotse

After Annapurna, Silvio is moving to Lhotse, not exactly for a ‘pleasure climb,’ but to put an end to some old controversies. “I climbed Lhotse in 1994. It was an amazingly fast ascent in bad weather conditions. On the summit ridge the wind was so high that I turned back about 20 meters away from the summit. I’ve got a summit certificate. I honestly consider that I climbed the mountain. But as far as statistics are concerned, I guess only the highest point counts. Therefore I am going there to climb again and leave no doubts in my résumé.”

“Lhotse will have nothing to do with Annapurna. It is a crowed place, sharing the route with Everest. I don’t need much logistics or planning, actually. I’ll stay with some friends who will be attempting Everest by then. The route will already be fixed, and I will be acclimatized enough. All I'll need is a weather window to launch a quick bid to the summit.”

The monsoon will set Silvio’s dates to return to Italy, where he will stay… for only a few days. The busy climber is going to Nanga Parbat in Pakistan early in the season. Mondinelli is joining Spanish ‘Al Filo’ team to climb the Kinshofer route. Team members will be José Bereciartua and the lady climbers Esther Sabadell and Edurne Pasaban. After Nanga, while the rest of the team returns home, Silvio will stay in Pakistan to give Broad Peak a try.

Shisha… Last on the list?

But that’s not all. By fall, Silvio will attempt Shisha Pangma as a member of an Italian team. Shisha will be more than just another mountain. If he summits, it will be the last 8000 meter peak needed to complete the list.

Five 8000 peaks in one season is actually quite an outstanding challenge, but we can’t help wondering if it could spoil some of the joy. Here’s what Silvio had to say about it:

“In my opinion, it's great. All those mountains are beautiful, and I will enjoy them all. In addition, chain-climbing in the Himalayas is not new for me. It worked perfectly well in 2001, when I summited four 8000ers.”

“The only drawback is being so far from my home and family for so long. Luckily, my wife will try to meet me after Annapurna. We'll find a way to be together for a few days.”

Silvio Mondinelli was born in Gardone (Italy) in 1958. Since beginning climbing at 18 years old, he has done major climbs all over the world, including nine 8000ers: Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Everest, GI, GII, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Kangchenjunga and K2, plus Shisha Pangma’s central summit.

This spring, he will try to climb the five 8000ers he needs in order to complete the list of the 14 8000ers: Annapurna, Lhotse, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and Shisha Pangma.

Image of Silvio on the summit of K2, in summer 2004, courtesy of Silvio Mondinelli.
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