Tamara Lunger is the face of this year’s European Outdoor Film Tour (31 October to 12 November). The E.O.F.T. is the biggest outdoor film tour in Europe, bringing you the most spectacular outdoor and adventure sports films of the year, including the film of the 28 year old Italian’s ascent of K2 without oxygen last year.
At 23 Tamara became the youngest woman to reach the summit of Lhotse (8,516m). The rising star of the alpine climbing world was also a World Champion long distance ski-mountaineer, accomplished sky-runner and even a former member of the national discus team.
She tells us about her passion for mountaineering, learning to fly a helicopter with Simone Moro and that magic moment on the summit of K2.
It was very strange because when I saw this mountain from afar for the first time in 2012 I was almost afraid - it looked so huge. I was invited on a winter ascent but wasn’t interested. Then in the summer I split up with my boyfriend. When I was asked to go on a summer expedition my Mum said, ‘You have to go, it’ll be fantastic for you.’ My mother is quite unusual!
The next time I saw the mountain I had a completely different view. There was such a positive energy. I almost fell in love with it. I had this amazing feeling of harmony. I was a little bit scared as a friend had died on Cho Oyu which was a very sad time and I knew I’d see the body again. But when we found them, it didn’t feel bad. It was normal. That was his life and mine will go on. From that moment I had not even one second of fear on that mountain.
My climbing partner, Klaus Gruber, and I started our summit attempt after midnight because we wanted to avoid the crowds. Shortly after sunrise we could see the bottleneck of people waiting and I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s not possible.’
I was looking at my watch because my time limit to reach the summit was 3pm. We were in a line of people and had only managed to climb a few metres in three or four hours. I was so nervous because the weather was perfect and I thought, ‘It can’t end here.’
300 metres below the summit everyone stopped to take a break. I seized the chance to go at my own pace and enjoy it. I didn’t need the fixed ropes. When I made it to the summit there were just a few people there and I had time to enjoy the moment. I waited for Klaus for an hour. I didn’t know if he’d decided to turn back, so I decided to go down because the weather was getting worse. I saw him as I was going down and we met up at Camp 4 two hours later.
That moment on the summit was very special. I felt I’d found myself again.
Q Six months ago you had to withdraw from your attempt to climb Manaslu (8,163m) with fellow Italian Simone Moro. What’s your next adventure?
The avalanche destroyed our camp and all our equipment and we thought it was a sign we should go home. Just a week later the earthquake hit Nepal so we knew we were very lucky. My next expedition will be a winter attempt on Nanga Parbat [8,126m].
Q You ski and run as well as climb?
I started off running [Tamara came second in the Italian Orienteering Championships in 2000] but I had the same problems with my knees. I switched to discus [in 2004 and 2005 she won Silver in the national Discus Championships] but I didn’t like the physique I was developing and didn’t get the same satisfaction I got from running.
I need the suffering. The best feeling for me was to fall into bed at night totally destroyed.
I kept dreaming of long-distance running and, with the help of physio, in 2013 I was able to run the Gore-tex Transalpine Run, finishing in second place with my teammate Annemarie Gross. [8 days, 4 countries 270k long with more than 16,000m of ascent].
I love it. I really love it. But my knees are not made for it and so after my latest expedition on Manaslu I realised I had to stop and deal with the pain. It’s nearly 3 months since I stopped running, climbing and skiing and that often makes me feel anxious.
But I was really lucky when Simone told me he’d teach me to fly a helicopter when we got back from Manaslu. That was a dream. I’d looked into going to training as a pilot when I was 15 but decided to do sport instead. Flying gave me something else to concentrate on so I could forget my knees. And a week ago, I got my ultra light licence. I love it.
Mountaineering is still my number one passion. Being in the mountains means everything to me. No human being can give me what I get out of being in the mountains. I’m not happy in a gym. I need nature to be happy.
The more I go on expeditions, the more open I am to this feeling – perhaps it’s why I have to keep going back – to feel like myself. You have time to be alone with yourself. At home you have phone, radio and TV, you’re always distracted. There you have nothing and you are so happy and you learn a lot about yourself.
The E.O.F.T. tours the UK from 31 October to 12 November with shows in London, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham.
BUY TICKETS £12 in store / £13.50 online from Ellis Brigham.