Nives Meroi and Romano Benet, the great story of their Kangchenjunga summit
On Saturday 17 May 2014 Italian alpinists Nives Meroi and Romano Benet summited Kangchenjunga (8.586m), the third highest mountain in the world. Their ascent marks a great return to the Himalaya and is also an important and unique journey.
There are mountains and there are mountains, and every summit has something special to it. That special something linked to the mantra that pervades alpinism, the "I look for myself in the mountains" that often, too often perhaps, seems to mean nothing at all since it's so elusive and far removed from reality. At times though words aren't necessary. There's no need to say more, go to lengths to explain why. As in the case of this recent ascent of Kangchenjunga. Because the 12th 8000er of Nives Meroi and Romano Benet needs almost no explanation at all. Neither details nor great adjectives. In being so personal and having been experienced so intensely and for such a long time, it is quite simply moving. Because alpinism, sometimes, exceeds itself, its representations and clichés to truly transform into life. And so a summit that has just been reached encloses the end of the journey, the entire travels and also a new start.
Last Saturday, at midday, Nives and Romano stood on the summit of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Behind them lay an endless 5-year journey. But also their entire lives spent together, one day after the next, before and after that ill-fated May 2009 when, on Kangchenjunga, Romano felt unwell. On that occasion, and for the first time ever in their long history of climbing mountains together, Nives became the leader, brought Romano back down to base camp. In doing so she gave up on ascending her 12th eightthousander and also abandoned what everyone (but not she) had termed the "race" to become the first woman to climb all 8000ers. That world record chase that continued on without her. For Nives and Romano thismoment onwards heralded a new experience, another undertaking, one which they subsequently defined as their 15th 8000m summit.
Dealing with and fighting Romano's illness, the hospital, the bone marrow transplant, the long recovery, continuing to live but also to dream the limit of what was possible, because theirs was a real and eternal journey. And no one, no words, no slogans will ever truly retrace the steps that led to that summit, their 15th 8000er they shared, once again, together. We have no details about their Kangchenjunga ascent. All we know is what her sister Leila posted on her blog. "Yesterday, 17 May 2014 at circa 12:00 (local time) Nives and Romano reached the summit of Kangchenjunga (8586 m.)" Nothing else. But this comes as no surprise as Nives and Romano had told almost no one about their return to Kangchenjunga... and this, too, perhaps means something, speaks volumes about their style and their way of being, far more than a thousand press releases. We, for now, can only wish they a good trail (as Slovenian alpinists say) and all the best for all the other mountains they wish to climb in the future. Naturally, and as always, together.
by Vinicio Stefanello
All 8000ers climbed (without supplementary oxygen) by Nives Meroi and Romano Benet
Gasherbrum 1 (2003)
Gasherbrum 2 (2003)
Broad Peak (2003)
Cho Oyu (1999)
Shisha Pangma (1999)
Nanga Parbat (1998)