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Everest as seen from BC North (Tibet)
Photo by Francesco Tremolada
Nives Meroi and the summit of Everest
Photo by Romano Benet
Nives Meroi: getting close to the summit of Everest
Photo by Romano Benet
Romano Benet and Nives Meroi: relaxing after K2
Photo by arch. Meroi - Benet
INFO / links & info:
    All 8000m peaks climbed by Nives Meroi and Romano Benet (all without supplementary oxygen):
    Everest (2007)
    Dhaulagiri (2006)
    K2 (2006)
    Lhotse (2004)
    Gasherbrum 1 (2003)
    Gasherbrum 2 (2003)
    Broad Peak (2003)
    Cho Oyu (2003)
    Shisha Pangma (1999)
    Nanga Parbat (1998)

    News archive Meroi - Benet
    nives.alpinizem.net
    www.fancymountain.com

Nives Meroi interview from Everest ABC

22.05.2007 by Vinicio Stefanello

21/05 Interview with Nives Meroi from Everest Advanced Base Camp after having reached the summit of her tenth 8000m peak.

Everest Advanced Base Camp. Getting in contact with Nives Meroi who, together with her husband and "total partner" Romano Benet reached the summit of the roof of the world on 17 May, has become tradition. A deja-vu of these modern times applied to Himalayan mountaineering.

The satellite connection seems to bring to life the thin air encountered up high. And those moments, dilated infinitely, of breathing hard at altitude. Her voice disappears, she gasps for air which doesn't exist but it is her who first asks how I'm feeling, if all is going well. I'm used to this by now: this is Nives...

Despite the fact the Nives has climbed ten 8000m peaks nothing has changed. Nives remains true to herself: a sort of Mary Poppins of the 8000m giants who, even if she knows how to make the medicine go down with a spoon full of sugar, talks about the mad world of the 8000ers with all the sincerity that distinguishes this strong-woman.

Nives, how are you?
Fine, we're still at ABC but we're preparing to descend, we think we'll go down on Wednesday (23 May, editor's note).

Everest proved to be a hard nut to crack...
Yes, you know how it is, without supplementary oxygen it's a completely different ballgame... We did what we always do: climbed without oxygen, without preparing the high altitude camps and without high altitude porters. This is what we're used to since the outset and this is how we like to climb mountains. It's true that on Everest there aren't any great technical difficulties, and this year the mountain was equipped from the north just like from the south by the commercial expeditions. In any case though you feel those 240 additional meters compared to K2. And it was freezing cold: we really felt it... also because if you climb without oxygen you suffer the cold even more. Up there you breath the air of almost 9000m...

Talking about the cold, during the descent you were worried about frostbite...
Luckily nothing serious: just the tip of one of my fingers suffered a bit. I was worried about my "protruding" nose but it's only peeled a bit.

Can you compare last year's ascent of K2 to Everest?
Well, Romano and I were alone on K2 and we had the entire mountain to ourselves. Romano is right in saying that Everest isn't the place for mountaineers.

What do you mean?
Physically there is no space for mountaineers. The big commercial expeditions prepare everything in advance, equip the route, occupy the camps up high. So when small groups of 2 or 4 mountaineers come there's no place left for them... We we're forced to "illegally occupy" some camps, or rather, pay for the camps seeing that we too had paid our fee for the ascent permit.

On summit day, 17 May, there were problems with some mountaineers from another Italian expedition from Bergamo. I know that many gave a hand in the search. But to date there is no news about Pierangelo Maurizio…
Unfortunately there were problems... and we, just like the rest, tried to help as much as possible, even logistically. A rescue on a mountain like this requires the right means, you need to have rested, you need supplementary oxygen. And I have to say that the commercial expeditions led by Russell Brice and Kari Kobler were fantastic, offering all the means and their people at their disposal, unconditionally and free of charge. They truly deserve a big thank you!

Did you encounter other difficulties apart from the cold during your ascent?
No, it all went smoothly, apart from a night spent at 8100m, our Camp 2: we wanted to depart immediately but a snowstorm during the night forced as to postpone our ascent to the next night...

You then reached the summit, how did you live those moments?
Well, just like all others. You certainly feel the entire history which surrounds Everest, in particular on the north face where it all began. Add to this that Everest really is a beautiful mountain. You're so high when you're on the summit that you could almost find yourself face to face with a plane which has flown off course. Everest is strange and beautiful. We remained on the summit for circa 20 minutes; just think, they've even built a small altar where they've placed a Buddha statue protected by a glass pane... I have to say that I never feel anything particularly spiritual when I'm on a summit. I always need a couple of days to distil my emotions...

All's well which ends well...
Yes, apart from the fact that I lost my camera, obviously with all the summit photos. I had placed it on a rock at 7700m with a headtorch and I left them there for a second - even on Everest there are some things which you simply cannot postpone... then I departed with my head in the clouds, completely forgetting the camera and headtorch. Just think, a meticulous and precise housewife like me that loses her camera... I just can't get over it. Luckily Romano filmed the entire summit...

Talking about summit photos; some websites have written that your Shisha Pangma summit is in doubt. Did you reach the central peak of Shisha?
Christ yes we reached the summit of Shisha! We haven't got the slightest doubt whatsoever, even if in the photos we're immersed in clouds. We compared and described our ascent route with many mountaineers who've been there and it all fits perfectly: the highest point we reached coincides perfectly with the summit of Shisha Pangma. It's something we've put forward numerous times, in addition we've stood beneath Shisha recently and, I repeat, there's no doubt: we reached the summit!

Everest brings your tally of 8000m peaks to ten, all without supplementary oxygen. What do you think and how are you experiencing this race for the 14 highest mountains in the world? Is it a competition?
No, it isn't a competition simply because by definition competitions require the same rules for everyone. This isn't possible in the Himalaya and is totally unthinkable. That's why for me, for us, this isn't a competition. That the objective of climbing all 14 8000m peaks is "sellable" is a completely different matter, but certainly it isn't a competition. What I know for certain is that I need another four 8000ers to have climbed all 14, my maths adds up to as much as this. But it isn't a competition...

What has this crowdy and contested Everest taught you?
It's true that everything can be found here. This year someone even wanted to climb it in just underpants, but he's already given up... Perhaps the best definition was given by our friend Sergio Valentini who reached the summit on the 18th without supplementary oxygen: here there plenty of people, many of whom have perhaps never done any mountaineering before but who want to live this experience of the highest mountain in the world. The experience of seeing the world from the highest point possible...

What's the strangest thing you've seen on Everest.
Perhaps it isn't the strangest, but I was struck by a group of Japanese climbers aged between 60 and 70 whom I met while they were climbing the fixed ropes to the north Col. I thought: let's hope that this news doesn't spread to Italy, perhaps they'll think about organising outings like this for us when we're older.

So if it's not about reaching the summit of Everest once again, what are you dreaming about now?
I really want an ice cream... I feel the need to drop to a lower altitude... and dream about the sun, of tanning my legs a bit... We'll speak when I return home. Ciao.

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