Renaissance explorers: ExWeb interview with Simone Moro about Cho Oyu SW face new route attempt

Renaissance explorers: ExWeb interview with Simone Moro about Cho Oyu SW face new route attempt

Posted: Sep 14, 2009 09:15 pm EDT

( Not all outdoor gear sportsmen drum up respect with the extreme community but when it comes to <i>"Never Stop Exploring"</i> you'd be hard pressed to find one to symbolize a brand slogan better than North Face athlete Italian Simone Moro.

Only months after his first winter ascent of Makalu, while preparing for a new route on Cho Oyus SW face, Moro got a commercial helicopter pilot license in LA, improved his skydiving in San Diego, and is ready for a new son to be born. <cutoff>

Simone likes to live large, and he fought for every step. ExWeb caught up with the climber/pilot shortly after his final flying exam, and just before he takes off for Kathmandu.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> Tell us about your new route on Cho Oyu?</i>

<b>Simone:</b> What I'm attempting is neither virgin nor unknown, but certainly a rarely visited side of Cho Oyu: the SW face.

Only three routes have been climbed there, plus some attempts. The wall is nearly 2,500 meters tall, very wild and steep. In addition to the usual high altitude and cold conditions, the ascent will combine rock, ice and mixed sections. I will climb light, in a small team, on unknown terrain.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> You are teaming up with Herve Barmasse - anyone else? </i>

<b>Simone:</b> Thats right, there will be just Herve and I. We are sponsored by The North Face in a joint expedition though, which also includes a separate 3-people team aiming for Cho-Oyus normal route: Lizzy Hawker, Tamara Lunger and Emilio Previtali. Emilio, by the way, will attempt a snowboard descent from the summit.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> How is Herve as a climbing mate?</i>

<b>Simone:</b> Herve is the prefect climbing partner; very strong, both physically and technically. We have climbed successfully together many times before. We are also good friends with a similar attitude toward the mountain, and the same ethical commitment.

Cho Oyu is Herves first high altitude experience, which I dont think will be a problem. Ive planned an acclimatization program in the Khumbu valley, similar to what I did with Denis Urubko before heading for winter Makalu. We will climb Island Peak and sleep on the summit before driving to BC.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> Denis Urubko opened a new route on Cho Oyu earlier this year; and now you are going there for yet another new line. Cho Oyu is known as an "easy" prep for Everest with few off-normal route climbs. Many mountaineers state that everything is done on the 8000ers, yet it seems like there is still plenty left?</i>

<b>Simone:</b> As I wrote in my book <i>8000 meters to live for</i> Cho Oyu, just like all the other 8000ers, has A LOT of possibilities for new lines and cool climbing projects. I'm heading for the SW face; but Cho Oyus North and East faces show a lot of new potential routes as well. People may consider Cho Oyu an easy 8000er, but climbing these faces may prove harder than K2s Abruzzi Spur!

The problem is that too many high altitude mountaineers (not all, thank God) are blind, dont know the faces; havent read my book yet :-)...and are only interested in collecting summits (like stamps or autographs) instead of adventure and exploration.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> After your lonely winter expedition on Makalu, how do you feel about returning to the Himalayas in "peak season"?</i>

<b>Simone:</b> I'm curious to see what the fall season will be like. Last time I climbed Himalaya in autumn was on a snow-loaded Everest in 1998. I usually prefer winter or spring climbing, but fall may surprise with some good moments.

BC should be less crowded than in spring, definitely a plus, and well have friends around this time, such as Mario Merelli and Marco Zaffaroni.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> Have you followed the Karakoram season? Any comments on the female race, Latok rescue, K2 and relatively few summits this year?</i>

<b>Simone:</b> Definitely, I like to observe what other mountaineers do when not out myself. Sometimes though, I must say, events develop in a rather weird way: Survivors become heroes, rescued become rescuers, accusers become the accused, and easy climbs are turned into extreme challenges (and the other way around)...

This season Ive seen some (few) interesting things like the <b>new route on Nanga</b>, or <b>Jorge Egocheagas</b> K2 summit.

Jorge climbed up and returned extremely fast, in spite of breaking his own trail. He reportedly stopped 12 meters shy from the highest point a distance he could have covered in 20 seconds? He stopped because it was too risky to proceed and in my opinion, by doing so he showed the climbing community how to use the head when climbing in high altitude

Some climbers have not been as clear-minded in the past, and ended up tragically. Jorge holds an amazing resume and bullet-proof credibility. He is not a liar whatever he says, I believe him.

<b>Ueli Steck</b> also performed beautifully on GII, his first 8000+ meters experience. I liked the new <b>variation route on Broad Peak</b>, climbed by French and repeated by Iranians, because it was something new. The GII attempts, Karim Shar, and the tragic climb on Latok were also outstanding. I may be forgetting some expeditions, but these are illustrative enough of what I consider adventurous and explorative climbs.

As for the <b>women 14x8000 collection,</b> it seems like a strange competition to me. It is a media-oriented subject rather than an actual climbing issue. In fact the first, second, third and fourth girls involved could be first in their own way: Oh Eun-sun could be the first ever; Gerlinde, the first without O2*; Edurne, the first with a film crew and media support (which is not necessarily a bad thing!) and Nives Meroi* might become the first with no (or very little) sponsor support and together with a husband.

<i>*(Ed note: Nives Meroi too climbed all her peaks without oxygen support, in her case including Everest and K2, most often without altitude porters and in alpine-style).</i>

I wont take a stand on whos better anyone trying to bag the 14x8000ers ALWAYS needs to be brave and lucky. That said though, the feat is simply <i>not comparable</i> to the climbs I like most: new routes, without O2 support, in small teams and alpine style, and always reporting the whole truth about their achievements.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> So how was your own summer?</i>

<b>Simone:</b> Completely different than usual. First of all, ten years after my daughter was born, were expecting a son on December 31st. It will be a nice and exciting experience.

And just now I completed another dream of mine: to become a Private/Commercial helicopter Pilot. I signed up for the (expensive, difficult and intensive) course at school in the US in April.

I completed the course in record time: 2 rounds of 69 days, including learning to pilot a Turbine helicopter (the same model used on the record-breaking flight to Everests summit). I studied and flew for 8/10 hours each day (and night), weekends included. I got my certificate and FAA rating on September 4, which made me just as happy as the winter summit of Makalu!

Actually, my big dream is to start and operate an air-rescue company in the Himalayas, using my experience as climber. I would associate with expert pilots while I improve my flying skills and also other climbers for the task. I really need someone to sponsor the project. But if I can't find anyone, Ill just have to do my best to turn the idea into reality by myself, somehow.

In addition, Ive got progressively involved in skydiving and will soon start BASE jumping. The combination of climbing, flying and jumping offers a huge range of possibilities and shows how wide life can be.

I wouldnt like to do only one thing all my life: it's too dangerous, limited, boring and risky. Winds of change might come one day, and we should be ready for alternative options. Each new skill has also proved useful to excel on the activity Im currently focusing on.

And I always train to keep fit. I run half-marathon every day. During the flight training in California I often went to a climbing spot near home. Training every day is like drinking and eatingImpossible to forget.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> Himalayan expeditions, flying, jumping, lecturing, traveling, writing, a family, etc. How do you manage to find time and energy for it all?</i>

<b>Simone:</b> I really don't know where my energy comes from. Ill turn 42 next month and still have so many things left to do: Bigger family, new routes, winter climbs, writing books, shooting films, founding schools, piloting, jumping, finding new sponsors, lecturing, taking part in radio and TV programs, rock climbing, running ultra-marathons taking some holidays too?

Days are sadly only 24 hours though, so I try to get the most of every minute. I just hope my body will endure the action.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> Back to the future, that is, back to the Himalayas: Why this line on Cho Oyu?</i>

<b>Simone:</b> Ive chosen this goal because Im not collecting summits, but expeditions.

Several adventures can be found on one single mountain. I climbed Everest 3 times that way (South, North, Traverse - and planning to return next year, maybe with Denis) and Shisha Pangma twice (two sides, in two seasons). Ive also climbed on Lhotse and Broad Peak twice.

Now I'm going to Cho Oyu for a second time, in a different season and style. It's not about what to climb, but how to climb. I too climbed normal routes in the past - that's not alpinism though, but high altitude tourism/trekking. Ive changed over the years and have no intention to repeat my mistakes.

<i>North Face athlete Simone Moro, 41, has done over 40 expeditions during the last 17 years. Some of his high altitude achievements include the first winter ascent of Shisha Pangma (8027m); a S-N traverse of Everest (8848m) with summit at 3.15 am and descent to base camp in only 5 hours; a first ascent of Pakistans Beka Brakai Chhok (6940m) last summer, in pure alpine style and a 43 hours roundtrip; a number of new lines such as on the north face of Baruntse; a number of winter ascents and speed climbs on major mountaineering peaks.

A difficult attempt on an Everest-Lhotse traverse together with Kazakh Denis Urubko ended in the successful rescue of a young climber gaining Simone a number of awards for true, climbing spirit.

February 9 this year, Simone made history from the summit of winter Makalu, together with Denis Urubko. This upcoming fall season, Moro will attempt a new route on Cho Oyu's SW face together with Herve Barmasse. </i>

#Mountaineering #feature

Only months after his first winter ascent of Makalu, Moro got a commercial helicopter pilot license in LA (click to enlarge).
"Herve (right) is the prefect climbing partner," Simone told ExWeb. (Click to enlarge).
According to the area marked out by Simone Moro for his new route (the red square) the Italians might climb to the right of the Czech team. Image and topo courtesy of Simone Moro (click to enlarge).
The Italian climber runs a half marathon (20km) each day (click to enlarge).
It seems only like yesterday Simone told us about his dream to fly heli rescues in Himalaya. It was 2009, only months after his first winter ascent of Makalu, that Moro got a commercial helicopter pilot license in LA.

"Ive got progressively involved in skydiving and will soon start BASE jumping," Simone said. "The combination of climbing, flying and jumping offers a huge range of possibilities and shows how wide life can be." (Click to enlarge).
"Im not collecting summits, but expeditions," Simone said. (Click to enlarge).