Makalu winter attempt, the adventure begins
The team comprised of the Italians Nives Meroi, Romano Benet, Luca Vuerich and the Kazakh mountaineers Denis Urubko, Serguey Samoilov, Eugeny Shutov and Gennady Durov has now reached Hillary Base Camp and all is set for their winter attempt of Makalu.
Tarvisio 3 : Kazakhstan 4. No, this isn't the result of a football match, instead it is the "team formation" for this (difficult) attempt at the first winter ascent of Makalu. An extremely strong trio comprised of the Italians Nives Meroi, Romano Benet and Luca Vuerich has combined forces for the occasion with another exceptional quartet, Denis Urubko, Serguey Samoilov, Eugeny Shutov and Gennady Durov. The Kazakh climbers, just like the Italians, need no introduction, in particular Denis and Serguey who in the last three seasons alone have ascended two new routes on two Himalayan giants (Broad Peak and Manaslu) and carried out the first ascent of K2 from the north in the last 11 years.
Nives Meroi and Romano Benet are perhaps the mountaineering couple, and also married couple, who have climbed more 8000'ers than anyone else. Ten, to be precise. Their last was Everest, prior to which the succeeded on K2, completely alone on the immense mountain. Superfluous almost to say that Nives heads the female league table for number of 8000er's climbed, together with the Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. Just as it superfluous to remember, and underline, that all were climbed without supplementary oxygen and without high altitude porters.
Their style of mountaineering belongs to another era, it is both a bit obstinate and at the same time naive. A mountaineering comprised of the Nives' "almost careless" sweetness, Mary Poppins style and with infinite resources, and Romano's extreme talent and perseverance worthy of a true mountaineer. On Makalu they join up with their tried and tested companion and friend of many an adventure, 31 year old Luca Vuerich who with them ascended Lhotse, Broad Peak, GI and GII and who now returned to the highest mountains in the world after having become a Mountain Guide.
This expedition certainly has many interesting aspects. For Urubko Makalu could be his 13th 8000m peak, with just Cho Oyu remaining. Which for Nives and Romano it would represent another extremely important step, the 11th towards the legendary 14. But perhaps, more importantly still, is the fact that this could become the first ever winter ascent of Makalu. This fifth highest mountain in the world is difficult and dangerous. Many will remember that in 2006 the great French mountaineer Jean-Christophe Lafaille lost his life attempting the first winter ascent. Romand and Nives attempted the mountain unsuccessfully last October. Now they are set in Base Camp once again.
What awaits all is definitely a feat adventure, winter weather and Makalu conditions permitting. Much will depend on how the two teams amalgamate. A united team which, as increasingly often happens in modern Himalayan mountaineering, formed by chance when the two groups found discovered the shared objective. Another detail: on the eve of their December 25 departure the Italians had no idea weather they would actually meet up with the Kazakh climbers, who were unreachable. What is certain is that, difficulties apart, the seven mountaineers will speak the same language, which translates into a difficult and stubborn mountaineering based on experience.
"Mountain operations" will begin in the next couple of days. Good luck!