Nives Meroi and Romano Benet: I am the mountains I have not climbed
During their third evening entitled 'I am the mountains I have not climbed' the Italian alpinists Nives Meroi and Romano Benet talked about their mountaineering and life story. This was a special evening dedicated to a special story, as Manuel Lugli recounts.
Taking part in interesting mountain conferences has become a difficult task. In particular if the theme is the Himalaya, as the mood sways from boredom to exuberance with the greatest of ease, few are noteworthy. Simone Moro with his great stories and perfect pictures, Kurt Diemberger who despite his age and yellow-tinted slides still has the ability to enchant with his words. Almost all the rest aren't worth remembering. And it is for this reason that that last Thursday evening was a breath of fresh air when Nives Meroi and Romano Benet took to the stage with their "I am the mountains I have not climbed"
Nives's words follow one after the other in quick, clean succession, without excesses or false modesty. They recount the recent years, from 2007 to 2009 and miss out on the years during which Romano was ill. They talk of successes - on the crowded slopes of Everest and Manaslu - as well as various failures, from Annapurna to Manaslu, twice. Because failure - "fracaso" as the Argentines define it - is a fundamental part of mountaineering, as well as everyday life. It is fundamental because it places you face to face with the inevitable unexpected, as well as wrong decisions, and it lays all human weakness to the bone. Failure teaches. It teaches you to recognise errors and to start anew, often with greater thrust.
Accepting failure is an integral part of the education of any good mountaineer, regardless of how strong he may be. This is a point from where one can return, maybe via different paths and means, to success. Nives and Romano always put their failures to good use and the most important one came about in 2009: the failure to climb Kanchenjunga, with Nives descending from 7600m so as to accompany Romano who began to manifest the first signs of illness. Despite high chances of Nives reaching the summit and Romano's insistence. It is this which saved his life.
The pictures are beautiful and spectacular, but serve merely as a background to the words themselves which almost seem pressed into the frames as if they had been engraved. And they are words which, despite their simplicity and formal elegance, provoke emotions. I'm sure all spectators - the hall was packed and people had to stand - felt the sincerely, profound sincerity of the emotions and the facts. And all are doubly happy to know that Nives and Romano's human and alpine undertakings - after a two year break, which they describe as their fifteenth eightthousander - will resume next spring.
The test this autumn on Mera Peak brought the couple back to their former glory: record time of ascent and no problems at all. Whatever mountain they choose for their fresh start will be accompanied by the same difficulties and fears, hopes and illusions as always. Yet everything will be illuminated. Enlightened by the most arduous human journey imaginable, that of illness and healing: being able to see the stars once again. Everything else will seem, I believe, nothing more than a simple walk.