Simone Moro: “The coronavirus is like Russian roulette“

Simone Moro

Sometimes he attacks his victims, sometimes he creeps up on them – death has many faces. In January, Italian climber Simone Moro barely managed to get away from him. On Gasherbrum I, the 52-year-old fell 20 meters deep into a crevasse. His partner Tamara Lunger from South Tyrol was able to break the fall with a rope. After two hours Simone crawled back over the edge of the crevasse. Both suffered minor injuries, ended their winter expedition and returned to Italy.

What Moro would experience in his hometown Bergamo in this March, he could not yet guess. Bergamo currently represents the deadly danger from the corona virus worldwide: In the province around the northern Italian city currently between 100 and 120 people die every day of the Covid-19 virus. Simone is in South Tyrol, where he answered my questions.

Simone, the most important question in these days of the corona virus first: How are you?

Very well, thank you. I’m in Auer ( a village, 15 kilometers south of the town of Bolzano) with my son Jonas and his mother Barbara. In Bergamo I have my mother, brother and his two sons and wife. All are okay. But I lost some friends and others are fighting between life and death.

You come from the northern Italian city of Bergamo, which was hit particularly hard by the Corona pandemic. How did you experience the situation there yourself?

Tamara Lunger (l.) and Simone Moro before setting off into the Gasherbrum I icefall

Well even if it looks strange, I’m not a guy who likes to meet people and friends and has a big public life. When I do lectures or interviews, of course, I meet people but I’m a quite solitary person.

The Coronavirus is like a Russian roulette and you have to be lucky to escape from that shot. So far we had luck, and we try to stay close in home and far from any other person.

As a mountaineer you are used to being outside very often. What is it like for you not to be allowed to go out into the fresh air?

The emergency gave the opportunity to train alone outside to all professional athletes. So in theory I could keep going into the mountains, but I don’t do it just to avoid to push others to escape. I go running just two times a week on easy terrain and the rest of the time I spend at home training. Pull ups, push ups, abdominals, stretching and so on. I do at least three hours of indoor training and I keep controlling my diet to avoid taking even one gram extra of my body weight. I’m quite severe. I’m used to do a lot of indoor training, so for me it is not a big suffer.

In Nepal the spring climbing season was canceled. And it remains to be seen whether the summer season in Pakistan can take place. What advice can you as someone, who has been living in a corona state of emergency for several weeks, give the people in the Himalayas and Karakoram?

Twice a week running training

Well, it seems sure that also Alaska will be closed, in the Karakoram the same, Nepal is already closed and probably the closure will also affect other mountain ranges. The advice is to keep fit, very fit and climb on our own mountains until the situation will improve. Every country will have their own (corona) time and everyone will probably be forced to stay in their own countries in 2020.

What have you personally learned from the corona crisis?

Honestly, if you analyze the time of alpinism I choose mainly – winter climbs –, it should appear quite evident that I’m used to wait, to stay in a tent for weeks and months and to deal with difficult situations. So I like solitude and I’m able to wait. For sure, now everything is more comfortable (than on expeditions) and I can train indoor a lot on my climbing wall and campus board. I’m also working on my new book and planning the future, not only the climbs.

P.S.: Cala Cimenti, a mountaineer from Turin suffering from the coronavirus, is fortunately recovering. “I feel much better, I haven’t had a fever for four days and the lung problems are disappearing day by day,” the 44-year-old wrote yesterday on Facebook. “I would say (fingers crossed) that the hardest part is over.”