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ExWeb Gasherbrum II winter summit exclusive: BC interview with Simone and Cory

Posted: Feb 04, 2011 05:30 pm EST

(By Tom Sjogren) On Wednesday, February 2nd, climbers from all parts of the world watched as the Italian, Kazakh and American took the last "impossible" steps on the first ever Pakistan 8000er to be summited in winter.

In this Skype interview made only hours after their return to BC, Moro shares his five keys to the success. Karl Gabl gets much love from Simone (who has less warm feelings for Krakauer). In all though, even the veteran winter mountaineers Simone Moro and Denis Urubko were shaken by the latest ascent. According to Denis, it was just sheer luck that they made it back. In this lengthy chat from BC, Cory gave his side of the story while Simone detailed the Annapurna/Anatoli avalanche deja vu that almost buried them alive.

ExWeb/Tom Sjogren [8:01:58 AM Los Angeles] Hey Simone! Congratulations from Angela, Tina and me - amazing work! Only problem is that you guys are so skilled now that you almost make it look easy.

Simone Moro [8:01:58 AM Gasherbrum II BC] Ciao!!! Did you hear about the avalanche?

ExWeb Yes - crazy! You guys are in a class of your own! Can I do interview with you now over Skype? Let me know when you are ready :)

Simone Ready now. First will be Cory, ok?

ExWeb OK :) Hey Cory - congratulations to the summit!

Cory Richards Thanks. Sorry, not used to a PC. Forgive the typing errors ;)

ExWeb/Tom Sjogren lol - I'm not a journalist just helping out Tina and Angela :) Only your second 8000er and it's a winter - was it like you imagined before you left?

Cory Richards I guess it is hard to say what I imagined. It was harder in terms of conditions, and certainly more than I thought I was biting off, but it seemed to fit, well...

ExWeb Was it tough to keep up with Simone and Denis?

Cory Richards Not so much to keep up, but to fit into their dynamic.

ExWeb In what way?

Cory Richards They have a lot of history, so managing to find an appropriate way to interact and be an effective partner, and execute as a photographer... that was more the challenge than keeping up. Keeping up is about keeping your head down ,)

ExWeb Did you manage to get footage from high up? How did you work cameras in the cold?

Cory Richards Yes, I have summit footage...footage from summit day etc. Cameras are tricky....like a high maintenance gilfriend. I just focused on keeping batteries warm, keeping lenses dry, and making sure I was mostly ready for the shots when they occurred.

ExWeb Do you have a girlfriend?

Cory Richards I actually just got engaged before the trip.

ExWeb Congrats

Cory Richards Thanks...she is anything but high maintenance ,)

ExWeb you just saved that one ;)

Cory Richards I know right?

ExWeb Congrats again - you must be supertired - we are all very impressed - can I talk to Denis or Simone?

Cory Richards for sure...here is Simone! Thanks dude!

Simone Ciao, here I'm.

ExWeb The first Pakistan 8000er winter bagged. You had a close call coming down yesterday - are you all OK? What happened?

Simone Yes I'm OK. Safe, happy, satisfied, enthusiastic. Don't forget that Cory is the first American EVER who climbed an 8000m in winter. He opened a page of history in your alpinism.

ExWeb He is Canadian right?

SimoneNO NO. He is American 100%. Born in Salt Lake City in 1981.

ExWeb That's what I thought! I had him as American and they forced me to change to Canada :) Will change back! So What happened with the avalanche yesterday?

Simone The avalanche was today, around 11 am. We were coming back following the flags we left along all the route from BC to C1. The track was gone completely due the fresh snow so we could just go in direct line to each flag, not knowing if we were in the direction to cross dangerous crevasses. The walk was super slow due to the fresh snow, often to the hips. When we passed below Gasherbrum 5 we knew we were in the most dangerous part but we could't be fast due the deep snow and spent too much time there. Suddenly a big serac fell from G5 face and a big powder avalanche. We were fucked...

ExWeb What then?

Simone The avalanche hit us. We were roped up and tried to run away but were caught for 150 meters. We flew above a huge crevasse and finally stopped/landed just 5 meters from it. By miracle, I was on the surface. I unclipped the carabiner and ran to Cory... I dug him out without my Mitt (lost in the avalanche) then I ran to Denis and did the same. They were buried with only the head sticking out. None was injured, so we continued down following the flags.

ExWeb Thank God you were tied in - that must have helped to keep you together..

Simone For sure.

ExWeb So the avalanche dragged you 150 meters? Incredible.

Simone Yes 150. Denis was head down when he felt the rope tightening him before stopping. He rolled in the righ position thanks the rope. HUGE AVALANCHE, usually you end up killed from such a thing.

ExWeb Have you experienced being in something like this before?

Simone Anatoli Boukreev-Annapurna - 1997. I wrote about it in a book that has been printed in Poland, Spain and 10 times in Italy already. But never published in USA...

ExWeb Well Krakauer's book didn't help Anatoli's reputation here - even though Krakauer made corrections later...

Simone Krakauer is simply a piece of Shit. And he knows I think this about him.

ExWeb We talked a week ago, you had
-46C and over 70km/h wind. That's a chill factor of around -100 degrees which makes this one of the absolutely coldest places on earth. Any frostbites? How did you stay warm? How was the weather on the summit?

Simone Yes is true, -46 in the night at C2.

ExWeb How was summit day?

Simone Hard, long, cold but determined. We probably didn't get enough acclimatization but I knew we could do it. It was the same situation on Makalu. If you train 365 days per year and are able to suffer you can do things like this. Karl Gabl was the secret of our success. Without his forecast we would have never tried. I trust in him like my father, like a Guru.

ExWeb He is w/o doubt one of the best forecasters in the world...

Simone We were still tired from our C2 climbs (4 days work and we took only 3 rest days) but when he told me that there was one and a half day of good weather ahead we immediately decided to go for it, and started out in bad weather. Karl is GOD, incredible, honestly. He told me, "Simone if you want to try to use this small window you must be ready for bad weather from the noon of the 2nd." And that's just what happened.

ExWeb You have now done 3 winter 8000ers and Denis 2. You are up there with Kukuczka (4), Wielicki (3) and Berbeka (2)...

Simone The statistic will change a lot if you analyze the expeditions that started after the 21st of December. (Granzotto told me) winter is winter and rules are rules. I will never be strong like Kukuczka or Wielicki but have you noticed that everybody now start after 21st of December? This means that we all now have to be precise, honest and accept the rules.

ExWeb That's right - those numbers are SUMMITS within the winter seasons, but many started during calender autumn when it is warmer.

Simone Exactly. I don't want to make polemic, especially not with my heroes (the Poles :), but according to Granzotto...he can give you the list of the real winter expedition (not winter summit).

ExWeb How is a winter 8000er compared to summer? Extreme cold can really affect your psyche - how do you stay positive?

Simone It is another world, really. I did 43 expedition, 11 in winter, and it is another world. Cold, extemly cold, windy, extremly windy and few good weather windows.

ExWeb Did you or the other guys want to quit at any time?

Simone NOOOOOOOO, in the next 5 years maybe but not yet! But what makes me worry is that I like to fly helicopter too much. I started a project in Nepal on that and I hope to soon become an angel coming from the sky ;) Sharing my passion and knowledge to organize rescues also when it looks impossible. This is something that could stop me to continue to climb hard.

ExWeb Are you going home now or joining up with Gerfried and the guys for G1?

Simone No, I will go to Shimshal to realize the bulding of the mountaineering school that I founded 2 years ago with Qudrat and Shaheen. I found the money and now I want to build the real building structure and supply all the gear and equipment (thanks to The North Face and Finecobank). I was really happy about the winter female 6050 summit. I'm behind that project and now the Bank (Fineco) gave me a lot of money to give those guys and girls proper education and future. I'm also dreaming to do something in this country with heli services... but that's a challenge.

(Ed note: The North Face is Simone Moro's main sponsor, and sponsored also the current expedition.)

ExWeb Congratulations again Simone! Can I ask Denis a couple of quesitons?

Simone Denis is sleeping, exhausted.

ExWeb :) Final question: You have only been down for a few hours - when it is all fresh - what would be the three most important things to do a successful Winter 8000er climb?

Simone First of all, light team. Second, forget the classic style. Third, be ready to stay and suffer for many days continuously on the mountain. Four: have Karl Gabl behind you. Five: be fast be fast, be tactically smart and fast. Bad weather doesn't mean to stay i BC... I REALLY wish the G1 and Polish BP expeditions to be lucky and srong. I wish from the deep of my hearth they succeed and come back safe!!
It was not a competition, just sharing a similar idea.

ExWeb Simone - you and the guys have been in our thoughts for the last weeks and we are very happy for you. Hope you can make it to California this spring and we'll take you to the same Italian restaurant in Santa Monica like last time.

Simone OK ((handshake)) agreed!!

Direct links to climbers' blogs:

TNF journal

Simone Moro blog

Denis Urubko blog

#Mountaineering #topstory #interview

L/R: Denis Urubko, Simone Moro and Cory Richards on top of winter GII.
Image by Cory Richards courtesy TNF, SOURCE
2011 Denis (in image) led the way in another world first winter ascent: of Gasherbrum 2 (26,362'/8,035 m)
Image by Simone Moro courtesy Simone Moro, SOURCE
Simone at 7900 meters. Ready or not, after three virgin winter summits the climbing community was forced to accept that a ritzy Italian was dominating the high altitude winter scene.
Image by Cory Richards courtesy Simone Moro, SOURCE
The route.
courtesy Simone Moro
Denis 'the mountain goat' Urubko can climb anything. They even had to invent an Asian Piolet d'Or just for him. Pictured on the Gasherbrum glacier between C1 and BC where the avalanche struck.
courtesy http://urubko.blogspot.com, SOURCE
(L/R) Simone Moro, Denis Urubko, Cory Richards.
courtesy The North Face, SOURCE