Nives Meroi and Romano Benet summit K2
On 26/07/2006 Nives Meroi and Romano Benet summited K2 8611m (Himalaya, Karakorum).
It happened yesterday at 13.00 Pakistan time: Romano Benet and Nives Meroi reached the summit of K2. The two Italian mountaineers reached the top of the most famous 8611m in mountaineering completely alone and without oxygen on their third attempt: in 1994 the couple debuted the 8000m scene by attempting a new line up the north face but were thwarted a few hundred meters beneath the summit. In 2004 they returned to the north face once again to climb a line up the most difficult face of the great mountain, but conditions once again forced them to retreat.
Benet and Meroi opted to climb Chogori via the historic Italian first ascent route up the Abruzzi Spur and their success came about with a last-minute blitz ascent. The inevitable bad weather had slowed, then halted progress altogether and a storm had completely wiped out many tents in the high altitude camps.
Benet and Meroi summited alone therefore, as one American expedition after the other retreated, as did their expedition companions Mario Cedolin and Roberto Alloi. Benet and Meroi are currently safely in Camp 4 from where they started their summit push last night, and tomorrow they will start the long descent back down to Base Camp.
This is the first K2 summit since 2004. It is the first time therefore that the summit has been reached since the 50th anniversary, when the second highest mountain in the world unexpectedly granted a weather window and a record number of ascents. Benet and Meroi broke this spell, or perhaps K2 looked on them with affection. We like to think of their smiles, truly immense. Meroi will have thought Inshallah... which obviously is very different from "about time". Incidentally, this is their ninth 8000m peak, and with Dhaulagiri the second this year alone.
NIVES AND ROMANO SUMMIT K2!
by Leila Meroi
We're on the summit! News fragments from a distant Pakisan. Phone calls, confirmations, doubts, suspended emotions like life at 8000m all follow each other in rapid succession. But let's put some order into all of this... Nives and Romano left BC on 23 July and reached C1 at 6400m, The next day they moved up to C2 at 7200m and on 25 July they established C3 at 7800m circa. At 2.00am they departed for the summit and after 11 hours they realised their dream: the summit of K2!
It was around 13.00 local time when Mario and Roberto heard their radio croak into action at BC... summit, summit. Three life-giving seconds and then the walkie talkie conceded nothing more. At 16.00 Nives and Roman reached Camp 4 and, armed with a new set of batteries, gave final confirmation. A sigh of relief and the certainty of the admired and agonised summit. The realisation of a goal first attempted in 1991. The two are now at 7800m where they will spend the night. But we're only half way there and Nives and Romano know this full well: they have to remain completely concentrated and grit their teeth as much as possible to descend quickly to BC in order to finally leave all the inherent dangers of the descent behind them. The weather should hold tomorrow and enable them to proceed fairly quickly. It seems as if Mario and Roberto are gearing up to meet them as high as possible. And, only then, will they have their well-deserved rest.
The ascent goes back in time. Two normal people, husband and wife, two mountain lovers, two non-professionals who, armed with only their passion for the mountains and the few means at their disposal, managed to realise their dream. And as for magnificent Nives: she becomes the first Italian woman to reach the summit of what she herself describes as being "the mountain par excellance".
The K2 ascent, we know, was by no means easy. Completely alone on the mountain, they fought right from the outset against fatigue, doubts, misfortune and discouragement. But in the end what prevailed were that human sentiments of hope and desire which resulted in: "get moving, this is your chance." And so the tally now tops nine. Nine 8000m peaks enjoyed one after the other in pure style, lightweight, no supplementary oxygen, fixed ropes or camps or high altitude porters. A romantic story about two romantic heroes. They'll tell us about all the rest.
Expedition diary (in Italian only): nives.alpinizem.net
Photo: K2; ascent to Camp 1 (ph arch. Benet-Meroi)