Mike Arnold: “Thanks to Barmasse I’ll be ready for the 8000ers too”

The American extreme mountaineer-skier, up to a week ago on Nanga Parbat, talks about his debut at very high altitude. “And now I’m going back to ‘my’ Italy for happy hours …”

Luca Castaldini

The record skier-mountaineer who loves white meat sauce and happy hours. It is Michael “Mike” Arnold, 34, an American from Maine and then a globetrotter until, just over three years ago, he met Elena – from the Aosta Valley – and fell in love with her, moving to her in the valley. They have been Oliver’s parents for ten months. Until the beginning of January, Mike was with Hervè Barmasse and David Goettler at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, that of the Schell Route where the group had to remedy the avalanches that licked their previous “accommodation” at high altitude. Now he has just landed in Italy, as per the previous agreement between the three, Arnold would not have attempted the ascent of the Rupal, the largest wall on Earth with its 4,500 meters of vertical development.

“It was a very positive experience, thanks above all to two talented and experienced colleagues like Hervè and David. It was my first time on an 8000er, I have to take one step at a time”.

“I am a skier (extreme, with very vertical lines descended in Alaska, Peru, Argentina and Canada, as well as those in Europe such as the apine ones on Grivola, Argentiere and Aiguille Du Midi) and, in the last two years, I thought a lot about a project to be able to ski in the Himalayas from an 8000er. For now the idea is to try it next autumn, with a very small team, we hope to do it “.

Beyond the mountaineering aspect, what will remain of your debut at very high altitude?

“In the meantime, the journey from Milan to base camp takes about 60 hours. And then the great friendliness and helpfulness of the local people, wherever we were, we felt at home. I knew that people there are very kind, but try it in person it was really exciting. ”

When did you start going to the mountains?

“Seriously around the age of 19, but the very first times already at 16”.

Is it true that he holds the record for the youngest mountain guide in the United States?

“Let’s say one of the youngest (he succeeded in 2014 when he was 27, ed). I was the 96th to obtain the Uiagm / Ifmga Mountain Guides certification. They are tough tests, ski mountaineering, rock and ice. Passing them made me proud” .

What is the difference between the Alps and the American peaks?

“The first thing that surprised me is the number of people you can meet at high altitude here in Europe. Maybe you spend a week walking around with us and meet, if all goes well, a couple of people”.

Who are the Italian mountaineers you have heard the most about in America?

“The first is Riccardo Cassin, above all for the feat he managed to accomplish on Denali (on the then McKinley, ed), when at the head of an expedition he climbed the immense face for the first time. And then of course Reinhold Messner, because however, he is the man of the 8000ers, a feat never achieved before “.

What do you miss from America?

“Obvious answer … halfway. In the sense, I miss my family, but also … Mexican food! Luckily I discovered your happy hours …”.

Did happy hour strike you in Italy?

(Laughs). “Also … It’s that with us, in America, one goes into a bar, orders, drinks and you don’t need anything. You can also dine here and, above all, the atmosphere that is created is always very jovial and fun. And of your food, I love many dishes, especially the white ragù “.

In addition to those in the mountains, is there room for other sports in your life?

“Practically not, neither as a practitioner nor as a spectator. The only exception is golf, played by my father and for this reason, at home, he has always talked about it a lot”.

That at Nanga Parbat was the first long trip from dad. How did it go?

“Yes, I was gone for almost a month and it had never happened. It is certainly different, my wife in recent weeks must have tried to explain to Oliver where his father was. He is 10 months old, who knows how much he will have understood, however! that we will try with my photos at high altitude, will probably be the most effective way to explain to my son what his dad does “.

And your wife Elena, when she greeted them to leave, what did she say to her?

(Laughs). “Be careful, do not be stupid. This he told me, and I respected the instructions…”.

Barmasse showed the two small lucky plushies that his daughters put in his backpack. Did she have any too?

“No, I limited myself to a photo of Elena and Oliver. And then I always had with me the pair of socks that never leave me, I’ve had them with me since my first expedition in the mountains, when I was 17”.

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Mike Arnold: “Thanks to Barmasse I’ll be ready for the 8000ers too”