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Nives and Romano: Only as a couple

Nives Meroi (l.) and Romano Benet (on Kangchenjunga in 2009)

Nives Meroi (l.) and Romano Benet (on Kangchenjunga in 2009)

Never let it be said that climbing was not for romantics. The Italian couple Nives Meroi and Romano Benet prove the contrary. For them, it is out of the question to climb an eight-thousander without the partner. Last Saturday, Nives and Romano reached the 8586-meter-high summit of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. As always together, as always without using bottled oxygen, as always in a clean style. “Our achievements are defined by a smooth alpine style: simple and genuine, we remain true to ourselves at all the times and in harmony with the mountains”, Nives once said. Kangchenjunga is the eight-thousander number twelve for Meroi and Benet. Now only Annapurna and Makalu are still missing in their collection.

Fracture on Makalu

Nives was 19 years old when she met Romano. First he was her climbing partner, then her life partner. This year they celebrate their silver wedding, both are 52 years old. In 1998, they scaled Nanga Parbat, it was their first eight-thousander. In 2003, they succeeded in climbing the Karakorum trilogy of Gasherbrum I, II and Broad Peak in just 20 days. In 2007 Meroi was the first Italian woman who climbed Everest without oxygen mask . But there were also setbacks. In 2007, while attempting to climb Makalu in winter, Nives broke her fibula. Romano was carrying his wife two days through the fog down to the until a rescue helicopter could land .

The 15th eight-thousander

After scaling Mount Everest in 2007

After scaling Mount Everest in 2007

Two years later, on Kangchenjunga, it was Benet who needed help. At that time,  in 2009, Meroi had a good chance to become the first woman on all 14 eight-thousanders. At 7500 meters, Romano suddenly became increasingly weak. He tried to persuade Nives, to climb on alone. But she refused and supported him during the descent. The reason for Benet’s weakness was serious: aplastic anemia. Two bone marrow transplants were necessary to save Romano’s life. Having beaten the disease together, Romano described as “climbing the fifteenth eight-thousander, the most important”.

Wrong summit

Climbing was out of the question for two years. But in 2011, the couple was back in the Himalayas, a year later Meroi and Benet tried again to climb Kangchenjunga. It endet with a mishap: They climbed the wrong way, to the lower middle summit (8473 meters) instead of the main summit. When they realized their mistake, they descended. Back in Kathmandu, when Nives in an interview confessed why they had failed, she began to laugh and could not stop. “Her laughter was infectious, everyone joined”, remembered Elizabeth Hawley, the legendary chronicler of Himalayan climbing. This time, Nives and Romano did not lose their way.


20. May 2014 | 23:13