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with Stefan Nestler

Lunger/Moro: A meeting with the Pope – and then?

Tamara Lunger (l.) and Simone Moro (r.) with Pope Francis

On Thursday, the (calendrical) winter begins – and thus the question rises again: Who will try to climb which mountain in the cold season? A top-class Polish expedition led by veteran Krzysztof Wielicki will attempt to climb K 2, the last remaining eight-thousander which has not been scaled in winter so far. The Pole Tomek Mackiewicz and the Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol are said to have already arrived in Pakistan in order to return to Nanga Parbat.

And what’s about the South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger and the Italian Simone Moro? Both are considered as extremely “winterproof”. The 50-year-old Simone has four first winter ascents of eight-thousanders on his account (Shishapangma in 2005, Makalu in 2009, Gasherbrum II in 2011, Nanga Parbat in 2016). The 31-year-old Tamara and Moro tackled in vain Manaslu in winter 2015. A year later on Nanga Parbat, Lunger had to turn back only 70 meters below the summit, because she felt bad. In this Advent, Lunger and Moro already had a summit meeting: with the Pope. I contacted Tamara:

Tamara, two professional mountaineers (Simone and you) took a selfie with Pope Francis, how did that happen?

Don Marco Pozza, a prison chaplain from Padua, invited us to a television program called “Padre nostro”, which means “Our Father”. There were six episodes, each with different persons. Stories from their lives were told, fates, and for each episode there was a comment of the pope. This broadcast was a huge success, not only in Italy but also internationally. The Pope said: “All these people have given us their time, which present could we make in return?” Marco replied: “Maybe a mass in the Vatican, including shaking hands with the Pope.” The Pope then said: “We can not do that because not everyone believes in God. A private audience is better.” That’s how it happened. About 30 people – the whole production team and the participants – met the pope in the Vatican. That was really a nice hour. Personally, it means a lot to me because I’m very religious.

Did you have the opportunity to exchange a few words with the Pope?

Each of us had to introduce ourselves telling what we are doing in our lives. Then the pope talked about passion: “You have given me a lot today, because you – believer or not – are doing what you do with such a great passion. This is also divine.” He then gave us the blessing and gave everyone a book about the Lord’s Prayer, which he wrote with Marco Pozza, and a rosary.

Tamara Lunger

What does the meeting mean to you personally?

Of course it was very nice for me, because I am very religious. But I also saw that he is just a normal man. He is so normal that he actually almost does not stand out. His staff is trying to make everything work organizationally as perfect as possible, but he himself would probably do it very differently. I have looked into his eyes and he in mine, and I have felt something very beautiful. That’s why it would be even nicer to sit down with this man, drink a glass of wine and chat with him.

On Nanga Parbat in winter 2016, you had to turn around about 70 meters below the summit. That was bitter. On Kangchenjunga last spring, the planned traverse of the four summits of the massif fell through because Simone felt bad. Do you need a sense of achievement again for your motivation?

No, because I have seen that even without reaching the summit I always come home with a great lesson. On Nanga Parbat, my experience was much more valuable for me than “just” a summit success. The journey is the reward. Of course, the summit is the icing on the cake. But the experience and what you learn from it will be given to you during the journey. If it is not so easy to reach the summit and there are some difficulties, it may be a bit unpleasant at that time. But when you get home, you realize that it was the best thing that could happen to you.

There are already winter conditions in the European Alps with lots of snow, and the beginning of the calendrical winter is just around the corner. Will you go on expedition in the cold season? And if so, where to go?

Yes, I will go on an expedition again, it took me two months to decide. I will be traveling with Simone again. Unfortunately, I can not say more about it. But it will get freezing, freezing, freezing cold. I already started to prepare myself for it. Let’s see what it will be like.

How will you spend the Christmas holidays?

I will eat many good cookies from my mom. (laughs) I’m just happy to be with my family and maybe I’ll do something with them, ski-touring, ice climbing and so on.

Successful team: Txikon, Lunger, Moro and Ali (from l. to r.)

Simone Moro also told me at the end of October that the next expedition will “will be probably the coldest climb I ever attempted”. Without speculating 🙂 – the temperatures on Mount Everest fall in January down to minus 60 degrees Celsius. And did not Alex Txikon after his failed Everest winter attempt this year invite Simone and Tamara to try it along with him in 2018? The Pakistani climber Muhammad Ali Sadpara has yesterday announced a “big project of mount Everest 2017/18”. If I’m correct in my assumption, the successful winter team of Nanga Parbat 2016 would be complete again. I think it would be great and exciting.


20. December 2017 | 11:19