Tamara Lunger: “It was a dream”
It was close in two respects. Tamara Lunger only narrowly missed the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, then the 29-year-old South Tyrolean just escaped with her life. Just below the 8,125-meter-high summit, Tamara exhaustedly informed her Italian teammate Simone Moro that she would be able to climb up to the highest point but would not come down without help. Shortly afterwards, she turned around. Simone, the Spaniard Alex Txikon and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali (also known as “Ali Sadpara” – called after his home village) reached the summit without her. On the descent, Lunger lost her balance after jumping across a crevasse near the highest camp. She slid around 200 meters towards the abyss until she came to hold in loose snow with good luck. Meanwhile, the climber is back home in South Tyrol.
Tamara, first of all congratulations on your performance! Have you meanwhile recovered from the strains?
Thanks, Stefan. I must say that I have overcome the strains of the “near-summit” but not yet the consequences of my fall. My ankle is still swollen. I will get it checked up on Monday, but there is certainly something torn. 🙁
The weather on the summit day was perfect, but the path to the highest point was long, and you had to climb about 1,000 meters in altitude each on the ascent and descent. How high did you estimate the chance to reach the highest point before leaving Camp 4?
To be honest, I told Simone on the eve of our final push: “The summit is very close. We certainly will rock it!” I really knew it with absolute certainty. And even though it didn’t work for me, it was rather bad luck that I had a bit poorer physical condition on that day.
Simone said, you were just 60, 70 meters below the summit. How hard was it for you to decide to turn around?
Not at all. I had to vomit the whole day, and the strong wind had robbed much of my energy. When I got to my turning point and I saw Ali already on the summit waving to me, this one sentence suddenly crossed my mind: “If you climb to the top, you will never again see your loved ones.” Without hesitation, I turned around and got out because I knew I could slip and fall to death at every step from the summit to Camp 4. We had not even one meter of rope, so help wouldn’t have been possible, and the other team members were groggy too.
Although you had vomited in the morning of the summit day, you set off. Did you hope that the problems would disappear by and by?
Even before that, I felt that I hadn’t a good day in terms of my musculature, but I was still hoping that it would ease off. When I vomited for the first time, I felt almost free, but with every sip and with every bite it recurred, and I lost more and more of my power. I knew this would not change today.
Do you think that a lack of acclimatization caused your physical problems?
May be. After all, Simone and I had previously slept only one night at Camp 2 (at about 6,100 meters). But the whole ascent itself could have been the reason. I was hardly able to sleep because we four had only two sleeping-mats. And we still had to fix ropes from Camp 3 to 4 which took us time and energy.
The image of the different ascent routes, that Alex has published, shows that you left Simone’s and Alex’ route just below the summit and turned aside. Why?
I tried to avoid the wind, in vain. My feet were already so cold, and I wanted to replace the batteries in my sole heating system. I had no chance, it was too cold, and I did not dare take off my mittens.
In what condition did you reach Camp 4?
I was beat, I had chills all night. The scary moments during my fall had cost me additional energy and nerves.
How do you feel about Nanga Parbat after your return to South Tyrol, which experiences did you gain?
It was a dream. Everything happened as it should happen. And a lot has happened within these three months. After Daniele Nardi’s departure, we all felt free. It’s not that I can’t stand him – on the contrary. But there was no harmony in Base Camp which was absolutely sickening. That wore me down. I must be free in mind when I want to do something. Afterwards the team was perfect, all four climbers were equal, and the weather was good. Then we only had to keep cool. I do not begrudge my team the success. I know what we have invested. And I’m very proud of myself that I had the courage to go with my gut. I see it as a gift to have this ability. And I will keep it like a treasure so that it will show me the right way again and again – my way.
Simone announced that he would stop winter climbing on eight-thousanders. And you?
It’s too early to tell. 😉
Date7. March 2016 | 14:34
TagsAlex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Interview, Muhammad Ali, Nanga Parbat, Simone Moro, Tamara Lunger, winter ascent