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  Everest and K2 Summiter: Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte ON THE way to the summit part three

On the way to the summit (3)

Dear friends of Ecuador and the World

I send you warm greetings from Karakorum, on the way to Broad Peak.

I share one more chronicle of my ascent to the summit of Annapurna.


Have a good week

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte


On the afternoon of May 22 we reached 6,400m and we installed Camp 3 just below a fearsome and huge set of blocks of ice; beforehand we knew that this place was a key passage to continue our ascent to Camp 4.  Just below them we installed four tents for us eight, in fact the idea of thinking what could happen in any moment took our breath away, thinking that one of those ice things could fell down and with that we could be buried, in the better of cases or to be swept to the void, in the worst of cases.  But the thing is… that there was no other site to place the tents.

From the place where the tents are, this wave of ice looks threatening and there is no evident pass that would allow us to climb the one hundred fifty meters of these ice towers and reach the path that leads us to Camp 4.  The information we have from last year’s expedition, from S. Mondinelli, doesn’t match with reality, it is a fact that there are the remains of the lines he had installed but…

Once the tents were installed, Sergey and Andrew immediately put on their feather suit, took one hundred lines of rope and left looking for the famous pass between the seracs.  Fernando and I melted snow while they were struggling in the maze.

One hour later they returned with not so good news: they found the ropes of S. Mondinelli’s expedition from last year but they get to a crevasse that is fifteen meters wide.  With that unsettling panorama, it is the end of the day, on Monday, May 21.  Tomorrow will be another day.

Inside the tent each one has soup, they cook rice and mix it with sardines with olive oil, then we make water and drink, drink a lot.  While we have dinner I feel there is a lot of cold inside the tent… so outside you can imagine.

I have to pee.

- Fercho, would you lend me your bottle please? 

After the business and the contortions one has to do inside the littlest tent, I get into the sleeping bag.  Improvised pillow, regular comfort, a little MP3 music, pray and see you tomorrow.  By the way, about praying, Fernando insist that one of the prayers has to be done asking for that that Perito Moreno we have over our heads would not crumble tonight.  How I laugh about the definition of Perito Moreno.



                        Caption: Worried about this kind of Perito Moreno above our heads…

                                               because there was no other site to place the tents.  Sergey goes towards the foot of the enormous serac.


Tuesday, May 22:

The alarm goes off at five in the morning.  Five more minutes, please!  As usual.  In that time I think, I put my ideas in order and I plan what I am going to do when the five minutes end, I hope they would be long: starting with the nose I get out of the sleeping bag very slowly, so that the frost doesn’t fall on our faces.  I sit, I finally wake up with the first blow of cold on the cheeks, I move Fernando so that he gets up and so that I can move to the door of the tent to reach the kitchenette, light it up, put pieces of ice on the pot and make water for breakfast. 

How is the serac?

Would there be a pass or not?

If there isn’t, what would we do?

Don’t worry, there would be one…

In fact, from down here the issue looks screwed up.

So, talking alone but in silence, my five minutes are due and like a little executioner the alarm sounds with its usual inclemency.  Then I feel a huge and heavy anchor that ties me to my sleeping bag.  Outside my pigpen it is cold, the interior walls of the tent are frozen, full of frost and ice.  

Why go out?

Let’s go, let’s go, we have to go out to climb to Camp 4 and tomorrow to the summit.

Good, so let’s get out. 

At seven thirty in the morning we all have had breakfast, out of our tents and with our feather suits because it is cold.  We have to solve the serac passage.

Editor: Doris Arroba

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Earlier: On the way to the summit (2)


Ramiro Navarrete was one of the best mountain climbers there has been in the history of Ecuador.

His return to Ecuador after a long season climbing the Alps, while he was finishing his doctorate in philosophy (and in that order of importance) between Navarra and England, meant a great injection of vitality for our sport, but above all it showed us a different way to view and to face the challenges on the Andes.

His contribution served to open new ways in Ecuador, to make us see that organizing an expedition to the Andes in Colombia, Peru or Bolivia was not so complicated as we thought; I myself took a bus to Alpamayo and Artesonraju, supported unconditionally by Ramiro.  He made exceptional climbs in Alpamayo, in Santa Cruz, Huascarán in Peru and Illampu, in Bolivia.  Then he turned his gaze to the highest mountains of the world in the Himalayas.  His was the idea of being the first Ecuadorian to climb Everest.  With his always methodic ways, he prepared a plan to let him make sure to reach the summit of the highest mountain of the world successfully.

In 1986 he climbed Communist peak with more than seven thousand meters of altitude; then he chose Shisha Pangma as his first eight thousand and reached its summit with no one else than one of the most brilliant stars we have had in Himalayan mountain climbing: Jerzy Kucukza.  To finish his preparation he chose Annapurna as the last step before facing Everest.  On October 17, 1988, he reached the summit of the Goddess of Abundance by a long and complicated way through the south wall; on the next day, October 18, while he was climbing down from the last camp to BC, the weather was not good and visibility was almost null.  This prevented him from seeing a cornice that was treachery under his feet; his climbing teammate Francisco Espinosa only heard the crack and the following thunder of the enormous piece of ice breaking.  Ramiro Navarrete slipped over that infinite and abrupt slope of the south face of Annapurna.  He remained in that mountain forever.

I had the enormous luck of being one of his close friends, or better, I had the luck of having him as one of my teachers: he taught me photography, he pushed me into the first expeditions out of the country, but above all he taught me to see a wide and gigantic horizon that was beyond Ecuador.

It hurt a lot when Ramiro left, with his absence I lost my great friend and my great teacher.  Now that I was going to Annapurna, the mountain where he is, it was my special occasion to greet him, to talk to him; to ask him that, if possible he would go with me on this ascent.

At the bottom of Annapurna in its west face, a modest memorial has been built to remember the countless mountain climbers that have lost their lives in that mountain, a memory for Ramiro was missing in that place.

From Ecuador I took a modest homage to Annapurna, a plate to deposit there the gratitude and love of several friends who shared with him part of our march over the mountains.  On May 20, on the way to the summit of Annapurna I raised this memorial, with Fernando; we had a prayer, I talked with Ramiro and we place his plate.  When I took my backpack again I knew he would go to the summit with me.


                        Caption: At the memorial, at the bottom of Annapurna with the plate I left as a memory of love from his friends.

Editor: Doris Arroba 

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera


Islamabad, June 18, 2007 

Dear friends of Ecuador and the world. 

Warm greetings from Islamabad, now on the way to Broad Peak, the twelfth highest mountain in the world with 8,047m on the Karakorum mountain system.  I am here as a member of the Al Filo de lo Imposible expedition for Televisión Española.  For me it has been glad to get an invitation again from this team, famous because of their adventures and the quality film work which they have done for more than twenty years.  As members of the expedition we are, except for Fercho, the same as in the Annapurna expedition: Edurne Pasaban, Asier Izaguirre, Ferran Latorre and yours truly.  We will meet with four more members at Broad Peak’s BC to sum eight in total in the group.  I will let you know the names of the new teammates later. 

For now, as promised, I start sending you the chronicles I have written regarding our ascent to the summit of Annapurna last May 24.  There will be several chronicles thought and written for you my friends and ascent partners.  One of the ways I can thank for your support and company is precisely sharing with you these expedition chronicles. 


With my affection, 

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte


On the way to the summit (1) 


On Friday, May 11, Andrew, Fernando and I had reached 6,400m, the location of Camp 3, fixing almost a thousand meters of rope through a precious trail through ice walls, snow blankets and long and steep slopes, always having behind us a falling yard which seemed to want to swallow us at the least error.  The charm of this trail was that from time to time, for very short moments, we had the pleasure of defying gravity.

Back at BC we only had to wait for a window of good weather.  We had to have at least four days in a row of good weather, where especially the last two had to be perfect because they were going to be used to reach the summit and come back down. 


I read the book Letters to Albert Einstein at BC.  This book, besides giving a brief biography of one of the greatest geniuses humanity has had, makes reference to numerous letters from children from all over the world who with their simple ways and innocence make the most divers questions to Dr. Einstein, and certifies the stature of such a human being reflected in the extraordinary simple way with which he talks to children.  Reading it was useful for me to make a brief and flat review of the theory of relativity, which was good while we waited. 

Every wait brings anguish and normally comes with a time that is always relative because it can be enormous or small, infinite or precise.  Everything depends… 

The expecting mother that waits for the ninth month.

The baby that grows in the mother’s womb and although it waits, it doesn’t know anything about the wait.

The lover that waits for the kiss and love of a quarter of an hour.

The inmate that waits for the sentence.

Closing the eyes waiting for the first kiss.

Waiting for your turn to visit the dentist because the judgment tooth has no room.

Forty five thousand fans waiting for the match to end.

Someone waiting for the grades of the final exam.

Ten mountain climbers waiting for four days of good weather.


You can wait standing up, sitting down, calm, with despair, with euphoria, crying, talking or in silence.  That’s how the wait is like.  It is like death, we all get squished by it. 

But every wait has a godfather or executioner: 

For the mother, the passing of time

For the baby, just its mother

For the lover, his lover

For the inmate, the sentence

For the kiss, the lips

For the patient, the anesthesia

For the fans, the referee

For the student, the teacher

And for us… the weather forecast from Vitor Baia.

Vitor Baia 

Vitor Baia is from Portugal, he lives in La Guarda, on the north of Lisbon. 

After Kangchenjunga, with the company of Joao Garcia, I went to meet him and to thank him for the immense help he gave us with sending the weather forecast which was key to reach the summit of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain of the world.  Vitor has deadly passion for parapente, he started to fly with it and now he is the instructor of his own school, that has taken him to understand the readings of winds, of those winds which let him fly and let me climb.

When Vitor sits in from of his computer to calculate the meteo, he lives his special everyday ceremony, a kind of reading of the oracle which makes him know if it is feasible or not, if there is a flight or not; in sum, it means if you live or die.

In from of the screen of his computer Vitor is different, he transforms, because for him getting the meteo is not just interpreting the graphics and the colors; is a whole thing, a whole that makes him live and vibrate, which makes him feel like a kind of Merlin of the winds, the sun, the clouds and the humidity. 

That night he asked me for a place and I said Kangchenjunga, just like that.  He found the latitude and longitude and came up with a bunch of maps, curves, colors and bars.  In that moment he entered a trance, possessed by the spirits of the wind, the water and the mountains.  That, which for me was and unexplainable thing, for him was snow, wind, sun, clouds, humidity.  With the index he made curves on the computer screen, as if commanding the path of the wind.  The Vitor Baia of that moment, possessed by the gods of the meteo was full of light, covered by that glitter of the power to predict.

Every night, after his wife and his two daughters go to sleep he slips out to read the oracle and the deck of magic cards with which he plays with the designs of the sun, the clouds and the wind.

This Vitor Baia, dear friend, has all our trust and confidence in such delicate topic of the weather predictions.                                   


Literally: days 22, 23 and 24.  Good weather.  Day 24 sun, wind west 40 – 50 km on the summit.  Days 25, 26 and 27 still with good weather but with stronger winds. 

It was very clear, the week from the 22 to the 26 of May was the window of good time we were waiting, we would have clear skies although we were worried of the wind speed, because normally the bearable limit for any human being is between 30 and 40 kilometers per hour.  The fifty worried me a lot, and I suppose everybody.

On May 20 we left from BC, Edurne, Asier, Fernando, the two Sherpas and I from our group, Al Filo de lo Imposible; Andrew and Sergev from the other expedition.  A day later Iñaki Ochoa and Horia would leave and they would reach us at Camp 3.

Editor: Doris Arroba 

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

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