The early bird catches the worm. That’s what Simone Moro seems to have thought. The Italian mountaineer has set off earlier than ever before on a winter expedition in the Himalayas. The 54-year-old is already in the Khumbu region, the area around Mount Everest. Simone wants to acclimatize on the 6,812-meter-high Ama Dablam for his real goal, which he wants to realize – as last winter – together with the Spaniard Alex Txikon: the winter ascent of the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal and, if possible, of the 7,992-meter-high Pinnacle East in front of it.
This spectacular traverse was first achieved by the two Poles Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer in November 1986, i.e. in fall. The first winter ascent of Manaslu – without traverse – was also made by Poles: Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski reached the summit in January 1984.
Moro is a true winter specialist: He managed four winter first ascents of eight-thousanders, more than any other climber: Shishapangma (2005), Makalu (2009), Gasherbrum II (2011) and Nanga Parbat (2016). The Italian answered my questions:
Simone, how do you currently experience Nepal – against the background of the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
Here it looks quiet and safe and people are optimist about the next coming season.
This will be your fourth winter on Manaslu – the first three attempts in 2015 (with Tamara Lunger), 2019 (with Pemba Gyalje Sherpa) and last winter (with Alex Txikon) were unsuccessful. What have you learned from these failed attempts?
That it would be more convenient to use the false winter rule that declare the 1 December the start of winter but I don’t like cheating. All the three previous experiences on Manaslu started after the 21 December and the previous three weeks were perfect weather – but those days are late autumn. So this time I’m here to acclimatize better in the wonderful first 20 days of December and then I go to Manaslu Base Camp.
In the fall season, there was a lot of talk about the “real” Manaslu summit, which many climbers in past decades failed to reach because they stopped at one of the pre-summits. How important is it for you to reach this very highest point at the end of the summit ridge?
Of course, there is only one main summit on every peak but I always respected the decision of every mountaineer. Nobody has to take extra risk for others’ opinion, but at the same time it is important to declare honestly which exact point has been reached.
If you succeed on Manaslu, are you determined to follow it up with an ascent of Pinnacle East?
Yes of course, depending how cold and windy it will be, but I would love to do the first winter ascent of the Pinnacle and the second ever ascent. But not to die for it. I’m 54 and stupid or machi decision usually shouldn’t be taken at my age.
You are already preparing in the Khumbu. Alex Txikon will arrive later. So you should have a lead in acclimatization. Are you determined to climb the mountain together with him or do you also have the option to climb independently?
All options are open, and this is the great freedom and friendship with Alex.
The Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks reserves the option to send a commercial team to Manaslu this winter. Can you live with that?
Mountains are belonging to everybody so I can’t impose my wish or style. I will try to be fast but weather will decide. And I will be able to adapt to the reality of Manaslu Base Camp.