In 2013, he summited Everest for the first time. Six years later, this Albertan did it again.
Horacio Galanti, left, poses with Ang Mingma, right, atop Mount Everest with the flags of Argentina, Canada, and Nepal. (Courtesy: Horacio Galanti)
Published Wednesday, June 26, 2019 2:40PM MDT
The top of the world was very, very, very windy the morning of May 23. In fact, the wind had been relentless for days, making Mount Everest’s north face an exposed, rocky climb that could freeze skin in less than a minute if exposed.
Horacio Galanti stayed for about 40 minutes anyway, enjoying one of Earth’s most exclusive views.
Clouds obscured Tibet, but Nuptse of the Nepalese Himalayan mountain range to the southwest was clearly visible two kilometres away.
It was 7:30 a.m. local Nepal time, almost 12 hours ahead of Galanti’s home city, Grande Prairie, Alta. He had started the summit push at 10:50 p.m., the previous day, and climbed through the night for more than eight hours.
Having reached the top, he pulled out three national flags sewn together—Argentina, Canada, and Nepal—representing his home country, his current home, and the home of the world’s tallest point.
In a photo with his climbing partner, a Sherpa by the name of Ang Mingma, Galanti’s face is mostly covered by an oxygen mask—but it’s hard to imagine he’s not smiling at having summited Everest for a second time.
“Imagine: You’re there for almost two months, battling cold and wind,” Galanti said in an interview with CTV News Edmonton three weeks later. “So you finally reach the point, it’s a huge sense of accomplishment.”
“But, on the other hand, I was very, very conscious,” he recalled. “You cannot relax because 90 per cent of the accidents occur during the descent.”
And so the Grande Prairie city manager took a few photos and began the 11-hour climb down.
Only after that would Galanti celebrate the feat. But how? Responsibly, with tea at the rest camps still in Everest’s high-altitude danger zone. He spent the night at the lowest, Camp 1, and trekked down Advanced Base Camp at 7,000 metres the following day.
Then came the Tibetan Lhasa beers.
“That evening we had a good meal, a cake,” Galanti said. “Base camp celebration was awesome.”
The expedition was a major success: Galanti completed the full trip without experiencing any hypoxia-related issues that can occur at 8,850-metre elevation, where about one-third of the oxygen at sea level is available.
And, factoring in an Everest summit via the south side in 2013, Galanti became the first Argentinian and third Canadian recorded by The Himalayan Database to climb Everest from both the north and south routes.
But, he says, “For me, not a big deal. It’s just a statistic.”
Indeed, the climb is one of many on the 48-year-old’s resumé. His early years were spent close to the Andes, and Galanti is a four-time finisher of the Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache, Alta., a 125-kilometre course over 5,200 metres of elevation change. His 2013 Everest summit via the south side counted towards a personal project he called “7 Summits + 2 Poles,” a list of expeditions on each continent’s highest mountains, and the North and South Poles.
In fact, the 2013 Everest climb is what lead to his 2019 expedition. At the time, Galanti had climbed with Mingma, and the two stayed in touch. In 2016, the Nepalese man asked Galanti to come back so they could climb the north route together.
“Initially, I was hesitant: I summited Everest already. But he insisted. We kept in touch. And about two years ago, I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”
To prepare, Galanti focused on serious high-altitude training, running the Canadian Death Race in 2017 and 2018, and returning to South America to climb the 7,000-metre Mount Aconcagua. He put on weight, remembering a 10-kilogram loss he experienced in 2013, and ensured he was equipped with the necessary technical and medical supplies.
On April 4, Galanti flew to meet Mingma.
“For me, it was reassuring to climb with him,” Galanti said of his summit partner. Not only had the Sherpa already summited Everest a total of seven times, but he and Galanti had tackled Everest together once before.
“You are tied together on a rope, so in many instances, his life was in my hands and vice versa,” Galanti recalled.
“If the other person falls, then your partner holding the rope would retain you, would save your life. So yeah, you create very strong bonds. We are good friends for life.”
Galanti returned to Canada the first week of June seven kilograms lighter than he arrived in China.
Since then, there has been increasing public discussion surrounding Everest’s maintenance and climbing death toll. This year, 11 people died on the mountain. The world’s tallest mountain has claimed hundreds of lives.
“This time, on the summit day, I saw nine bodies. They’re there, they’re frozen. They’ve have been there—some of them—for many years. Some of them are sitting there, some facing down, facing up,” Galanti said.
“For me, I just lock my mind and keep going without thinking too much about what happened and how they ended up there. Because there are many bodies on Everest.”
The corpses are some of the tens of thousands of pounds of waste on Everest, which have prompted calls for greater environmental protections.
Others say overcrowding contributes to the number of fatalities, when line ups on the mountain cause fatal delays. During the most recent summit season, a photo went viral of dozens of climbers lined up along Everest’s south ridge. The Associated Press reported the Nepalese Tourism Department issued a record 371 permits in 2019.
Galanti told CTV News Edmonton overcrowding isn’t as bad on the north side for two reasons: The Chinese side is generally considered the tougher route, and requires a more thorough vetting and permit process. However, he believes climbers and the Chinese and Nepalese governments need to exercise more responsibility: the climbers in ensuring they have the technical experience and skills needed, and the governments in regulating mountain access and environmental standards.
“Unfortunately, Everest is a big magnet for climbers. That’s the Formula One,” Galanti said.
“In my experience, about 50 per cent of the climbers shouldn’t be in the mountain. They don’t have the necessary endurance, stamina… technical abilities to be there. And when they get to the ropes, they are exhausted.”
But Galanti’s achievement remains untarnished by the public discourse. He has imagined climbing Everest since he was a kid.
“In school, when you start learning about mountains and the highest mountain in the world, always in the back of my mind that’s like, ‘Oh my God,’ hopefully one day I can climb the highest mountain in the world,” Galanti said.
And a third time?
“For now, I have no plans to go back.”