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ExWeb Interview with Nives Meroi: Romano comes first, whatever happens

Posted: Aug 17, 2009 03:33 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) True love is the strangest thing. It goes beyond fame, money, and to some unique adventure couples, it's "both of us - or none of us."

This past spring, Italian Nives Meroi gave up the summit of Kangchenjunga to help down altitude sick husband Romano Benet. With that she lost her rank on the female 14x8000ers list but as it turned out - possibly saved Romanos life. <cutoff>

The low-key couple never really made it known how serious the situation on Kangchenjunga was. Nives literally carried Romano for a while on descent from C4. On arrival in BC, Romano mumbled and stumbled, she told her home team.

Once back in Italy, Romano didn´t recover and their concerns grew. We went to the hospital one week later, and he has spent over a month there, Nives told ExplorersWeb last month.

Doctors didn´t know what was wrong with him they made all kinds of tests. It was scary. However, in the end it seems it was not altitude-related; he was anaemic before we travelled to Nepal, and the lack of iron in his blood caused a general decline as we gained altitude."

In this interview, Nives said the chain of events helped her realize what is really important in life.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> How is Romano doing now?</i>

<b>Nives:</b> He is back home and improving, but very slowly. Doctors said it was great we turned back, or it could have ended badly.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> You were strong and ready in C4, was it hard to turn back?</i>

<b>Nives:</b> I didn´t think about summiting or not. My husband was sick, we were on altitude and in such circumstances a quick reaction is essential. Romano comes first, whatever happens. Moreover, what was I supposed to do? Continue alone? It makes no sense to me, I have summited all my 8000ers together with Romano, I can´t think of reaching a summit without sharing it with him.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> Even without Kangchs summit, youre still a candidate to become the first female 14x8000ers summiteer</i>

<b>Nives:</b> Oh no I'm definitely not! I am happily out of the race. You know, I confess that at some point I somehow actually let myself go in this weird circus but all this stuff going on with Romano brought me back to reality. It opened my eyes, and put my feet back on the ground. I remembered why I climb, how I climb, what is really important in life, and what is without sense.

The insight filled me with calm. I'm out of the prima-donna game and back on course to my original understanding of climbing. To me, it's about fun and imagination. Its about exploring, and about experiencing it's definitely not about numbers.

I also remembered what the late Iñaki Ochoa once told me: Bring back the passion!

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> Would you include the so-called 14x8000ers female race in the no-sense cathegory?</i>

<b>Nives:</b> Absolutely. Look, lets be honest here. We all know conditions and difficulty varies a great deal depending on the style and the use of O2 and/or Sherpas. From that point of view, a competition is pointless, since contenders are not playing under the same rules.

The times of Kukuzcka and Messner are long gone they were great mountaineers; now it seems only the summit matters. On the other hand, mountaineering is free thats the beauty of it! Each climber is free to choose their style, therefore, there is neither a point in setting up rules. But with that, a competition is simply out of the question.

No rules doesn't mean that everything goes though, there are some things we all must respect and care for unconditionally: our life, and the lives of those around us. I mean, you have a sacred duty to keep yourself alive, and to not risk the lives of others.

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> You never used supplementary O2 or Sherpas on your 11, 8000ers. You are, like it or not, the most outstanding female high-altitude mountaineer in Italy - if not the world. How is it that you have virtually no sponsorship, and always climb on a tight budget?</i>

<b>Nives:</b> Ha, I wish I knew. Maybe it's because I am not exactly marketing-oriented. Maybe it's because I climb instead of playing soccer. Or maybe it's because I keep a low profile. Or its because I live in a very small northern town, far from Milano or Rome where the money is. Maybe it's because I'm a woman, while mountaineering is still a mans business to many Italians

<i><b>ExplorersWeb:</b> Finally, have you got any immediate plans?</i>

<b>Nives:</b> Sure. First of all, taking care of Romano. Let's see how he does, and how he recovers. Then we will climb, of course, maybe do some filming - we have plenty of ideas. But we're definitely not returning to the Himalayas this year. As for next year, time will tell

<i>At the start of this year, Spanish (Basque) Edurne Pasaban, Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Italian Nives Meroi were the three main women in place to become the first females to summit all 8000ers, tied with 11 mountains each. The situation changed when Korean Oh Eun-sun came out of nowhere and summited several peaks in tandem; now claiming only Annapurna left to crown the list.

Many muntaineers object to the 14, 8000ers race - which has claimed lives of both men and women. In addition, while the "first" will receive the biggest fame; some of the women have out of personal standard - prioritized climbing style and unusual routes before the list, which doesn't account for added difficulty.

A few years ago for example, Nives and Romano were the only to summit K2 without oxygen, Sherpas or fixed rope on the upper sections. That year only two other climbers reached the summit, heavily supported.

In the end, the position of the first woman in the world to summit all 14, 8000ers (Messner was the first male) is likely to go to the one who wants it more (and not necessarily to the one who "deserves" it most.) In any case, all four women represent the foremost female high altitude mountaineers alive today. </i>

#Mountaineering #feature

"I remembered why I climb, how I climb, what is really important in life, and what is without sense."
"I also remembered what the late Iñaki Ochoa told me once: Bring back the passion! All images of Nives during expeditions courtesy of Romano Benet/Nives' website (click to enlarge).
Nives and Romano celebrating their 15th 8000er summit.
Image by Laila Meroi courtesy Nives Meroi/Romano Benet, SOURCE