Simone, I guess cold and altitude are the two major issues in climbing mountains, also these two issues bring to climbers peace and solitude. For sure in winter climbing the height is the same but cold and wind speed not, which is the difference between cold and wind speed between summer and winter climbing? Thanks, and good luck!!!
Is huge not only in terms of intensity but mainly in terms of frequency. In winter you COSTANTLY have cold and wind, in summer you maybe could have similar condition but 1 – 2 days only, not an entire and constant expedition.
What is your peace above 8000m (5 steps and stop for breathing? And always without supplemental oxygen.
From 6820 meters from C3 to the summit we use 8 hours 30 minutes. So more or less 150 meters per hour due the cold and wind. Around 20//30 steps as a medium speed
How do you train?
In different ways but mainly in constant way. 7 days on 7 and 365 days a year is my training. It happen that some few days for many reasons I have to cancel the training but usually the first day available I train also for the missing days (double). I run till 140 km each week and I climb in my in door climbing wall (also with ice axes) or in my local falaise. In winter I like also Ice and dry tooling but often I’m in expedition in winter.
What is for you alpinism?
It is a way how I keep the smile on my face. It was a child dream that now is a daily activity. It is a way to have my mind full of ideas and projects. Is the way how I have known the world and meet so many friends. It is the way how I can make happy the persons around me (Wife, son and daughter, friends). Alpinism had been a great present I get from the life.
What is your opinion about Crina Coco Popescu, who dares to climb Mt Everest with 16?
Honestly, we can´t accuse those boy/girls who so young dream to climb Everest. Is can understand the child dreams. I also was dreaming to climb Everest when I was very young. The bad things are the adult who don’t teach to those young’s to dream step by step and to discover that every day there is some Everest to climb more close to your house. So I just wish and hope that parents and friends of those young girl/boys help them to find other lower dreams before Everest.
How do you prepare mentally for this kind of expedition? How do you train all year long? And for a winter expedition? What inspires you in order to choose a mountain or a Challenger? When is your book “Cometa sobre el Annapurna” going to be published by Desnivel?
I would start with the last question. The book will be published very soon. It had been already an agreement with Desnivel… The mental training is done during the long daily run I do every day alone. I think, think and think about my next goal and than I decide and start to dream, take information, watch pictures and video of the mountain and so on. The Physical training I have already describe it in another question above.
What are your plans for the summer?
Good question. Probably with Denis on Pic Pobeda or Ueli Steck in one of the multiple ideas we have in mind….
I would like to know what are the technical features of your sleeping bag and your tents in the altitude camps.
All the equipment we used are regular products. No one is a single prototipe. So the quality is the same you get buying those products. The North Face sleeping bags were “Solar Flare” model. In Base camp I used “inferno”. Are down insulated sleeping bags of course.
Do you train specifically for the cold conditions? Are you working in improving or creating clothes?
The only training that probably I did since I was child is that I use always quite light clothes. It is not a real training is just something that I’m used to do. Not to heat too much the House and not too many clothes on. But I think is a natural attitude. With The North face and La Sportiva we are working hardly to realize shoes and clothes/equipment light and warm. The technology is always improving but at the end, also with the best equipment in the world you need mind and muscle to climb and t get to the top.
What is your motivation or your inspiration to never give up?
Honestly what I never missed is the motivation. I don’t think to fight with someone or with the mountain. The only think that I constantly fight is myself. Also when I’m at home and for example it is raining, is easy to find an excuse to stay in home and don’t go running or if t is snowing or if you are tired. Well I never give up and I always train in any weather condition any physical condition. So I’m use to never accept excuse from myself. So if there is no a risk reason (storm, late time, slow speed) I would never stop my effort till the summit
What do you think is what drives you to the climb in that style?
Mainly two words. Exploration and adventure. This 2 words mean a lot to me. In the 3rd millennium there are so many exploration and adventures that are waiting someone to realise them and I don’t want to spend my life sitting and waiting that someone will decide to do. I want to contribute to do and make the young generation motivated to do and enjoy life and the wild nature and conditions
What is your advice to who want to try winter ascents?
You have just to start considering that a winter climb is an evolution of a summer climb. So don’t rush too much to winter if you don’t have enough experience of summer. Second thing, look for the right partner….
Do you consider that in winter the alpine style is as important as in the summer?
No, my idea is that winter expedition and climb NOW, in the third millennium, has be different that the winter expedition of 30 years ago. So the style has to be considered exactly like the season. It means that sometimes in winter is so difficult that you could accept some and few compromise but to go in 10720 members, with fix ropes, oxygen and high porters is now and old ( and not winner) style to climb. The last 3 winter climbs of the last 22 years have been done in small team and Fast/light style (Shisha Pangma, Makalu and G2)
In such hard conditions, do you enjoy the summit or you are only thinking about going down?
For sure the summit is the 50% of the climb and the real summit is to go back till base camp. Summiting and die for it is simply the biggest mistake and misunderstanding of alpinism
Why did you choose Cory, an alpinist with not much experience in 8000m peaks?
Yes you are right. I took a potential risk but also knew that Cory did 3 successful winter expedition in Nepal in the last 3 years and I knew he was coming from Nuptse (so quite acclimatized). I also knew that he was young but smart so ready to listen and learn and not to be arrogant. And finally I knew he was as me and Denis in the global team of The North face so perfectly combinable with our media, sponsor need and with our same philosophy. Finally I was right….
I would love to see you in a slideshow. When are you coming to Spain?
Yes I will be the film festival Picos de Europa the 3rd of March 2011.
Why did you use supplemental oxygen on Mt Everest and not now in G2?
On G2 we had no oxygen no mask, no regulator and no other expedition around. G2 is 8035m, Everest is 8848m . I’m so sorry and sad that I used oxygen on Everest and I will go back to close that climb completely without oxygen. The difference in terms of time you spend above 8000 between G2 and Everest is Huge. So also the capacity of the body to produce heat. So In none of my winter climb and other 43 expedition except Everest I used Oxygen.
The clothes that you use in winter are different than the ones in the summer?
The equipment is nearly the same. In winter just the sleeping bags are often a warmed model but down suit, boots and so on are the same. In High altitude we eat tortellini, Parmigianino (cheese), chocolates, and also a special precooked meet that my wife prepared and put in special plastic bags to keep them fresh and not perishable.
Why people go to the summit when it’s dark but can’t descent in the dark as well?
At G2 we started at 3:00 am. It means completely fresh and strong we started early to arrive on the summit before 12:00 and have enough light to come back alive. To start in the night and arrive on the summit in the night is completely different. If you arrive in the night on the summit it means you are climbing since many hours (15/20) and you are exhausted and only at the 50% of the climb. So the risk it is not only the loss of power but also that you have to descent in the darkness and loosing the way, loosing the life…
Did you use the GPS?
Yes I get GPS but the problem is that the way down was a labyrinth too with many tricky parts. I didn’t take GPS the last days to be lighter and fast and I just memorized the key point on the way up and remembering on the way down…
What cameras do you use?
Canos G12 and Canon Eos 5 Mak II
How do you measure the risks that you are assuming?
Decide to try a winter climb is also mean to accept some risk. I’m married and with 2 kids and I try to make those risk smaller and smaller. So I just try to be fast, light and very well informed about the weather forecast. But I now that I could also remain on the mountain. So I always keep scared and I had been able to turn back also 100 meters near the summit in my carrier. So I consider always the possibility to turn if I understood I’m crossing the limit of acceptable risks.
Did you left material on the mountain?
No, nothing, really nothing. Also the rubbish had been carried down completely. We just left 1 new tend and 3 mattresses at C1 for the climb/descent of G1 expedition. We did just for friendship…
Why is Denis using this glasses on the summit? How can he use it at -50º?
Honestly we used it for few minutes because was so cold and stormy that the lens became immediately frozen and with no visibility. Denis just started to use early and it became frozen before summit. I and Cory started later to use and we took off later than him.
How do you train to be so strong on the mountains?
I just organize my time as much as I can and I don’t waste 1 single minute. I also thank my wife and family who accept a man like me with so many dreams.
Why did your sleeping bags froze? Did you left them on the mountain?
The sleeping bags frozen after 22 days of use, not only for the summit days push. With no sun and extreme cold we had no possibility to dry our sleeping bags. It is the first time it happens to us. The condensation between inside and outside is the reason of what happen. The Gore-Tex cover could be a solution but everything had to be carry up and down and we had no Sherpa or other help. Nothing had been left on the mountain everything had been carried down.
Why did you choose Cory?
I have already answered above. Consider also that we were 3 athletes from the same team (The North face) coming from 3 different continent. It had been wonderful and the budget had been spread in 3 continents market…… A global company with a global market with global result…It had been a great idea
Why did you trust in Cory’s potential on high altitude?
I can say that I have a good nose to understand who is strong and who could be strong. With Cory I had a good nose… K2 will be NOT my next goal. I changed the original plan. Next year there will be a huge expedition coming from Russia and I don’t want to do competition on K2 with Russian friends with a different style. I will change mountain…
Could be dangerous climb with a person that you have never climbed with beforehand?
I already explained above. Could be dangerous but if the agreements are clear before starting in expedition and if the “nose” (capacity to understand the person) is good, the risk become smaller and smaller.
You carried all your rubbish. What was in that bag?
The rubbish was exactly composed by empty cylinders, and empty food containers. The other question I already answer above.
How do you go to the toilet at 6500m?
It´s very simple. There is a long Zip that goes from one side to the other side of the down suit. You open it and than………..
How did you deal with the tent in such tough conditions?
The tent has to be a The North Face tent…that you are sure that is the best of the market. If you leave the tent for few hours like the summit days, you can leave it standing and there is few risk it blows away. But if you think to leave that tend for more than 24 hours (for example going back to BC) you have to pack it and hide under the snow to avoid that wind destroy it.
Do you drink alcohol to keep you warm?
No absolutely no! The alcohol is the best enemy of cold. The result if you drink alcohol is that you open your body vases and loose heat…You burn our stomach only but freeze earlier
What was in the rubbish bag that you carry all the way down?
Comida gastada and empty gas cilinder. I hav explained it above
Do you consider that Jorge Egocheaga in 2009 summited even though he turned back 14 m under the summit? How do you remember Iñaki Ochoa?
I believe in Jorge because I know him. It is the last person who could lie on this planet. About Inaki I think that the bad weather during all expeditiondidn’t gave him the possibility to get real good and usual acclimatization. So when he tried the summit he was PROBABLY not fully acclimatized and he had also a lot of bad luck. I’m so sorry for him, I lost a brother….
Are you going to K2 next year?
As I told above, K2 is not more in my plan due a big and heavy Russian expedition there in the same period. No competition on K2…
Was there some critical moment that make you think about giving up?
Not really. Denis told me that for one moment he believed we have to abort, but just few minutes later, we kept going. The wind and cold were still acceptable
What is your heart rate at 8000m? Do you gain weight before the expeditions?
Partially I already answered above. My Pulse is around 40 when I rest and 195 the max can reach. (At sea level) I lost 6 /7 kg after the summit, just arrived in BC. No I think I have to gain 4 kg.
What was your strategy for the Summit push?
To be fast and ready (even tired) for the firs announced good weather window. I already answered above and I repeat here. Cory did 3 winter expedition and climbed Lhotse after just 1 week of his arrival in base camp in 2010. So I understood the potential.
How was your plan to make photos on the summit?
I had the Sat Phone of Thuraya with me and it is also a GPS who record position. We had 3 cameras (me, Denis and Cory) and 1 small video camera. So I considered impossible that so many things could frozen all together in the same day.
Can you train for freezing conditions?
I think no. You can just become used (not trained) to the cold.
Do you intake any kind of products to become a better athlete?
No Nothing. In this expedition particularly I even didn’t took minerals or something similar. Zero complete. Nada de nada.
How do you deal with your glasses?
I use normal sunglasses structure but with graduated and sun treated lens. Any good optic now can arrange them. I never thought to get surgery to my eye. I use glasses since 40 years and now they are part of my face…
What do you think about climbing solo the 8000 meter peaks in winter?
I think that Broad Peak is possible. The other they are much complicate for a solo climb.
Do you find useful the snowshoes?
On G2 plateau YES!! And I also had in base camp and I always forgot to take them because when we started the snow was not so deep for the first hour. On the steep paces the snowshoes are not working so…
What role plays your family in your performances?
I partially answered above. I can say that my wife and 2 kids are really my diamonds and I thank them. This G2 expedition had been dangerous (especially on the way down and I can’ avoid to go down…I must to come back safe. The avalanche had been a sign of destiny and I thanks God (I believe in Him)
What did you feel the first time that you summited an 8000m peak?
When I climbed Lhotse in 1994 I immediately thought to climb all 8000. Thanks God I understood some years later that was an “old” kind of project and no sense project for my way to practice alpinism. So I immediately changed in new routes, unclimbed peaks, traverse, winter climbs. My mind is dangerously oriented to my new passion and work …the helicopter rescue in Himalaya… But I think till 50 I will climb in the same G2 style and with similar dreams. Than…we will see…
How do you prepare yourself for being so long inside the tents?
The technology is helping a lot. I have unlimited internet in base camp. So I work, write, red emails, edit video and reports and I can see also my family in Skype…. I also listen to music and read. So it is no boring to stay in Base camp or in tend.