Thin Air

Simone Moro a few metres from the top of Shishapangma, during the first winter ascent along its South Face, 2005.


If you want to reach the summit of an 8000 meter peak in winter, it’s not just a matter of trying to convince yourself that it won’t be too cold, too windy, or even snow too much. It is not a battle against the elements, it is your own personal battle. You have to simply realize which difficulties are predictable and which are not, which are imaginable and which are not and behave accordingly. Live with some inconvenience, uncertainty and subtle insecurity which undermines your reason. Tackle problems one at a time, methodically, stubbornly and courageously. Grit your teeth, and if need be suffer, resist, wait. Wait patiently. You cannot impose yourself upon nature. Instead, you have to think through your effort, making it productive, efficient and useful. Contemplate.

Adapt to the situation, or in the worse case, bear it. Resist. Waiting and abandoning a climb has become unfashionable and an outdated strategy, apparently it has become passive and not at all spectacular. Nowadays adrenaline sells better, they want it all now. Real life does not sell well. The winter results in the Himalayas of Simone and Denis tell us something else. They teach us that it is essential to be fit and ready and give all within a short time frame. But these are only the necessary requirements. You then need strategy, technique and the ability to think on your feet. This is today’s alpinism. Quick and slow at the same time. Only those who are daring in a balanced and intelligent way will move their own limits forward. History has never been written by men who risk everything at all costs.