More about Meroi, Pasaban, Kaltenbrunner and the questions of style
The letter by Andreas Dick concerning 'A question of style: Meroi, Pasaban, Kaltenbrunner and all the 14 8000m peaks' and the reply by the author of the article, Manuel Lugli. Furthermore we've published the thoughts by Cristina Castagna, the Italian mountaineer from Valdagno who has climbed 4 8000m peaks and who is about to depart for the Himalaya.
The mountaineering world has always debated about questions of style. All the more so if it concerns an 8000m peak. We have often been asked from various people to clarify the differences between one ascent and the other, between one undertaking and the next. We have always attempted to do this, while at the same time we have always attempted to not reduce things into a single sequence of numbers. There are simply too many variables at play. And the "human factor", that of unique and unrepeatable moments which every mountaineer experiences during the climb, is explained far too little by numbers and "technical factors". It comes as no surprise therefore that, after the article by Manuel Lugli, we received various emails. We've published below those we feel are the most important, with a clarification which is shared by both us and Lugli: what Nives Meroi, Edurne Pasaban and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner are doing in the Himalaya is a beautiful adventure: each will remain etched in history, in the big history of mountaineering and within all of us.
Letter from Andreas Dick (editor of the German Alpine Club magazine "DAV Panorama")
Hello, with interest I read the article by Manuel Lugli about the abandonment of Nives Meroi´s and Romano Benet´s try on Kangch. I aggree with his opinion, that it is a sign of real partnership to turn back and abandon the goal if the partner doesn´t feel well, and I am very happy for Nives that she had the strength to act as a human and not follow a blind ambition.
A bit more strange are the attempts by Lugli to distinguish the abilities of Meroi and Edurne Pasaban. I think it doesn´t lead to much, counting good and less good details. Style is to be reported exactly, comments can be made by readers for themselves.
Absolutely false and nearly a sort of image murdering are Lugli´s words about Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. For sure her husband Ralf Dujmovits is a professional organizer of expeditions, and for sure this hopefully guarantees an optimum basis for an expedition. It might be similar to Nives´ husband Romano Benet, with whom she always goes, or with the well organized expeditions of Edurne. But Ralf and Gerlinde always go alpine style (as far as you can call it so on the Everest-Ferrata). They carry their own gear, their tent, their nutrition. They don´t install fixed ropes. And last year, Gerlinde did the same for Ralf as Nives did for Romano: she turned back and abandoned her second attempt on Lhotse when Ralf had a severe cough.
It is nothing else than a lie to say the both depend on the help of sherpas to put their tents and to suggest that without Ralf, Gerlinde would not be able to go to the top. On Lhotse she waited for an hour directly under the summit to make the last steps with her loved one. On Dhaulagiri she went on her independent way. On K2 she climbed in an alpine style effort 3000 metres of altitude difference breaking most of the trail by herself, without Ralf. And in the Khumbu icefall you cannot avoid the installations of the Sherpas.
The three women are doing good jobs. Mostly "only" on normal routes, but that´s another question. They are not in a "race", as many outsiders are assuming They respect each other. Other men shouldn't try to divide them into better and not so good sports women.
I would be most thankful if you would publish my letter. I am mountain guide, editor of the German Alpine Club member magazine "DAV Panorama" and a close friend of Ralf (for more than 25 years) and Gerlinde.
Andreas Dick, Redaktion Panorama
The calrification by Manuel Lugli:
Dear Andreas, thank you for the attention you focused on my article on Planetmountain. I'd like to better explain my ideas and reply to your rightful criticism, of course with no pretension to persuade you, but just for sake of clearness. Incidentally, when I write an article, I reserve the right to express also my opinion about the facts, on which readers can agree or not, of course, but I definitely think that facts cannot be split from opinions. Otherwise it would only be a plain press release, a way of providing information that is not of my interest. But let's proceed point by point.
1) I still think that a distinction about style is essential for evaluating the merit of one action, even in mountaineering. I didn't say at all that Edurne is personally a poor or unskilled mountaineer; she showed a great amount of obstinacy and skills. I just said that climbing at altitude with the physical and psychological assistance of a team is different than climbing alone in alpine style: I wouldn't describe these as small "details".
2) Regarding Gerlinde I really don't understand the "violence" of your words. First of all, I didn't suggest at all that Gerlinde is not strong enough to reach summits without Ralf; on the contrary I stated that Gerlinde is personally very, very strong, and that's been known for a long time; it's obvious that if she weren't so strong, committed and serious she couldn't have reached the success she's got. I also know perfectly well that a good organization is not enough to guarantee success in the Himalayas (by the way that's my job). But it's a fact - if the information I got is not totally untrue - that in some of the expeditions in which Gerlinde took part she got the excellent logistical support of Ralf's organization, which I have known for many years. This, let me say it once again, doesn't affect at all the personal strength and seriousness of Gerlinde. On the other hand, nevertheless, you don't have the slightest idea about how Nives Meroi and Romano Benet move during their altitude climbs, about the amount of physical and psychological "independence" they use. Often paying a heavy toll, as it happened this time.
3) The least of my intentions, believe me, is to be a mischief-maker. But, please, let's not tell each other tales: you, we, like it or not, the three women ARE, in some grade, in a race, it would be naive to deny it. Because to become the first woman in history to accomplish the fourteen Eightthousanders is an important goal. I know that to the public this can matter very little if this happens with or without oxygen, with or without Sherpas. But at least to the people involved in the field it should a little.
Talking about women and 8000m peaks by Cristina Castagna
There are different ways to climb mountains and we at home watch, observe, comment even without saying things out loud but nevertheless one does this.
Who is there passively endures, some more, others less, what reaches their ears. Some are more sensitive, others less, but everyone knows that this sensitivity is one of our traits. So why do those who are here allow themselves to say what is right and what is wrong? Separate behaviour, gestures, the ways of acting which are OK and which aren't?
I followed Nives, her turning back and I admired her because she was strong: stronger than many men and women. She really is a Woman with a capital W.
I followed Gerlinde, a marvellous Woman I know a bit and I've often admired her determination and courage to climb alone with her small tent.
I saw Edurne's tiredness and I think she experienced terrible moments: moments in which she touched rock bottom but nevertheless had to continue to fight not for the summit but for her life.
Three so different Women who can please more or less, but who certainly in this White high altitude world paint new pictures in their own way which will remain in history.
I read about them and am thankful for being a Woman.
Ciao Cristina Castagna (El Grio)