Just after the summit
Annapurna Base Camp
Dear friends of Ecuador and the world
Annapurna’s name comes from two words in Sanskrit:
Anna, which means abundance or harvest and Purna, which means full of. The
tenth highest mountain in the world, Annapurna, which to us westerners sound
like a woman’s name, Anna, with the last name Purity, probably making honor to
its Sanskrit name it has been abundant, generous and has let me, along with
Andrew and Fernando, to harvest one of the most important dreams of my
sporting life: to reach its summit, to get to its highest point.
I write this note just after being back to BC,
sound and safe and in one piece thank God, after reaching the summit of the
Goddess of Abundance on Thursday, May 24 at three and twenty minutes in the
Logically, I have this mixture of exhaustion and
peace, one because of the physical strain and the other because of peace with
myself. My face, my lips and my tongue are burned because of the intense
cold, I have skipped a lot of hours of sleep, my stomach tries to recover from
the suffering I endured. I will get better, I will sleep and health will come
back. Meanwhile, I thank, just thank the generosity of life for letting me
achieve one of the prettiest dreams I had planned, with this summit.
Tomorrow I will start my trip back to Katmandu; as
I use to say, I return to incivilization, to this place where I live, to my
daily routine, because here in Annapurna I was just loaned for a few weeks to
conjugate the three verbs:
Ascend, just ascend – to step upon for a while –
and then, descend, just descend. And finally, to arrive – I wish just a
little better than what I was when I left to the top -.
In Katmandu I will start to write to you what it
meant and what I felt when I reached the summit of this beautiful Annapurna
and to achieve with this summit, my thirteenth eight-thousand meters summit.
A warm hug from my tent, when it is a little later
than eleven in the evening. I will finally get plenty of hours to sleep and
Editor: Doris Arroba
Iván Vallejo Ricaurte
Translated from Spanish by
WAY TO THE TOP: MONDAY 21 OF MAYO NOWADAYS
MONDAY 21 OF MAY WE HAVE ARRIVED AT the C3. TOMORROW WE FOLLOWED the C4.
THANKS TO GOD THE CLIMATE IS VERY GOOD. A WARM HUG FROM 6400 MS. This message
is sent by Iván like text message from its satelite telephone
AFTER DARK RED, ON THE WAY TO THE SUMMIT
Annapurna Base Camp, Dear friends of Ecuador and the world.
Warm greetings with my best wishes for you. Some days have gone by at BC
without me writing a new chronicle. As you can understand, the event of my
two friends in Dhaulagiri has affected everybody in this expedition, just
today I had the interest and spirit of taking a piece of paper and a pencil to
write to you.
With this chronicle I share the news that we leave on Sunday, May 20, God
willing, to the summit of Annapurna. Although the days of Saturday and Sunday
won’t be tht good, from Monday 21 the forecast is better to think about the
summit. For this reason, on Sunday we will get to C2, on Monday we will climb
up to C3, on Tuesday we will look for a rout that take us to the location of
C4, more or less at seven thousand meters of altitude, and on the morning of
Wednesday we will leave to the summit of Annapurna. God willing, on Thursday
or Friday I will share with you our arrival to the highest point of the
Goddess of Abundance. I leave you with this chronicle in which I narrate my
two thrilling days fixing lines up to the site of Camp 3.
Until then, a big hug; I am sure to count with your prayers and/or good vibes,
It is a very dangerous sport, isn’t it?
This question, which I get so often, after repeating again and again can turn
into a common figure, as much as to them as to me, until one day as last
Sunday, May 13, I find out about the death of my two good friends buried by an
avalanche in Dhaularigi – a neighbor mountain to our Annapurna –. With that I
confirm that very dangerous is
not a common figure, it is the pure and harsh reality, that the risk of dying,
the sharp razor where we repeatedly move, is the other component that occupies
the same space and value as that of the esthetics of the art of climbing
the moment of the news, at two fifteen in the afternoon of Sunday the
thirteen, I cried, I cried a lot for the loss, I cried because of their
absence. After the first hit came the whirling of phone calls to try to
coordinate the possibility of rescuing their bodies, and finally… the
hangover, the mix of pain, absence, emptiness and my own fear.
Ricardo Valencia had the kindness and generosity of passing by our Base Camp
to say goodbye just before taking off.
Curiously, at ten in the morning of Sunday thirteen, while we were chatting
over breakfast in our mess tent, we suddenly remembered the dedication with
which Riki fixed breakfast at base camps: fried fresh tomatoes with finely
diced onions, garlic, salt and pepper, all this with your choice of eggs,
toast and Spanish coffee. Ricardo’s happiness was not in the pleasure of
fixing the meal; it was in the fact of seeing how our faces glowed with this
food at the beginning of the day, anywhere at the bottom of the Himalayas. We
were talking about these things, about these details from Ricardo in our mess
tent just twenty five kilometers away, in a straight line, from the place
where he was. How curious, the avalanche happened between nine and nine
thirty, and we talked about him between ten and noon.
Dear Ricardo, thanks for your wonderful detail of coming to say goodbye at our
Annapurna Base Camp.
THIS MOUNTAIN GETTING LARGER?
The most complicated passage we have found on this route of ascent to
Annapurna is already solved, it meant to be in Camp 2 waiting for good weather
conditions for three days, and then to work hard for another two until we
finally could get, fixing almost one thousand meters of rope, to the site of
Camp 3 at 6,400m.
These two journeys have been unforgettable. With an enormous and heavy
backpack climbing little by little where we have already been before, pulling
the lines to help us; on the parts of polished ice, breathing hard to gain
vertical centimeters. Then, virgin terrain, space to discover, new fear.
With such heavy weight it is impossible to climb opening the trail; I leave
the backpack aside, and I go down deep in the anxiety of the apprehension, I
sink in the fresh snow, with the climbing tools in my hands, the iron of my
crampons in my feet and the impulse of my heart and lungs to elevate, to cross
the bridge of the crevasse that I want not to break. I
climb. But i climb so slowly?
is it that the mountain is getting larger every time? I go back to see
Fernando, he is safe with the rope fifty meters below and his figure is
getting smaller. Oh!
Then, yes. I am climbing.
The hours fly because of our slowliness against gravity. At four in the
afternoon, we have to find a place to install the tents, but in all this trail
over which we have been climbing on all fours since eight hours ago, where the
heck can a tent be?
Fernando insists on looking for something fifty meters above me. Nothing.
- Ferchoooooo, come down. Just come down.
We have to go back to the crevasse, we have to install the tent there –.
After so much effort there is nothing left for us to do but to walk back over
where we walked.
Besides the crevasse, two little tents in the middle of an immense slope.
Beautiful sunset, the best light for pictures.
The sun is saying goodbye behind Dhaulagiri, it has just gone. – See you
tomorrow, right? I hope you come back nice in the morning – and then the
Instant soup, instant rice, wheat cookies, milk and chocolate, piss and then
hit the sack.
POSSIBLE, RICE AND CHICKEN STEW
Those are the days when we dream about reaching the summit of an
eight-thousand: blue sky, a little wind, just enough to make the flags wave
and a little cold, just enough to make the snow hard.
is true that breakfast heats the gut and sometimes the heart, but it is hard
to get rid of numbness after a night at these altitudes. Annapurna shines
beautifully, showing its granite and its white with the indigo or this
gigantic canvas. While I tie the ropes of my harness I start to cough with a
hint of vomit, I know how this story goes, it is my particular voice of fear
and anxiety. A little candy almond and that’s it, and to think that
everything will go all right today. Again with my house on my back, Fernando
is behind me and then Andrew, I don’t know if walking or un-walking what we
have already walked. When I get to the last rendezvous point that Fernando
set yesterday, I glance to see what is coming: a very steep corridor of ice
first, and snow after. Doing the math I think of the always present
possibility of falling down, my mouth goes dry, my gut gurgles. When Andrew
arrives I tell him that I will open the trail but without my backpack, I know
that with such weight things could get complicated. I tie up the backpack to
a safety pin, I give the end of my rope to Andrew, another candy almond and I
take off. I break the ice with the tools in my hands and the irons in my
feet, two hits up and two hits down, while I climb I repeat in my mind:
bistare, bistare (slowly in
Nepalese), that’s how I should climb, slowly, with accuracy, with elegance,
this is not a matter of strength, it is a matter of causing a slight wound to
the ice, just enough to get support. I said it before: these are wounds that
save lives. Caramba, what a coincidence, like those wounds that love leaves
which also save lives.
pass the ice part and I enter into very loose snow, I am surprised, it is just
nine in the morning and this is very loose. I notice a slate of ice where I
think I can put a safety pin, I go there. Sixty meters above Andrew and
eighty above Fernando I put a screw and I breathe again. I recover my
backpack by pulling it, poor thing, all covered with ice and snow, it is
damaged but I don’t see it, it has bruises but I don’t see them, it complains
but I don’t listen to it.
get ready for the next long stretch, the terrain doesn’t look good: a soup of
snow above crystal ice and that would fall down in any moment. Andrew states
his fear and lack of trust, I tell him I want to try a little and I take off
again. Twenty meters above him and I can not do it anymore, I sink in a kind
of loose flour which is avid of swallowing me to the waist. I am sorry, I
give up, this shitty snow keeps me from going and I fear that it will all fall
down on me.
-I am sorry Fercho, I am not moving from here, I am very afraid of this snow-.
Fernando gets closer, he patiently prepares a new safety pin close to where I
am and convinces me to keep going again. I gladly accept but without the
Ahhhhh!, without weight and knowing that I have a new safety pin in case the
mountain falls down on me, that’s another story. The pleasure of climbing
again, of gaining some meters to gravity, I don’t struggle with the loose snow
anymore, now I talk to it, I tell it that for some hours, for some days I also
want to be part of the scenery. Not to damage it, no. To the contrary, to
honor it and to thank for these hours, for these days. Then I will take my
four tereques, I will pack up my fears, my doubts, my tears and my happiness
and I will go back home to live with the memories, which at the end is the
only thing I take. Fernando arrives, hugs, celebration, we have solved the
ice spur, almost one thousand meters of rope patiently woven from the foot of
the wall up to these 6,400m.
starts to snow strongly, we zip up our jackets and we start to climb down over
those same ropes. If possible I want rice and chicken stew today when I
arrive to Base Camp.
Editor: Doris Arroba
Iván Vallejo Ricaurte
Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera
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