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Baruntse, Batura and Everest: Simone Moro cleans the air

Posted: Sep 21, 2006 03:15 pm EDT

In 2004, Italians Simone Moro and Bruno Camos Tassi plus Kazakh Denis Urubko opened a new route on the North face of Baruntse, reaching the Khali Himal (Baruntse North summit). January last year, Simone and Polish Piotr Morawski summited Shisha Pangma after a fast 5 hour summit push in very strong winds. It was the first calendar winter ascent on a 8000er since 1988, and the first winter climb on Shisha Pangma. After Shisha, Simone attempted Batura II (in Pakistan) the "world's highest still unclimbed peak."<cutoff>

Throughout his climbs, Simone respected the rules of the game; he climbed without excuses, coming back if he failed, never compromising his goal and commitment. He also said, "95% of the time they [other climbers] are just climbing the normal route - the same route someone took half a century ago. I feel like real alpinism takes other paths towards a sense of vertical adventure."

This past spring, Simone's plan was to open a new route on Lhotse's West face, without using supplementary O2. But Simone ended up summiting Everest and traversing down the Tibetan, North side - on oxygen - and without permit.

Now critics rallied. Not only did Simone climb the normal route on Everest, there were also questions about his Baruntse and Batura II climbs. The murmur was mostly behind Simone's back so ExplorersWeb compiled the toughest and most substantial of the criticism - and put Simone in the crossfire. He shot right back; replies arrived the very next day. Here goes:

<b>Khali Himal/Baruntse north (7057 m)</b>

<b>ExWeb:</b> Critics say the claim on the North Face site is not true. (Ed note: The claim was that the Khali Himal/ Baruntse North climb was a new line and first ascent of the North Face). They say that your line is more or less identical to the Czech Route above 6000m?

<b>Simone:</b> "Both before and after our climb, Miss Hawley told me she has no registered climb on that face. And although I sent daily reports before and during the expedition, I never received any heads up about a previous climb. Only after our summit did I get an email and a photo from Martin Otta, who gently congratulated us and informed me that they had already climbed the face in 1994, along a different and easier route to the left of our line (the ice axe in his summit image is a classic model not suited for vertical ice.)"

"I disclosed this information in my debrief. On my arrival in Kathmandu, I also updated Miss Hawley about it. She again confirmed to me that she didnt have any information about the previous climb."

"I decided to believe Mr. Otta's word even though Denis Urubko has a different opinion. I have attached the 2005 AAJ where at page 397 the story is reported (the lines are marked). As for the North face website, I will inform them immediately to change the wording although my climb still remains the most difficult on the face: It won the Russian championship in 2004 and the Paolo Consiglio award in Italy." (Ed note: Simone has requested NF to change the wording to <i>partial</i> route and <i>second</i> ascent.)

<b>ExWeb:</b> You have a photo of your route and descent on your site; why does it not show the Czech route, or mention it on that page? Why do you write on your site: <i>The North face of Khali Himal, or Baruntse North...was virgin and unclimbed</i>?

<b>Simone:</b> This is my personal mistake and responsibility. Im working on a translation of the texts and have therefore not updated the fixed sections of my web site in a long time (except for the "news" section). Im upgrading the site with new film and photo galleries and haven't worked on the old pages. I will now however change the Baruntse north photo and text within 24 hours. (The reason I published the original text and photo to begin with is because at the time I still had no conclusive information about Martin Otta's climb.)"

<b>Batura II</b>

<b>ExWeb:</b> What is your rationale for Batura II being a mountain? The prominence and distance from the summit of B1 is not so great - if you disagree, how can you know? Where's the proof for your claim; the sat image on your site shows almost nothing significant in this regard?

You do write on your site: "Batura II which is thus identified even by its name (Batura II and not Batura east, or west, or central) as a mountain which is part of the Batura Muztagh group in the same way as those belonging to the Annapurna group, which were also identified with the names I, II, III, IV etc according to their altitude and independent location."

But opponents say that the comparison with the Annapurnas is "ridiculous": On horizontal distance alone, A3 is at least 10km away; A2 and A4 are over 20km away. From B1 to B2 is about 1km, probably less. With a maximum drop between them of maybe a few hundred meters. Do you have a comment?

<b>Simone:</b> "This is a very delicate and interesting question. I spent more than 1 year researching information about Batura II and finally found a person who knows its story most; including all the details about the difference between summit and fore summit, principal peak and secondary peak, pinnacle and so on."

"Author of many books including a specific book about the mountain region incorporating Batura; Wolfgang Heichel from Germany was the person who actually suggested the Batura climb to me - explaining why Batura 2 has to be considered the highest unclimbed summit of the planet."

"Some people posed the same question as you are doing now and Wolfgang Heichel answered them directly. Other people who need a scientific explanation about this can reach Wolfgang at wheichel@T-Online.de.

<b>Lhotse West/Everest traverse</b>

<b>ExWeb:</b> Here on ExWeb you spouted a great deal about the crowds on 8000ers before going to Batura II. Last spring you were going back to Lhotse (West face) but ended up on Everest normal route. Why did you use the most crowded route there?

<b>Simone:</b> "My plan for 2006 was to solo a new route on Lhotse west face - NOT to climb Everest. I decided to abort my plan on Lhotse due the high avalanche danger: To climb the left couloir of the face as I had intended would have meant to cross a very dangerous slope - and I'm not suicidal."

"That's the only reason why I suddenly changed my plan and decided to do something different rather than just go down Everest's normal route."

"That's how the Everest traverse came about, alone (without partner) and in the night. The descent from the summit to ABC took 5 hours. The north side route was buried in snow; I didnt meet a soul there until north col and found no tracks or rope until C3."

"I can buy the criticism for taking the normal route this year, but you have to consider that a traverse was my only (safe) chance to do something different (that season, on that mountain) in the last few days of my permit. As you know I never was arrested or expelled from China."

<b>ExWeb:</b> Joby Ogwyn's site says that you are "Italy's most acclaimed mountaineer". What is the base to Joby's statement in a country that produced Messner, Cassin and Bonatti?

<b>Simone:</b> "Joby Ogwyn knows well that Messner, Cassin, and Bonatti (my personal friends) are symbols of mythical proportions in alpinism. I too believe they are the best of the previous generations. Joby lives in Italy now, in my city in fact, and when he wrote that Im Italys most acclaimed mountaineer he probably referred to present time (but you have to ask to him and not to me). I am often featured in Italian media, and Joby, seeing that, created his personal opinion."

"I dont want to enter a competition or classification. I have met many strong climbers, including Italian ones through my life and I like to simply consider myself a good professional climber who is able to climb 8b on rock, M11 on Ice, +8000 meters mountains (how many in the world are able to do it in the same year?). I also take pride in speaking 5 languages, having long-term business relations with 15 different sponsor companies, making film and presentations, writing a book and having a normal life with family, friends and hobbies."

<b>Afterword: Simone fights back</b>

After answering the questions, Simone also added the following conclusion:

"Criticism has existed since the early days of alpinism and will always be the fix partner of climbers. To climb a mountain is not an exact science but a human aspiration, an impulse, an instinct. That means that every word, act, reflection and answer is arguable and disputable."

"I of course know and accept that my previous and future life will be scrutinized - I only hope that the criticism will be done gently and from people who know and practice Alpinism, rock climbing and ice climbing."

"Too many people sit in a chair with their legs folded under the table and judge the world. To those guys I suggest they go (or return) to the mountains and discover what they are losing and how much time they are wasting on merely criticizing others. To my colleagues, I suggest to spend more time on training and less on disputes."

"I would also like to remind many of my colleagues that being a strong climber/alpinist is a great skill, but alone not enough to be a man."

"There are other values that make one ready for other kinds of adventure in this life; and to be the best also in that different kind of 'climb'. Such men (included a few climbers/alpinists) are the persons from whom I try to learn, and who my real dream and final project is to be like"

"Thank you again to give me the possibility to answer to your questions. Ciao and have a nice weekend, Simone."

(Ed note: Simone correctly points out that too many people judge from a distance. It has to be noted however that some of them - such as Miss Hawley - have been instrumental in bringing justice to true achievement by scrutinizing claims.)

<i>Simone Moro, 38, has summited Mount Everest (three times), Broad Peak, Cho Oyu, Shisha Pangma (winter), Lhotse (twice) and 5 peaks over 7000 meters. He has the first winter climb of Marble Wall 6400m (Tien Shan), a 24-hour climb on Fitz Roys West Face (Patagonia), and many other climbs around the world. Simone and Piotr Morawski summited Shisha Pangma Friday January 14, 2005 at 1:15 pm (local) after a fast 5 hour climb in very strong winds. It was the first (real) winter ascent on a 8000er since 1988, and the first winter climb on Shisha Pangma.

The Shisha winter summit was in fact Simones fifth winter climb: To the tragic December attempt on Annapurna in 1997 when Boukreev died, Simone had successful climbs on Aconcagua and Cerro Mirador (new route in alpine style in 1993), and on Marble Wall - the northernmost and coldest 6000er in Central Asia - with Denis Urubko in 2001.

There are too many people at 8000 meters, and it seems like all of them are trying to complete their collection of the 14, 8000 meter peaks, he told ExplorersWeb in a previous interview. Even for those climbers who arent collecting summits, 95% of the time theyre just climbing the normal route - the same route someone took half a century ago. I feel like real alpinism takes other paths towards a sense of vertical adventure."

"Therefore, I started attempting winter ascents, new routes, traverses, speedy ascents, etc. I tried to create my own alpinism, not to clone what had been done so well in the past.
</i>






#Mountaineering #feature

















Everest summit ghost appeared on the early morning of Simone's traverse (click images to enlarge).
"Attached the 2005 AAJ where at page 397 the Baruntse story is reported (the lines are marked)."
"Only after our summit did I get an email and a photo from Martin Otta, who gently congratulated us and informed me that he had already climbed the Khali Himal/Baruntse north face in 1994 (green line)."
"Otta climbed an easier route; the ice axe in his summit image is a classic model - not for vertical ice."
Simone's Baruntse climb won the Paolo Consiglio award in Italy...
...and the the Russian championship.
Author of many books including one specific about the mountain region incorporating Batura 2; Wolfgang Heichel from Germany suggested the Batura climb, defining it the highest unclimbed summit in the world.
Simone's Everest traverse route. "I can buy the criticism for taking the normal route this year, but you have to consider that a traverse was my only (safe) chance to do something different (this season, on that mountain) in the last few days of my permit.
Image of Lhotse avalanche. "I decided to abort my plan on Lhotse due the high avalanche danger: To climb the left couloir as I had intended would have meant to cross a very dangerous slope: I'm not suicidal."
Simone on Everest summit at 3.15 am. "That's how the Everest traverse came about, alone (without partner) and in the night.
"To climb a mountain is not an exact science but a human aspiration, an impulse, an instinct," says Simone, in the image with his friend Italian anthropologist Maria Luisa Nodari, who he called on to get him out of trouble in China after his illegal climb. All images courtesy of Simone Moro.
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