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K2 current, interview with Peter Hamor: "They were friends you'd steal horses with"

Posted: Jul 20, 2012 05:47 am EDT

(Tina Sjogren) It began with a Master Plan: Polish Piotr Pustelnik's 2007 come-back announcement made waves for its boldness. 

Over only 2 years the Himalayan Trilogy dream team (Piotr Pustelnik, Piotr Morawski and Peter Hamor) would attempt some of Himalaya's greatest challenges: technical climbing on high altitude, in light and small teams.

'The Slovak' in the group, Peter Hamor shared not only experience but an antire mountain range with his friends: the Tatry mountains dividing Slovakia and Poland where twenty years earlier he had been cutting his teeth in search of a second career after his first choice: soccer.

The new path took him to the ragged mountains of Pamir (1986), the great walls of the Alps, the adventures of the Seven Summits, and finally Himalaya, where he tried his first 8000er - Lhotse - in 1996, the year of Krakauer's Into Thin Air.

The three Peters' saga ended bittersweet: it took the men on adventures few get to experience until death broke them apart.

Once again Hamor walked alone. Literally on Kang this spring. 8 eightthousanders later, including Annapura twice in four attempts, Peter Hamor is currently back on K2. Explorersweb caught up with the mountaineer before his departure to Pakistan and shortly after Kanchenjunga - another of his remarkable Himalayan achievements.

ExplorersWeb: What happened on Kanchenjunga? Horia, Nives and Romano moved up to Camp 2 on May 14 but only you reached the summit?

Peter Hamor: Nothing unusual happened. We arrived camp 4 together, put the tents up and started the summit push at 2 am.

It was a bitterly cold, the moon wasn’t shining, and it was really hard to navigate just by the light of our torches. I went left, they went straight, none of us knew which way is better.

At dawn it became clear I had been the lucky one. I’m sorry about it, because they all are great mountaineers and fantastic people, who worked together during the entire expedition. I believed we would make it to the top together.

ExplorersWeb: This recalls your climb on the east ridge of Annapurna. What makes you continue where others stop?

Peter Hamor: On Annapurna I had visual contact with the boys so at least I knew where the Piotr's were.

Kanchenjunga was a little bit different. Nives, Romano and Horia were in another gully behind the rocky ridge so I couldn’t see them and didn't know if they were going up or down.

Daylight made orientation much easier and I continued to make a path, still hoping to see them in my tracks so we'd reach the summit together. I ended up on the top all by myself, just like on Annapurna.

At least this time I had enough time to descend and didn’t have to spend another romantic night under the stars. (Ed note: check out Peter's 'starry night' on Annapurna in the images.)

ExplorersWeb: You did five of your 8000ers with Piotr Morawski and was with him on Dhaulagiri when he died. What happened?

Peter Hamor: Piotrek fell into a crevasse about one meter (3 ft) wide on the trail during descent to BC and got jammed around 30 meters down. I abseiled below and tried to release him.

Nearby Polish mountaineers came and helped. It seemed like everything would be okay, Piotrek was still alive down there. But he was unconscious by the time we got him out and we failed to revive him.

ExplorersWeb: What made you so successful together and how you have found strength to continue?

Peter Hamor: It's a godsend to have good friends with which you feel at ease and share the same interest.

“Tres Pedros” was first of all a trio of good friends joined by the mountains having an equally good time at the house or in the bar. The kind of friends you'd steal horses with, as we say back home.

Of course most of the time we'd talk about mountains and new climbs. The most experienced; Piotrek Pustelnik was sort of our coach. The youngest; Piotrek Morawski had that fresh spirit to take on anything. But everything was based on the experiences we had chosen during our ascents.

And even during those expeditions we did in a team of two (Morawski and I), Piotrek Pustelnik was always with us. We feel the same way now after Piotrek died. Even though we won’t be a triplet anymore we should finish our projects – also in memory of Piotrek.

ExplorersWeb: Any plans to climb with Pustelnik again?

Peter Hamor: We are still in touch and I believe we will return to Himalaya. The two of us on some smaller mountains. There are so many beautiful peaks below 8000 meters we would like to go to. We didn't succeed on Pumori two years ago so we might try again in the near future.

ExplorersWeb: During all your climbs so far, which was the most memorable and why?

Peter Hamor: The East Ridge of Annapurna, the traverse to G1, the Gabarrov Spur on the NW Face of Annapurna, but also this year’s 15 minutes of solitude on the top of Kanchenjunga were all intense experiences.

I do like to remember the ascent on Aconcagua with my wife Maria. Each climb is different with memories and experiences I would not like to forget, except one of course, Dhaulagiri, my nightmare up to this day.

ExplorersWeb: There has been lots of debate about Everest lately. What was your Everest climb like and what is your opinion about the mountain today? Should the number of climbers be restricted?

Peter Hamor: I was lucky on Everest. It was my first 8000er. I didn't stand in line and was alone on the top with Vlado Zboja. But that is the past. (Ed note: 1998)

The present is completely different. I couldn’t believe when I saw pictures of the never ending line of people under the South Col. It would be reasonable to define the number of climbers trying to reach the top of Everest in one season (including porters and guides) mainly because of safety.

But I don’t know how to accomplish that.

Everest is a golden calf for Nepal and China, they won’t change it. As long as there is demand there will be supply and Everest is mostly business these days.

Both the “normal” routes are not demanding in terms of technical climbing. Everest difficulty lies in its altitude but that is easily solved by lots of oxygen bottles, high mountain porters, and fixed lines.

This approach devaluates the normal ascent although Everest itself still offers many possibilities for real Himalaya climbing.

ExplorersWeb: What would be your own dream climb?

Peter Hamor: We shouldn’t speak out loud about dreams or they will never come true. There are so many beautiful mountains I would like to go to, but life is too short to manage it all. Right now K2 is the most important to me. What happens after remains to be seen.

ExplorersWeb: You reached 8000 meters on K2 in 2007, back for a second time what route are you planning? Will you be climbing with Slovak Tomas Petrik and Czech Pavel Bem?

Peter Hamor: I met Tomas and Pavel in the high Tatras but we haven't climbed any of the big mountains together so we don't plan a hard line on K2, where all routes are difficult anyway.

I think we'll have a nice expedition, they're great guys.

Peter Hamor started to climb at age 17, in the early 1980s. "I used to play soccer, but didn’t handle the transition from juniors to upper league. I felt it was all about the money and not about the sport, so I looked for something new."

He tried mountaineering for his proximity to the High Tatras. Since then, Hamor's life is mostly about climbing. He runs an outdoor adventure outfit (climbing, bungee jumping, etc..). Wife Maria is director of the International Festival of Mountain Films, held in Poprad, Slovakia each October.

The festival offers Peter plenty opportunity to, "see many good films and meet many interesting people, which is very inspiring for me." Many expeditions were born during the festival, he says.

As for life in general, "our kids are big enough now, so Maria and I got more time to climb," Peter told ExplorersWeb. "It's very easy and comfortable to have a climbing partner at home."

Favo book: "I read Bonington and his Everest the Unclimbed Ridge right now. But it doesn’t mean I won’t read anything else – like something about K2."

Favorite meal: "Dahl Bath – and I’m not kidding."

Piotr Morawski's GI & GII debrief: Beyond the summit fever

Pakistan wrap-up: records set straight on Gasherbrums and rockfall alert on Broad Peak

ExWeb Broad Peak special: Interview with Piotr Pustelnik, "be very careful and stick together!"

Best of ExplorersWeb 2006 Awards: Piotr Pustelnik and the Himalayan Trilogy team

ExWeb interview with Piotr Pustelnik: The Master Plan

Hamor's main climbs:

Kangchenjunga (8 586 m)
Makalu (8 463 m)
Annapurna (8 091 m)
Ama Dablam (6 856 m)
Annapurna (to 7 900 m)
Gasherbrum I (8 068 m)
Gasherbrum II (8 035 m)
Nanga Parbat (8 126 m)
K2 (to 8 000 m)
Cho Oyu (8 201 m)
Annapurna (8 091 m)
Broad Peak (8 047 m)
Mt. McKinley (6 194 m)
Annapurna (to 7 400 m)
Mount Vinson (4 897 m)
Aconcagua (6 962 m)
Aconcagua (6 962 m) SW
Aconcagua (6 962 m) Polish
Elbrus (5 642 m)
Mt. McKinley (6 194 m) Washburn
Mt. McKinley (6 194 m) West Rib
Kili (5 896 m)
Carstensz Pyramid (4 884 m)
Ngga Pulu (4 864 m)
Mount Everest (8 848 m)
Lhotse (to 7 350 m)
Eiger (3 970 m) S face
Grandes Jorasses (4 208 m) S face
Matterhorn (4 482 m) – S face
Khan Tengri (to 6800 m)
Pik Korženevskej (7 105 m), Pamir

#Mountaineering #topstory #interview

Peter Hamor on Kanchenjunga in spring 2012.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Peter Hamor on Kanchenjunga in spring 2012.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Hamor's more familiar face: on the summit of Annapurna, solo without shelter, gas, food or a radio.
How come that K2 has been so deadly compared to Everest in modern days? Clear cut reporting and layout of facts provide closure and answers for future climbers.
Image by ExplorersWeb courtesy ExplorersWeb, SOURCE
Behind Peter, his friends had turned back with an ailing mate. Image of section a few meters below the East Summit, 8010m on Annapurna, courtesy of Piotr Morawski (click to enlarge).
Hamor's summit joy was brief. A terrible night descent was ahead, and he was left alone to negotiate Annapurna's death zone.
Image by Peter Hamor courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Hamor's hand on Annapurna 8091 main summit at 9.15 pm local time, May 21st 2006.
Starry night. Without supplies but in desperate need of rest, Hamor proceeded to dig a cave. It took four hours. Freezing to the core, he stayed in the bivouac until 5 am when he woke up and used the light of dawn to descend. Image of the cave by Peter Hamor.
Image by Peter Hamor courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Peter Hamor and Horia Colibasanu on Kang in 2012.
Image by Horia Colibasanu courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Peter Hamor and Horia Colibasanu on Kang in 2012.
Image by Horia Colibasanu courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Last rock with prayer flags enroute to the summit of Kanchenjunga.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Last rock with prayer flags enroute to the summit of Kanchenjunga.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
The final stretch to summit goes over a snowy field.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
The final stretch to summit goes over a snowy field.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Kanchenjunga tippity top.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Kanchenjunga tippity top.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Tres Pedros in Annapurna high camp.
Alone again. Peter Hamor on Kang.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Alone again. Peter Hamor on Kang.
Image by Unknown courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE