Himalaya 2014: Success at Last on Kangchenjunga for Nives and Romano

Meroi benet Kang 2009

There isn’t a whole lot of news to report from the Himalaya today, as most of the summits bids were wrapped up over the weekend, and were detailed in my report on Monday. But there are still a few stories making their way out of the mountains, and some teams have yet to check with status updates, so I thought it was worth highlighting a few items today.

First, German adventure sports journalist Stefan Nestler has a brief, but wonderful, story about the success of Nives Meroi and Romano Benet on Kangchenjunga. If you’re not familiar with these two climbers, they are a husband and wife team that are amongst the best alpinists in the world, but have had a few set back in recent years that have kept them out of the news to a degree.

A few years ago, when there was a rush to see who would become the first woman to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks, Nives was right in the mix. She was neck and neck with Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Edurne Pasaban, with each leapfrogging the other for the lead in that race. Nives and Romano always climbed together, and on the way to the summit of Kangchenjunga, he started to feel very weak. Romano urged his wife to go on without him, but she refused, instead turning back to assist him down the mountain, giving up her shot at bagging the peak.

It turns out, Romano had aplastic anemia, a life-threatening blood disease that occurs in the bone marrow that causes it to stop making enough red blood cells. For two years they stayed home from the mountains and battled that deadly disease. It required two bone marrow transplants, and lots of time and patience, but eventually he was able to begin climbing again.

In 2012, they made another attempt on Kangchenjunga, but took the wrong route, which eventually led them to the wrong summit. Last week, they finally topped out on that mountain, claiming their 12th 8000-meter peak in the process. They have just Annapurna and Makalu still to climb. Considering that they always go in alpine style, and without oxygen, that is quite an accomplishment for this duo.

I want to congratulate Nives and Romano on their summit success of course, but also It is just great news to hear about them climbing so strongly once again. Hopefully they’ll get those final two summits together. The 52-year old climbers are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary this year. Hopefully they’ll continue to climb together in the mountains and in life.

Speaking of Kangchenjunga, Denis Urubko has posted an update on his successful summit along a new route on that mountain as well. The dispatch is in Polish, so I had to use Google Translate to get the gist of it, but he shares some details of the final push to the top, which was a team effort, despite Denis being the only member of the squad to summit. He reports that he topped out alone at 9:40 AM on May 19, returning to the spot he visited 12 years earlier. His teammates were in rough shape, exhausted from their efforts, and pushed to their limits. Alex Txikon reportedly has contracted frostbite in his feet, and tonsillitis as well. So, while Denis was on his way to the top, the rest of the team was already on the descent. He was able to catch them on the way down however, and they all arrived in C1 safely. He promises more updates to come later, but that is the story thus far.

Finally, an accident has been reported on Mt. Himlung this past Monday. American climber Prof. John All reportedly slipped and fell into a crevasse on the 7126 meter (23,379 ft) peak, which is located in the Annapurna region of Nepal. The climber reportedly suffered severe injuries to his ribs and arms, as well as internal bleeding, after dropping 70 feet into the crevasse. His climbing partners were able to get him out of the crevasse, but a rescue helicopter was not able to retrieve him due to bad weather in the area. Fortunately, an evacuation was made yesterday, and All was taken to Kathmandu, where he is currently in intensive care.

That’s all for now. More updates to come once we get more news on summits. The Everest push is still on for this weekend, so stay tuned.

Kraig Becker