GIVING UP AT TWO HUNDRED METERS FROM THE SUMMIT
Human character is like a balance: carefulness in on one side and audacity is on
the other. The shy careful one and the indiscrete audacious are balances with
just one arm, useless junk.
alarm clock rings at eleven thirty and I start to melt snow to fill the
canteens, despite being at 7,800m I feel good with my acclimatization, because I
feel nauseous but not much, and that is good.
two in the morning I am the first one out, despite the cold it is not difficult
to put on my crampons and to tie on the harness, then Juan, Mikel, Ferrán, Josu
and finally Fernando come out.
Because of my debt of the previous day, I go ahead to start opening the trail.
At two ten in the morning we leave C4 towards the summit. I get into the snow
with enthusiasm, with vigor, with strength, I don’t have the pain of the heavy
backpack on me to make me useless. I climb up opening the trail dying of
happiness! The agreement is that each one will do this job for half an hour;
Juan is climbing behind me, he takes his turn and I go to the end of the line.
This firefly of twelve feet goes climbing over the steep slope of
my turn comes again, my thirty minutes of meditation come, my entire body making
zen, living this unique moment of the exercise of breathing and climbing. My
mantra is the sound, the action of breaking the snow, stepping deep, to impulse
and make exactly the same with the other foot, while I breath deeply hoping that
the poor oxygen we have gets into my lungs and from there it spreads to my
blood. Those thirty minutes are precious, not thinking blankly, just waiting
the chatzzz! of the boot when it goes down deep to make it be in rhythm while I
inhale and exhale. The time doesn’t matter, I just climb and while I do it my
teammates and me get the benefit of it. I never know when my turn ends, Juan
always pats me with the sky cane and gets me out of it, and he goes ahead and
opens the trail.
one of the following turns, I lose the concentration halfway, the toes of my
left foot ache a lot because of the cold, I try to move them so that they won’t
get colder and I momentarily feel afraid of what may happen to me, but I feel
comfort thinking that everybody is going through the same. You know, when
everybody hurts… On the next turn I rest, take out the canteen, hydrate and
read that the thermometer is 28 degrees C below zero. That’s
why, mother! We advance, we climb, we breath, we feel sleepy, we
complain of the cold, but we continue climbing.
Finally the sun shows up but far away from us, since we are on the South wall we
won’t get it! With the light I can manage to see where our BC is and I think
about my tent, I miss it because it should be lit by the sun and warm. I think
about the song we all parents sing sometime or another to our kids: sun, little
sun, warm me up, today and tomorrow…
10 in the morning we finish the Handrail and we turn right to the corridor that
leads us to the summit, at 8,586m. We stop again and Mikel decides to go back,
he is very worried about one of his feet, he doesn’t feel it at all and says: I
don’t want to go through Zaragoza, thinking about the very famous MAS Clinic,
with Dr. Kiko Arregui as head of staff, specialized in frostbite and
the corridor the snow is lose but between Juan and I we take care of it. An
hour later, at eleven, that milky sky gets it together and it starts to snow.
We don’t pay attention and we continue climbing. I face a long piece of line,
over a horrendous lose and dangerous snow. Sometimes I go deep down to my waist
and when the crust breaks all the snow falls on my teammates in pieces and
dust. That part is not long but it is exhausting in those conditions. I reach
an old line and I ask for relief. It is now noon and the snow has turned into a
blizzard that hits us hard on our bodies and faces; I check the altimeter and it
reads almost 8,300: two hundred meters away
from the summit, I think. I also check the barometer and it says the
storm is getting worst.
the middle of all this we have a meeting. How much is left? Should we go on or
Should we wait or not? Can
we continue in these conditions? The blizzard shakes us hard and leaves no room
Should we go
What a shame, we go down!
Shitty weather forecast.
Wasn’t the 19th the day for the summit? Why, why us?
I zip up my feather jacket and I continue following the steps of Juan, Ferrán,
Josu and Fernando.
cant believe it: two hundred meters from the summit after almost twelve hours of
CHRONICLE: Burying the defeat
Iván Vallejo Ricaurte
Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera
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