The second half will have to wait. Actually, Sergi Mingote had planned to continue his ambitious project this spring: all 14 eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen in 1,000 days. But the corona pandemic put a spoke in the wheels of the 49-year-old Spaniard. Instead of climbing mountains in Nepal, Sergi had to stay at home in the small town of Parets del Valles near Barcelona – with extremely limited freedom of movement, like all people in the country that was particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
It took Sergi only 444 days to scale the first seven eight-thousanders without breathing mask. In 2018, the Catalan summited Broad Peak, K2 and Manaslu, in 2019 Lhotse, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum II and Dhaulagiri. Actually the ascent of Mount Everest was scheduled as the end of Sergi’s project for May 2021. Mingote has already scaled the highest mountain on earth twice, both times with breathing mask: in 2001 via the Tibetan north side of the mountain, in 2003 via the Nepalese south side. He must now revise his timetable.
Sergi, Spain had one of the strictest curfews in the world due to the corona pandemic. How did you cope with that?
It was very complicated. In Spain it has been a very serious situation, many people are dying and it is terrible. Luckily I am fine and my family too. I keep training hoping that all this happens and we all come out stronger from this situation together.
Did the time at home under these unusual conditions change you?
For me it has been a luxury confinement, since I am able to be with my family after many months away from home. Being with them is the most important thing for me now.
You actually wanted to spend this spring in Nepal to climb Annapurna and Makalu without bottled oxygen. Nepal has closed itself off. How do you assess the situation in the Himalayan state, which you know very well from your previous expeditions?
The situation there is terrible. Many families, many friends, are having a very hard time and I hope that the fall season can be carried out with them in mind. They deserve to be able to live with dignity.
It is still open whether the summer climbing season in the Karakoram in Pakistan can take place or not. Are you optimistic that you will be able to leave for Gasherbrum I as planned?
The truth is that my dream is to be able to go to Gasherbrum I but I see it increasingly difficult due to the situation of the pandemic worldwide. Airspaces are closed and that’s a problem. I am still optimistic and accept the situation as it comes.
The corona crisis has thwarted your plan to climb all 14 eight-thousanders in 1,000 days without breathing mask. Have you already rescheduled?
The 1,000 days don’t worry me, not before or now. One thousand is a nice round number, but the goal is still to be able to lower the record of (the South Corean climber) Kim Chang-Ho with seven years, ten months and six days, and that is still possible. If I manage to leave it more or less in half the time, I will be satisfied. Now it is time to think about the population as a whole and be in solidarity with each other. Our projects can wait, anyone, but we have to beat this virus.
Update 6 June: Due to the corona pandemic, Sergi Mingote has postponed his expedition to Gasherbrum I in Pakistan, which was previously planned for this summer.