Everest, Fabio Meraldi and Kilian Jornet

Speed ascent of Everest, history and actuality

01 September 2016

Fabio Meraldi, mountain guide, was one of the most important protagonists of the initial phase of skyrunning in Italy, and even competitive ski-touring, with several victories in prestigious international competitions.

In 2003, fifty years after the first ascent made by Hillary and Tenzing, Meraldi has made an important attempt to speed ascent on the highest summit of the planet, with which will compare soon also Kilian Jornet in the project " Summit of my life ".

We asked some questions to Fabio Meraldi.

Tell us about your experience in 2003

Many years have passed, but I will never forget that experience! Beginning from looking organization, that definitely was the most touching part in terms of energy and commitment.

Manuela Di Centa and I necked all organizational and economic part! Therefore the search for sponsors, communication and organization ... before heading out with a group of 5 persons in support of me and Manuela. The days and nights to organize everything I sometimes took away the desire to continue ... but then the stubbornness that life has always taught me helped me not to give up! The organizational period has ended and finally came the day of departure.

After doing the press conference in Milan I thought that the flight on Kathmandu was a liberation! But others surprises didn’t miss! They lacked sleeping bags and duvets high altitude, and morale collapsed! But with Oscar Piazza, who was part of the team, we called Roberto Giordani (head of Montura), and explaining what happened in the span of a week did we have back all the missing material! So we started! My tension was at its highest, since the facts contracts with institutional and technical sponsors had to respect the agreement made in the speed groped Everest, and Manuela to climb as high as possible! Finally, after a week in Kathmandu to eat my liver, and recovered the material, it was possible to organize the departure for the approach to the base camp. Ten days later we arrived.

From there with the Sherpas we have placed various fields, exactly four, with tents and material for acclimatization, and as a support to the attempt then occurred 25 days later.

I went up and down from Icefall as a normal thing... I was pretty, I never suffered the altitude, and I managed well my energies. Finally the stable weather window (3 days for forecasts) had arrived, and so Manuela started with a Sherpa and two of our aggregates, going up to the higher camps. By my calculations I had to reach her near the summit, starting 3 days after.

My program planned to leave at 16 pm to have then available, if I reached the summit in the morning, throughout the day for the descent! But the agreed day in the morning time at base camp was awful and mostly snowing! But since over 7000 meters windy and the weather was not bad: I decided to leave the same with 20/30 cm of fresh snow to beat, but did not bother me the whole. In 2 hours and 25 minutes I had already changed in tents at Camp 2 and I was ready to continue. I was really good and I was morally motivated because I knew that ahead was Manuela that I had to reach ... but alas climbing to Camp 3 the night had reached the ascent, and the change of temperature came down a lot.

With light equipment and crampons incorporated into shoes, I underestimated the cold I could debilitate so much! Reached Camp 3 I stopped a lot to warm the feet, but the high-altitude gear I had brought to the South Col and so continue until catching up the hill to 23.30. Climbers were just started from South Hill, and seeing the lights of the lamps going up the motivation was still good.

I changed my equipment and I left around midnight and a half to the summit! But shortly after the feelings I had, and given the mountaineer and mountain guide, I felt that if I went over I would not be back! The energies and reserve forces were at the limit. I returned to the tent at the South Col and expected the arrival of Manuela in the hope that everything was fine. And so it was: May 23, 2003 Manuela and Sherpa Pemba Dorje they reached the summit ...


What kind of preparation you had followed to the goal?

Nothing special. I had just stopped competing and training has been the same: alpine skiing during the winter and skyrunning race for the rest of the year, not to mention the mountain guide work. Anything different from what I was doing for years now.


What has changed in athletic training from 2003 to the present?

I do not think it's changed so much the physical part, but surely the technological support, both on materials and equipment, both the part for the recovery: the stimulators for example have progressed a lot (I then did not even know existed)


What are the most important factors to be reckoned with?

The biggest certainly is to know himself, for what little I have heard and perceived in high altitudes above 8000 meters. There, you still have a mountain to climb and descend ... And then every time our body responds differently, and finding all right is not so simple. Much preparation yes, but luck is not to be outdone. The day when you attempt such an extreme performance, physical and technical, it must fit together really all!

The ascent of the weather conditions can vary a lot. A small example: my friend Diego Giovannini, in reaching the summit of Lhotse, told me it was such a beautiful and favorable day that he took his own high altitude suit part of high to make the needs, but only exceptional circumstances may allow this.


How many chances checks to attempt to Kilian?

I reply dry: 100% !!!

Kilian is a great guy, who with his simple but technological way of approaching the environment makes it easy for even the impossible! I got to see him in the days prior to a race, and I realized that does not leave anything to chance!

Perseverance, commitment, and technology are always with him, even if the ascent and descent of Everest he don’t communicate so much, I think he has penetrated into the environment and there becomes a whole! He is very sensitive, and knows that it runs on the razor, there it is over the limit! But he at the moment is the only one who can do it! And continue to carry the name of skyrunner near to heaven.

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