PAMIR NEWS EXCLUSIVE
By Farman Ali
ISLAMABAD, Feb 14: The hours tick by at Broad Peak base camp as three climbers huddled around gas fire, pioneering the first ever winter attempt on this Karakoram temptress, await the weather to take a kindly turn to launch for the summit on Monday. They were able to establish Camp 3 on the climb at 7,200 metres on Sunday last in five days of atrocious weather, high winds and temperatures touching 41 degrees below freezing. But Italian mountaineer Simone Moro and his two fellow climbers from Shimshal, Shaheen Baig and Qudrat Ali, are upbeat. They have the skill and the necessary patience.
Originally Moro had planned to climb solo but the enthusiasm of the Shimshali climbers for whom he has great respect made him team up with them. The prospects look good as 300 metres of thin line has been fixed on the worst section in mostly green ice conditions. They braved the icy wrath of winter squalls on Sunday night carrying camp3 stores and equipment to camp 1 at 5,800 metres, says Shaheen while talking to this writer on phone from the base camp.
Italian Moro is a rare breed among climbers having many talents, skills and dreams packed into his wiry frame. He has renown as a winter expeditionist and Pakistan is his dream as none of its 8000ers has been scaled in winter.
Shaheen Baig summited three of the highest peaks in Pakistan and China — K2 (8,616m) with a Spanish team during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the first ascent of the second highest mountain on July 28, 2004, Gasherbrum-II (8035m) on July 9, 2001; and Mustaghata (7546m) in China on Aug 3, 1997. He has also scaled nine 7,000ers. He attempted Nanga Parbat (8125m) with a joint Pakistan-Japanese expedition as deputy leader in 2002 but could not make it to the top due to inclement weather.
Shaheen Baig was the first Pakistani to conduct a rescue operation on Lady Finger in Hunza in 1997 to bring back the body of a Japanese climber. He was a member of a Japanese Haj expedition to Passu peak to bring the body of another Japanese climber from camp-11 from a height of 5,500m in September 3, 2003. In 2004 participated in Magic Line Spanish expedition on K-2 to bring the body of a Spanish climber from a height of 6400m.
He received shield for scaling K-2 during Mountain Festival in Islamabad in 2005. Received K2 and Nanga Parbat Golden Jubilee shield, has been nominated for Pride of Performance Presidential Aw
Shaheen Baig and Qudrat Ali for the first time in the history of mountaineering had organised a local expedition to K2 on June 2006 to prove that mountaineers from Gilgit-Baltistan are second to none and have the capability to accept all challenges and bring laurels to the country in the field of mountaineering.
Qudrat Ali, summitteer of the four out of five 8000ers in Pakistan and winner of various awards, became the youngest mountaineer by scaling Mingligh Sar (6000m) in 1991 at the age of 20. In 1999 he got another chance to participate in an expedition arranged by Amical Alpine of Germany to Broad Peak (8047m) led by Ralf owner of Amical. He scaled G-II (8035m) on July 23, 2000, Nanga Parbat (8125m) on June 30, 2001, and G-I (8068m) on July 25, 2004.
The government awarded a shield to Qudrat Ali for his best performance in climbing at Mountain Festival in Islamabad in 2005
Simone, Shaheen and Qudrat embarked on the Broad Peak expedition in the first week of January this year.
Simone Moro, an all-round climber and experienced winter mountaineer of the world, has scaled Mount Everest three times, Broad Peak, Cho Oyu, Shisha Pangma in winter, Lhotse twice and five peaks over 7,000 meters.
None of Pakistan’s 8000ers (K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum-I, and G-II) have been scaled in winter.
In an interview to Explorers Web about his last year’s unsuccessful attempt on Broad Peak and this year’s prospects, Simone Moro said “last year, the cargo I sent to Pakistan arrived 15 days late. After weeks of delays due to red tape and logistical problems, the small team reached BC on February 14. Simone and Shaheen managed to establish all their high camps. The climbers did many of the technical sections without rope, and didn’t use fixed lines. Constant bad weather however thwarted all attempts to launch a final summit push. Simone and Shaheen tried their best when the weather allowed, including a marathon push in the last days of the climb. They climbed all the way from BC to C3 in deteriorating conditions. They reached the C3 location at night, but found their previously dug platform gone. With the late hour and no suitable place to pitch their tent, they returned to C2 and finally aborted the climb.
This time around, Simone has brought all necessary equipment and technical gear.
About the Base Camp (BP) climb, Simone said Karakoram winter is harder than Himalayas. “That’s why 5 of the 6 remaining 8,000 meters unclimbed in winter are in Karakoram. We had little snowfall so the avalanche danger is lower; but strong winds were almost ever-present and it was super-cold. There were no other expeditions or trekkers in the area at all.”
Giving advice to an aspiring 8000er winter mountaineer, Simone says: “A winter expedition is the best way to experience mountaineering. My best advice for a winter climb is to be patient and stay motivated. It might take up to 2-3 months for good weather and conditions to arrive — often mountaineers are not ready for such prolonged stays in BC. They pack up after 2-3 weeks of bad weather but this is not a key to success in winter. Last year I started out on December 25 and stayed until March 4. Respect the rules of winter. The astronomical calendar fixes the onset of winter to December 21 and no earlier than that. Real winter ascent means the whole thing — a full period of winter, full time, 24 hours of very hard, even terrible conditions.
About his fellow climber Shaheen Baig, his training and preparation, Simone says: “Shaheen is really a nice guy. He is not my porter but simply my climbing partner… I want to make this very clear! We will share the efforts, the tents, wait and, I hope, also the success.
Shaheen and Qudrat Ali have a very serious approach to alpinism. They run a small trekking agency and have set up a climbing school in Shimshal for local people including girls! A very rare thing in that region of the world…”
On his biggest worry for the upcoming climb Simone says: “I have no particular worry. Honestly I simply hope for enough days of ‘normal’ winter conditions and not too much snowfall.
Simone did around 40 lectures in four different languages all over Europe wrote his second book in Italian and English languages which he considers will become a very important documentation for high altitude climbers. He has collected photos of all the faces of all the 8000 meters peak; marking all the routes ever opened on those faces.
“This book could give new ideas and inspiration to the new high altitude generation, as they will immediately see what’s still unclimbed,” he says.
“With the new year a regular radio talk show is in the works for me, on the biggest national radio station ‘Radio24’. I will cover mountains, adventures, climbs and other great stories for one hour every week. I have already done interviews with Messner, Diemberger, Manolo and many others are in the pipe,” says Simone who runs 140-km every week, collects information about the mountains and valleys that will become his future adventures; he drives 50,000-km (30,000 miles) by car each year and spends months on expedition and travels.
“I prefer people who are not only good mountaineers but also multi-cultural, who care to learn languages, who are professional and with a simple approach to life. I hate diva athletes or those who can only talk about mountains and climbs. There’s more to life…”
About his future plans Simone says: “I will focus on very technical and extreme high altitude climbs in the next decade. I want to realise some of my dreams. After my return from Broad Peak, I will take more ‘me-time’. Right now, my life is too rushed. Lectures, books, travels, interviews, articles, photo-shoots, videos, TV and radio, website, sponsors, phones, training – it goes on and on – and I do it all by myself without any help.”
“All in all I want more freedom to focus on my climbing and other sports; 8c in rock, M12 in mixed climbs, something new on 8000ers and possibly some cool base jumps. And I want to focus on quality time with my wife and daughter.”
“Nothing is impossible.” “There is always something to learn.” “Modesty and simplicity are virtues, not limits,” are the mottos of Simone Moro.
The writer is News Editor of Daily Dawn Islamabad. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com