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Italian mountain guide and member of the Mountain Rescue Squad Oskar Piazza
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Renzo Benedetti climbing up House's Chimney during the Scoiattoli di Cortina expedition K2 1954 - 2004
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Gigliola Mancinelli from Ancona
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Nepal earthquake: Oskar Piazza, Gigliola Mancinelli, Renzo Benedetti and Marco Pojer perish

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The news was made official a few hours ago: the well-known Italian mountain guide and member of the mountain rescue service Oskar Piazza and Dr. Gigliola Mancinelli perished beneath an avalanche triggered by the earthquake that destroyed the village of Langtang in northern Nepal. The other two expedition members Giovanni Pizzorini and Pino Antonini have survived. Four Italians died as a result of Saturday’s earthquake; the well-known mountaineer Renzo Benedetti and Marco Pojer were buried by an avalanche in the Rolwaling Valley. In the meantime Nepal is enduring days of extreme difficulty.

While the situation in Nepal is becoming, if at all possible, even more dramatic, the death toll of Saturday morning’s terrible earthquake looks set to rise further still. So much so that official estimates and the ensuing news - in truth almost always partial and confused - now talk of 5,000 victims. Of thousands and thousands of people injured. Of hospitals filled to the brim. Of a country brought to its knees, with no electricity, food, medicine; nothing. At present many mountain villages still remain isolated and little, if anything at all, is known about their fate. While all this happens, in the midst of this terrible tragedy, comes the news that touches us personally, that bring with it faces and eyes we know well. How can we talk about them in the midst of so much pain? What place can be reserved to these tragedies that seem lost in the immense disaster for so many Nepalese men, women, boys and girls?

We asked ourselves these questions when we learnt about the deaths of Oskar Piazza and Gigliola Mancinelli. Their names join those of the other two Italian mountaineers, Renzo Benedetti and Marco Pojer, who perished beneath the avalanche triggered by the earthquake as they made their way up the Langtang Trek in Nepal’s beautiful Rolwaling Valley. Iolanda Mattevi, their travel companion who miraculously escaped together with mountain guide Attilio Dantone, spoke to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica about those terrible moments and how Benedetti and Pojer had made a detour "to take medicines to an old Nepalese woman they knew." A detour and a gesture that perhaps cost them their lives. A gesture that is perhaps also a sign of what this country represents - and what the general "sentiment" is towards Nepal and its people - for so many trekkers and mountaineers. A spirit that in these hours, we hope and we’re certain, will mobilize souls and solidarity from all mountain climbers worldwide.

It is this spirit that we always saw in the eyes of Oskar Piazza. The "gentle giant" of mountaineering whose love for the mountains had become a raison d’être, whose passion for the mountain rescue service had become a true mission. Oskar had travelled to Nepal, together with Dr. Gigliola Mancinelli, Giovanni Pizzorini and Pino Antonini, to explore yet another canyon in the wild Langtang Valley, to the north of Kathmandu and on the border of Tibet. This is where the village of Langtang stood, circa 30 houses including the Lodge where Piazza and Mancinelli resided; for both of them there was no escape. While Pizzorini and Antonin miraculously survived and are probably already on their way to Kathmandu.

What now remains in Nepal is the long tail end to this tragedy whose dimensions and importance are impossible to ignore. What remains for us is the memory of Oskar Piazza and Renzo Benedetti. We knew both of them. Renzo, with his pure love and unbridled enthusiasm for his mountains and the Himalayas. An enthusiasm that led him to the summit of K2. It’ll be hard to forget his joy when he reached the top of K2 in 2004 with the Scoiattoli di Cortina expedition. Impossible not to think that he has died in the place and among the mountains he loved and for which his eyes literally lit up.

As it’s impossible not to re-think about Oskar, the gentle giant, a man of few and even fewer words but of many, many deeds. Oskar was special. Someone who was difficult to put a label on. He was a mountaineer. A mountain guide, one of the most experienced. And also - and perhaps above all - he was one of the pillars of the mountain rescue service, not only of the Trentino region, but of all of Italy. It’s impossible to forget his (great) mountains, his climbs. And his rescues, some of which were memorable, that he preferred not to write or talk about. Oskar was like that. We'd met him on numerous occasions, had often asked him to write something for us. And he'd reply with a smile... and we, hidden behind that smile, we always saw something much bigger. Something that will be missed by many.


NEPAL EARTHQUAKE 
28/04/2015 - Nepal earthquake: how to help the relief efforts
27/04/2014 - Nepal earthquake death toll continues to rise, Everest disaster area
25/04/2014 - Earthquake devastates Nepal
Two earthquakes measuring up to 7.9 hit Nepal this morning causing, according to some sources, over 1,000 deaths. Even the highest mountains in the world trembled and an avalanche that swept through Everest Base Camp has caused an unknown number of deaths.

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