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Kangchenjunga
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Photo by arch. Meroi, Benet
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Kangchenjunga, summits and abandoned attempts

19.05.2009 by PlanetMountain

On 18/05 at 2.30 pm Ferran Latorre from Spain reached the summit of Kangchenjunga. His companions Edurne Pasaban, Juanito Oiarzabal, Asier Izguirre and Alex Chicon summited circa two hours later, at 4:45pm. The Italians Nives Meroi and Romano Benet have abandoned their attempt and returned to Base Camp.

As usual it's the Himalaya which awaits you, that of the 8000m giants where nothing can ever be taken for granted. Last night Kangchenjunga witnessed the habitual "ritual" of attempts: those which reached the summit and those which, due to the unfathomable and suspended law of thin air, shattered on the final launch pad which separates the final camp from the summit.

Trail was broken by the Spaniard Ferran Latorre who at 2:30 pm was the first to reach the 8586m high summit of the difficult and third highest mountain in the world. Circa two hours later - according to explorersweb.com - he was followed by his Al Filo de lo Imposible companions Edurne Pasaban, Juanito Oiarzabal, Asier Izguirre and Alex Chicon.

One doesn't need to be a fortune-teller to imagine the joy, mixed with tiredness, of these alpinists on the summit. And there can be no doubt about Edurene Pasaban's smile who has now summited her 12th 8000m peak. Only Annapurna and Shisha Pangma are missing for her to become the first woman to complete the gran tour of the 14 highest peaks in the world. Gaining the summit was by no means easy, as the anticipated weather window was accompanied by strong winds. The mountaineers had left Camp 4 shortly after midnight and returned there 24 hours later, showing just how difficult conditions were on the mountain during those hours.

Things were difficult, extremely difficult on the other side of the coin, that of those forced to turn back. A particular mention goes to Nives Meroi and Romano Benet and their difficult and hard-fought decision to return to base camp. On 16 May the two Italian mountaineers had reached 7200m but after a day's forced rest due to the strong winds they took the agonised decision to descend to Base Camp. Romano was unwell and Nives had to decide. She was feeling stronger than ever but she didn't hesitate for even a second, probably it was she who took matters into her own hands and slowly but surely headed downwards.

Romano Benet was probably still feeling the after effects of the bronchitis which had struck him just a couple of days earlier. And possibly also the exceptional tour de force of the last 2 expedition months. As many will remember the road to Kangchenjunga had initially been "barred" due to strikes and local disorder. Meroi and Benet had therefore decided to change objective and reached the foot of Annapurna, but the weather and route conditions on the Queen of abundance proved prohibitive. The duo returned to Kangchenjunga on 3 May after another lightening fast Himalayan transfer.

This ping pong from one 8000m peak to the next certainly didn't help matters. This time round their 12th 8000m peak eludes them therefore. But those who frequent these mountains and these heights know all too well that nothing can ever be taken for granted. This time Benet had to turn back. And Meroi helped him descend to Base Camp. Less than two years ago, on Makalu, the tables were turned as Benet shouldered his companion after she had broken her leg. This is how things go in the Himalaya, and this is how things go (or should go because nothing can be taken for granted) in great partnerships.

Benet and Meroi are now safely back in Base Camp and this, at the end of the day, is what counts. More than the summit or any records. Once again they have remained united. Once again they were above all a couple... The remaining 8000m peaks (Kangchenjunga, Annapurna and Makalu) are still there and, as Nives states, if God wants them to, they will climb them. In the meantime their personal story has been enriched by another experience; this is what makes them strong.

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