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 Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte OUR EXPEDITION ENDS

Base Camp in Sisha Pangma, Wednesday, October 3, 2007.


Dear friends of Ecuador and the world.


I send you a friendly hug from this very cold night at Base Camp to update you about the last events and decisions.


According to the plan, we would climb to Camp 1 on Friday, September 28 with the intention of completing our acclimatization plan, sleeping two nights in the site and one in C2 at around 6,900m.


The ascent to Camp 1 was not in the best conditions, according to what we were expecting by the weather forecast.   It was very windy all the time and around four in the afternoon it started to snow.  Between the two Sherpas, Manolo and I we managed to install the big tent that would be our Camp 1.  The rest of the afternoon and night the tent was a continuously shook by the wind and we would listen to the snow falling, slipping and accumulating over our tent.   With all this, in my case, I had to add an additional pain: at nine twenty three in the evening, exactly at that time because I checked my watch, a slight tooth pain began which unfortunately got bigger each hour because of the useless medicines there were here which I desperately pushed into my stomach.   To make a long story short, at four in the morning, without having slept for a minute, I literally pulled my hair and cried; besides me, in a marvelous display of solidarity Manolo hugged me and said: come on, cheer up, we will go down when daybreak comes.   Finally at six in the morning, with the ninth pill in my belly, I had slept for an hour.  What a relief!  It was very lucky for me to rest for an hour away from such nightmare!   There was a bad weather still outside, a lot of snow accumulated on our tents and the wind did not recede.  We had breakfast, we dressed up to descend and I had a beast of a hangover, groggy because of the all night pain. Get our of there, although dressed up to our eyes, I went out to face the strength of the wind and the snow.  The little tent we had left as a dept, besides our tent, was almost completely covered, the entire Camp 1 was an unfriendly place, white and frozen.  There was no doubt, the plan could not continue, we had to go down to Base and wait.


Caption: The little tent we had left as a dept, besides our tent, was almost completely covered, the entire Camp 1 was an unfriendly place, white and frozen.



Back at Base, the bad weather continued all day.  The snow was accumulating down here and up there also.  That was the main reason of our worries.


Yesterday, October 2, Asier and I went up to Camp 1 again with the main objective of checking the conditions, of the snow on the mountain.   With much sorrow we found all the snow accumulated, from before the recent weekend, It had not transformed a bit; if we got out of the trail we would sink up to our knees in the powder snow in the worst conditions.  


At this point I think it is convenient to clarify something.  Shisha Pangma has two summits above eight-thousand meters: the Central Summit of 8,013m and the Maximum of 8,046m.  The route that goes from the north side, where we are right now, takes us to the Central Summit and from there it is necessary to make a very delicate trek to reach the Maximum Summit.  Logically, Edurne Pasaban was interested in reaching Maximum, because that is the summit that counts for the Fourteen.


With this note and counting that the snow conditions we found yesterday, we think there is a very slight chance to reach Central Summit; however, the possibilities of reaching the main one, from our point of view are nil or almost nil.  That's why we had taken the decision of ending the expedition, a decision that competes only to our team Al Filo de lo Imposible, from Televisión Española.


I send a big hug with all my gratefulness for the support I had from you in the time I have been participating in this attempt.  This is a new experience in my career over the mountains of the Himalayas and without a doubt a great addition before my preparation for the next challenge, God willing, to the summit of Dhaulagiri.


We will keep in touch by written reports, because there will always be stories to tell, stories to share.


                         Caption: Back to the location of the depot, a lot of snow and a lot of wind.

                                                In the picture: Juanito, Manolo, Asier and Edurne


With my great affection.


Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte



Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Earlier: Base Camp at Shisha Pangma. Tibet 

Warm greetings from our BC. 

I write to you to inform about the development of our expedition. 

Last Friday 21 we did our first incursion to where Camp 1 will be.  Initially we had planned to do it the day before, Thursday 20, but unfortunately our teammate Edurne was not fit for the journey, so we all gladly agreed to stay at Base as a gesture of solidarity with our chief of the expedition.  

We left our Base Camp on Friday at seven twenty in the morning. 

The first part of the journey goes along the edge of what could be described as an immense tide of ice that has been, apparently, immobilized in time.   Some of the crests are pointy, others are flat; some of them rise proudly, others descend exhausted to sip a little of the water that run by their feet. 

This trail takes a couple of hours until we arrive to the place called Depot, because there is the place where we can safely leave the big boots, campons, piolets and ski canes that will be used for the next part.   While I put on my boots and prepare the crampons, some boys from Maule arrive, Basque-French, who immediately start chatting with Edurne and Asier, it is funny to listen to them: a hard language like Euskera spoken in the Gallic accent of Pepe le Pu.


Caption: We climb by the edge of an immense tide of ice that has been, apparently, immobilized in time.

In the background, to the left, the top part of Shisha. (Picture, I. Vallejo) 

We get into the glacier and the first thing to do is to surf in this static field of ice waves.  Up and down; ascend and descend; first the crest and then the bottom, or first the bottom and then the crest; it is the same, what matters is that it goes up and down.  The water slithers between these immobile crests while it sings and it makes its own music sound in the silence of this scenery.  Some of these waves are between eight and ten meters high, my surfboard are the irons of my crampons, I fix with them on the white surface, I turn and spin.  From time to time when the wave rises steep and abruptly, I feel sad to think that I have to hurt it with the end of my piolet, but I give just the right hit so that there are no more than the necessary splinters, so that my hit would not damage the aesthetics of this frozen sea.  

The fury recedes, the waves are weaker and now it is just a long and steep slope of snow.

Caption:   We get into the glacier and the first thing to do is to surf in this static field of ice waves.  (Picture, M. Benito)

 The four of us mountain climbers and Manolo climb by this slope where there is an infernal heat, thirty four degrees Celsius in the thermometer.  And I had planned to take it easy during the first weeks of September in my pre-season training on the face of Dhaulagiri and here I am, in this heat, with my backpack on my back at around six thousand meters and with my little heart running at a hundred and sixty beats.  What a way to start the pre-season.  But any way I have to thank life for its generosity, to put me back on the Himalayas in a wink, at the foot of one of the highest mountains of the world and hopefully, in a few weeks, on its summit.  

I am happy, or better said, very happy. 

At twelve thirty we I arrive to the location of Camp 1, a slope with very little inclination which will be a nice place to install our tents, there are about fifteen in the place.  My teammates arrive one by one and we celebrate the journey.  The GPS marks 6,345 m of altitude, a little higher that the highest summit of my town, Chimborazo (6,310 m).  We mix the hugs with slices of orange and sips of lemonade. 

On our way down we descend skiing by the slope which now has a wonderful snow, it takes us just twenty minutes to undo what we did in almost three hours climbing.  We surf the ice waves again, we change our boots and we walk back by the edge of the frozen sea.  I turn on the MP3 and I go down slowly letting the sun of four in the afternoon to shower my back, shoulders and my backpack.  I listen to the slow rhythm of vallenato Te mando flores (I send you flowers) and I laugh alone wondering, but how, if she is so far away?



To continue with the process of acclimatization the next step is to climb to sleep two nights in Camp 1 at 6,345 m and one night in Camp 2 at 6,800 m, approximately.  We leave on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the weather.


Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte



Translated form Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Earlier: Madrid, Monday September 10, 2007 

Dear friends of Ecuador and the world. 

I send you warm greetings from Marques de Urquijo in Madrid, from this so loved house that shelters me and takes care of me.  Now I am on my way to Shisha Pangma, a mountain of 8,046m located on the Tibetan plateau.  I learned that I had to prepare a backpack and get on the airplane again just a week ago when I was coming from vacations.  You see, here I am on the middle of the road between Ecuador and Tibet.

The purpose of this expedition is to go along with my dear friend Edurne Pasaban who is going to get, God willing, her tenth eight-thousand, to level up with the same number of eight-thousand that Nives Meroi (Italy) and Gerlinde Kalterbruner (Austria) have on the same project. 

I was in Shisha Pangma during the fall of 2004, reaching the summit of that mountain by the difficult south wall with Santiago Sagaste, who sadly died last May 13, buried by an avalanche, along with my other great friend Ricardo Valencia, on the northeast side of Dhaulagiri.  Now we go to Shisha by the north side and we will film the ascent for Al Filo de lo Imposible, for Televisión Española.  The members of the expedition, besides Edurne, are: Juanito Oiarzábal, Asier Izaguirre, Manolo Benito, as cameraman for Al Filo, and yours truly. 

On the flight I took from Quito to Madrid between Saturday and Sunday, I wrote this first chronicle I have titled AS A BLANK SHEET.  I share it with you and I hope you enjoy it. 

I will continue with the development of this new adventure through words.  I hope you have a cool week.

With my great affection. 

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte



It’s been a hundred and twenty thousand kilometers of flight, five books read, thousands of precious words by Benedetti, dozens of blocks walked in the airports and sixteen thousand a hundred and thirty seven meters ascended without oxygen between Nepal (Annapurna, 8,091m) and Pakistan (Broad Peak, 8,047m).  Now I go again on a plane to add another twenty five thousand kilometers of flight holding hands with the fair woman (I mean, the Fair Woman (Mujer Justa), by Sandor Marai).  I am trying to remember which backpack I used to go around the block on the night of last December 31, because you should know that I do that ceremenoy all the time: the 12 grapes for the wishes and health, the red underwear for the arts of love, to jump over the fire of the dummy we use to burn in Ecuador to leave there, into the fire, the bad vibes of the year that is about to end, and then go around the block with luggage, in my case with a backpack, because of the trips and my summits.  Anyway, no matter the backpack I used for wishing, there is no doubt that it was one of the most generous with trips and mountains.  The voyage has been intense and entertaining: from Quito to Madrid and from there to Katmandu to climb a mountain.  From Nepal to Spain and then to Ecuador to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3 with my angel.  From the Middle of the world back again to Madrid, via Doha and then to Islamabad.  Climb another mountain.  From Pakistan to the Emirates, go by Madid and go back to Ecuador.  Short vacations, with my angel of course, and today from Ecuador to Tibet via Amsterdam, Madrid and the Emirates on the way to Shisha Pangma (8,046m). 

As I usually do, I have slept very little before the trip, just two hours.  The alarm goes off and zas to the shower, zas to the airport and zas to the plane.  To cheer up in the middle of this hangover with no alcohol I think about the night before the summit of Broad Peak, the early morning of last July 12, in camp 3 at around seven thousand meters of altitude.  We don’t sleep a minute (because we can’t due to the lack of oxygen).  At ten in the evening we start to prep up.  At twelve we leave towards the summit.  All the predawn morning (24 degrees below zero) and all morning climbing.  At noon we are finally on the summit.  Once there, one hour of happiness, hugs, pictures, to feel ourselves a part of the summit of the world and then descend.  At five in the afternoon, exhausted and dry, back again around seven thousand meters in camp 3.  That is seventeen little hours of competition without having slept the previous hour.

With this memory I cheer up thinking that the present hangover is nothing, or it is, is pretty: Two hours slept in my bed, holding Kamila who was warm, then the shower, the airport, the plane and now sitting down, very comfortable, doing nothing, at an altitude which is above any of the thirteen eight-thousands I have climbed and much better, with a lot of oxygen. 

Isn’t this a nice hangover? 

The couple of fresh lattés and croissants offered by the flight attendant leave me lighten up, I turn on the computer and I find in My Pictures the folder called Broad Peak 2007, I watch the pictures again and I notice that in them I am always happy, always smiling. 

Now when I remember this last expedition of just seven weeks ago I feel happy because I was there happy, I feel joyful because I was there joyful.                        

What is the meaning for me to climb the same mountain by the same route for the second time, knowing that it is always demanding while you feel useless above seven thousand meters?

When I see myself in each of the pictures I find the answer.  It has meant identical illusion, the same enthusiasm and with the same will as if it was my first mountain, my first eight-thousand.  That is the key to enjoy that which we could catalog as routine, which we use to lay a cold and pale tombstone, over the most appreciated gifts of any human alive: the capacity to amaze, that same capacity that we sometimes wrongly think belongs only to children.  To have the possibility to be surprised each day is an act of humbleness, to believe everything is already know is an act of pride which keeps us from growing, to improve and, in its most important and deep form, to enjoy and be happy.  It is an act of humbleness to give ourselves each day as a blank sheet which is going to be written by the lessons of the universe and life, by everything in the list, by the most prosaic and the greatest. 

It is true that I have climbed Broad Peak in 1998 and that the Baltoro Glacier, which leads to this mountain and others of the three highest in the world, was going to be covered for the fourth time.  But when I accepted the proposal of going with my dear teammate Edurne Pasaban I was aware that I had to go back as a blank sheet.   

It is good I did it and then the light, the wind, the colors of dawns and dusks, the silver of the moon, the faces of baltis, their songs and their dances, the wind and cold of the summit day, and finally the happiness, the hugs and happiness of the summit of Broad Peak wrote new words for me, new paragraphs, new verses. 

To push away the fetid odor of routine there is the fresh breath of the things that have to be made with love, the capacity of being able to reinvent each time it is necessary, the intelligence of not losing grace to be amazed just like kids, and above all the humbleness of wanting to learn always. 

At noon on last July 12 I was on the summit of Broad Peak with the same illusion and the same smile as always.  Now I am on my way to Shisha Pangma for the second time, again with Edurne, with an added value: we will climb by the north face (in 2004 I did is by the demanding south face), so the advantage is even greater. 

Let’s hope that the colors, the images, the light, the sun and the wind of Shisha Pangma will write more verses on my blank sheet.

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte


Translated form Spanish by Jorge Rivera


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