Simone Moro is like a noble knight sworn to the axe and the highest altitudes the human inhabits. Spending his childhood in the outdoors, unlike most teenagers (and some adults), at thirteen Simone knew well what he wanted. He went to his dad and declared he would like to become a real climber. And so it be. Curiously, this real life mountaineering legend started as a rock climber. And while mountaineering and sport climbing could be worlds apart for some, Simone likes to juggle the climbing styles:
I try to have a 360-degree view of the climbing world. It means I don’t like only high altitude, or only ice, or only rock climbing. I try to combine. This gives me the possibility to be ready to climb any kind of face and to survive any kind of situation.
His first high-altitude experience was as high as it could get during an Everest expedition in 1992. Even though he did not reach the summit, the experience he gained was one that would open a whole new chapter in Simone’s life. The following year he completed the first winter ascent of Aconcagua. With notable climbs from Patagonia to Sibir, Simone Moro’s climbing CV is impressive. And what makes it even more impressive is that he is the only alpinist who realized the first winter climbs of four of the 8000-ers in pure winter season: Shishapangma (2005), Makalu (2009), Gasherbrum ll (2011) and Nanga Parbat (2016).
With his winter ascent of Shishapangma in January 2005, Moro ended a 17-year gap during which no one had set foot on an 8000-er in winter. His obsession with high-altitude winter ascents created a shift in trend among professional and experienced mountaineers. A shift from the touristic summer expeditions where one could find himself in a traffic jam on the mountain to that of the alien conditions winter offers. With the heart of an explorer, the Italian alpinist is a ball of energy for who impossible is a mixture of letters with no real meaning.
Simone Moro stands for his hectic training regimen and his motto:
“For every hour of training not executed, an extra hour is given to your rival.”
If daylight doesn’t offer a chance for training, he would do so under the moonlight with no excuses. Preparing both mentally and physically, Simone Moro is one of those rare breads of climbers who know when to turn back. He is an author of nine books and has been honored with many awards. With the winter season just around the corner, we talk with Simone Moro about some cool to cold stuff.
What is it about the freezing cold weather that tempts you so much?
Because I’m alone in winter. I return to feel an explorer, to enjoy the pureness, solitude, and wilderness of the mountain. Everything is complicated and you have to develop the art to survive.
What are the coldest temperatures you have experienced?
Several times I have experienced between -50°C to -56 °C. There was also wind in some of those days and the final result was an inhuman freezing cold.
Is there a special Simone Moro formula to endure the way below zero temperatures?
First of all, I’m a positive guy, always an optimist and that helps a lot in extreme conditions. Secondly, I am a bit “old-fashioned” in the sense that I have always been training hard, wearing fewer layers and working 365 days a year. I would also skip a lot of lunches or dinners, or train entirely fasted in order to teach my body to be resistant and able to work in hard conditions. I believe the mind is the most important thing to train and I’m very strict and harsh with myself.
This year you did an exotic first ascent on Pik Pobeda together with Tamara Lunger. Congratulations on that! How was that expedition different from one in the Himalayas?
It was a cold, remote and difficult climb that few of my colleagues probably understood. It was NOT a vacation and it wasn’t easy at all. I was in one of the coldest places of Earth, climbing the highest peak in the region. We climbed in alpine style and non-stop, in a single push. It was a magical experience in a wild and different nature. One of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life.
Winter is coming, with K2 being the only left unclimbed 8000-er during that time of the year. I hear the Polish are planning another attempt in 2019-20. What are your plans both for this winter and towards K2?
I will not go to K2 this winter. I have another project. It will be crowded this year. There is a big Russian expedition and another 5/6 members expedition from Spain. Probably there will be another 3rd team, so not a very relaxed situation. I will go to another place for another project but I think K2 will be climbed soon in winter, though. I will go to K2 one day but in my way and in my style.
Could you share a little bit more about your project?
It is Top secret.
If you weren’t a mountaineer what other profession would you have pursued?
Well, I’m a helicopter pilot and I very much like to fly in the mountains. I would probably be in Nepal flying full-time, doing rescue and all kind of missions.
What advice would you give to your 13-year-old self?
To believe in dreams and to care about fun and safety first. I would suggest to not read any comments coming from social media because there are too many jealous people that like to write bad things and bad wishes to people who can live their dreams. So, I would suggest to be independent, strong and always a dreamer.
And what advice would you give to those who start off in the high altitude mountaineering?
That the collection of all 14 8000-ers is a very common and old goal. That it is expensive, difficult and dangerous but no longer represents an exploration or an interesting result. To explore and write a page of vertical history! It is important to care about How and When to climb and not only What to climb.
Is there something, apart from the regular, that you always bring with you on an expedition?
No nothing. I’m not a superstitious guy. I take what I need and the most important thing is motivation, knowledge and being fit.
If there were a 9000-er, would you have attempted it and do you think the human body would endure such adventure?
100% sure. Humans are incredible and limits are made to be moved forward.
What is adventure to you?
The art of discovery, survival and adapting yourself to the unknown.
Sources: photos – Simone Moro, Tamara Lunger.