Tamara Lunger returned from her latest expedition and passed by to see us. Holding an autographed ice axe in her hand to give to Carlo Paglioli as a present, one of her most enthusiastic fans, and with a smile that illuminated the Climbing Technology showroom. Tamara chatted with us about stories from the expedition on Manaslu and she also suggested some new ideas for our new products and developments.
We have followed you every step of the way during your expedition that you yourself have defined as the “the best one” so far. What was it that made it so special?
It was special because even though I have known Simone for a long time and have already been with him on other expeditions, I had always seen him as a great mountaineer always super busy with a thousand things to do and always with little time to dedicate to those travelling with him. For this reason, I was even thinking of inviting a third person along even though reflecting on it together we decided to go as a pair. As time passed such a special relationship was created which was simply perfect. I felt like I was at home. Every day was ideal, perfect and of course special. Everything went as I expected, we were both mentally and psychically fit because we were acclimatized. We moved quickly every eight days, from one village to another and every day we made quick progress on the climbs. We even found the time to put up a new line on Island Peak. Overall, even though we did not get an 8000er on the expedition, the expedition gave us a lot more than this despite a lot of downtime.
Is it true that you were not able to progress for several weeks?
Basically we had no choice, we had speculated on returning home early and training on Mont Blanc seeing as we were approaching the deadline to consider the winter expedition. Instead, we were stuck because there was a long waiting list following the aeroplane crash that had just happened. The only true and “cumbersome” problem was always the snow. They told us that it had not snowed this much in 38 years. It snowed so much every day, above base camp, where there were several avalanches. You could see the debris where the mountain had dumped the snow that continued to increase in height by 10 – 15 cm as time went on.
Were you ever scared?
Only once, we were in the tent and we heard a roar, the sound seemed as though the avalanche was on the hill where our base camp was. We knew that the camp was 90% safe but Karl Gabl, the Austrian weather expert had told us that three metres of snow would arrive over the weekend. He is never wrong, and in fact, following this it snowed for seven days, all day every day without stopping for a minute. We cleared all the snow around the tent for up to five hours a day until nine o’clock at night and then every day we woke up to another metre of the snow. After a few days passed like this, shovelling snow and hearing loud noises, we called our friend who is a pilot, who had to fly to the most distant village called Sama, we asked him if he could come and pick us up from base camp because it was impossible to return by foot. When the helicopter arrived, we loaded all the bags and then we had to wait for six hours before we could leave, because the weather was getting worse. We covered the helicopter blades and we removed the battery to heat it up with our gas heater. We asked the pilot what was the deadline for the departure time: 5 pm. At 4.50 pm, we realized that we would have to stay the night, however, surprise: at 5.15 pm the clouds opened. We all rushed to get inside the helicopter. While we were in the air you could not see anything outside, everything was white. I prayed, while Simone helped the pilot to make the rounds to loose altitude. When we finally landed in the village, everyone came and shook our hands because they thought we were dead. Maybe I was scared but I never lost my smile.
Your smile has become a symbol for the TeamCT. Do you like the fact that we have nicknamed you Captain “smile of the 8000ers”?
First of all I must say that I am very honoured to be the captain of the team. I know that the team consists of very able young people who know how to be part of a team and have fun. I would say that the nickname is perfect for me. I cannot wait to meet all the team.
The whole of the mountaineering team are motivated and have every intention to do well, for both the excursions and also for giving feedback to the company. Some of them have already been on significant expeditions to the Himalayas. Even the young climbers are going at it hard. One of them is even a physiotherapist so if you were ever need something; they could make you a good deal.
Fantastic, my physiotherapist says I am like unfinished job; he never finishes sorting me out. I must say I am very pleased with him, I have been going to him for already a year now and I am very happy, also because he is an expert in oriental medicines which really interests me.
As for suggestions to improve our products, what can you tell us?
The harness was good, but it could be improved for high altitude mountaineering, making it even lighter. Perhaps by inserting mesh inserts maintaining the closure of the leg loops for when you need to take it off when you still have your boots and crampons on or when it is worn over warm clothing.
And what do you think about the crampons and ice axes?
Unfortunately, I was not able to use them much. All the expeditions arrived at base camp and we were not able to continue up in the next sections because of the bad weather, but for the little time that I used them, I was really pleased with them. The best thing was the ice axe. Tenacious and strong even on the steep slopes. It stuck every placement. Simone thinks I am the strongest beater of the axe and laughing said I could be an ice axe tester: if an ice axe can resist me then it is a good ice axe. The only regret is losing so much of the equipment because it was buried under metres of snow. We were not even able to find camp 1 with the GPS or by looking at the photos we had taken.
Where will you find yourself when you come back, and by the way, in the captain’s agenda is there the desire to return to Manaslu?
Simone and I have speculated an agenda of intense and interesting commitments, there are so many different things to do that we are not thinking to go back to Manaslu so soon. Already for this summer there are a few projects that we would like to pursue for which we are already training and we will see the protagonists on home soil. There is one project I would really love to try with Simone, a winter ascent of Nanga Parbat seeing as we are a good match and we didn’t really suffer the winter temperatures.
We look forward to following your next adventures and we are sure to find an always enthusiastic and smiling Tamara like today on your next visit.
Ph: Paola Bergamelli