Winter Climbs 2020: Moro and Lunger Pull Plug on Gasherbrum Expedition

Barely a month into the winter climbing season and we already have one team deciding to call it quits. Over the weekend, Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger announced that they are ending their attempt to climb Gasherbrum I and II after the duo came face to face with disaster. So close in fact that they are both lucky to to be alive, and in relatively one piece, after Moro tumbled down a crevasse that came very close to claiming his life.

Apparently, the two climbers were heading up Gasherbrum I with plans to spend a night at Camp 1 and another at Camp 2. They had weathered some early challenges, which included finding a safe passage through the icefall at the base of the mountain and making their way through a maze of crevasses. Deep snow had been an issue last week, but they had broken a new trail and finally felt they were starting to make progress. Moro says that morale was high and they were feeling good, which is of course exactly when disaster can strike.

Yesterday, Moro posted this harrowing update to his Facebook page:

“All’s well that ends well.

Without going too far around the concept, yesterday we really came just a breath away from a tragic and disastrous epilogue for both Tamara and me.

We were planning to spend two nights on the mountain, reach camp 1, sleep there and then head to camp 2 the next day.

We were FINALLY out of the icefall, we had passed the last big crevasse and proceeded to the summit plateau. Always tied up because we knew that the crevasses were always lurking and antennas were always straight but the morale was high and the satisfaction of having overcome everything.
The big ice maze.

But the day was not over and what lay ahead was terrible.

Approaching a crevasse I put myself in position as always to secure Tamara who first crossed it and then moved into the safety zone, 20 meters beyond the crevasse.

Then it was my turn and after a split second, a chasm opened under my feet and I fell. Tamara suffered such a violent tear that she literally flew to the edge of the crevasse while I free falling upside down for 20 meters banging back legs and buttocks on the blades of ice suspended in the endless gut where I continued to descend. No more than 50 cm wide, in complete darkness.

Above Tamara had the rope wrapped around her hand and held it like a vice and caused her excruciating pain and numbness. I was in the dark and she was slowly sliding down the edge of the crevasse. All complicated by the fact that she had snowshoes on her feet. I managed with one hand to put a very precarious first anchorage and, while feeling myself slowly descending towards the abyss, I had the lucidity to take the ice screw I had in my harness and secure it in the smooth and hard wall of the crevasse. That screw stopped me from slipping and probably pulling down Tamara into the crevasse.

From there, without going into details, we invented the way out. Almost two hours later. hours of contortion and an excruciating effort I was able to climb up in piolet traction the whole crevasse, completely in the dark and squeezed between two walls 50 cm wide.

Shivering and with a thousand bruises I hugged Tamara who was also crying from the pain in her hand. While I was climbing she had managed to organize a nice recovery stop and to secure me while I was climbing the 20 endless meters of smooth ice. We descended to base camp, who had already been alerted and reassured by radio.

Today I organized the evacuation with a request for medical checks for both of us. Today the pains are obviously stronger and Tamara’s hand is partially numb out of use.”

As you can tell from Simone’s description, this was a sudden accident that could have killed both him and Tamara. Fortunately, they are both alive and well, and waiting for an evacuation from Base Camp. I have no doubt that they are bruised and battered and will need some time to recover, both physically and mentally. Thankfully they’ll go home safe and sound, as this story could have ended much more tragically.

Most of the other winter expeditions are in momentary pauses while they wait out the weather or get prepared for the next stage of their climbs. I’ll share further updates later in the week.