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  Carlos Pauner 2008: Dhaulagiri 2008 A BIG OPPORTUNITY

Dhaulagiri, Wednesday April 16, 2008




We are in our base camp, resting quietly and the weather is very good.  It doesn't snow and the sun shines.  The fallen snow has been purged from the mountain and the conditions look good.  Also, the different weather forecasts of the different expeditions, who are around here, match and it looks like there are some days of good weather coming.  It is the big opportunity, that window that will let us work on the mountain during 3 or 4 days to open the gate to hope.


After the meeting we had yesterday with all the groups, we decided to work together, Spaniards (most of us), Czechs, Polish, and the others, to open the gate to Dhaulagiri.  This means, be able to get all the necessary rope to camp 2 and fix it between camp 2 and camp 3 at almost 7,200 m of altitude.  Each group, after camp 2 is installed and the rope is fixed above 7,000m, has the opportunity to go to the summit in a very close future.

So our team will climb on Thursday to camp 1, which was installed a few days ago.  We will sleep there and then we will go to camp 2, to install it and to sleep.  On the next day we will have to work on the route again and then go back to sleep in camp 2.  at down, back to the comfort of our little home at base camp.  A lot of work, but necessary work on the mountain.  If everything goes well, we would have opened the route and we will be in a very different phase.  We will be thinking about the first attacks to the summit.  Almost nothing.


Today we have to prepare everything, so that nothing is missing up there.  Tents, gas, food, rope, nails, etc., etc.  A lot of equipment, but everything will be necessary up there.  We also have to prepare our minds.  After these days of calm, days of a lot of work are coming, of a lot of effort and of course, a lot of risk.  No doubt, personally it won't be easy for me to sleep in the same place where Ricardo, Garcés and Santiago lay.  My mind can not forget the big moments we lived, specially with Ricardo.  I shared expeditions with him, moments of friendship, dreams, illusions and part of my life went with him forever.  No, it won't be easy to be there.  But I will be.  It will be a homage for them all, to these brave warriors that gave their lives chasing a dream.  What an example for those of us left.  How much limitless braveness, to fight until the end, without doubts, no ambiguities or foolishness.  I am proud of having met you, of having learned from you, of being able to share part of my life with so special people.  Thanks brothers.  All my effort in these days will be dedicated to your glorious memory.  I love you and you are a part of me.  You are a part of the Himalayas forever.  This one is for you and your families.


Carlos Pauner


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dhaularigi, Sunday April 13, 2008 


Today we celebrate New Year in Nepal.  We start 2,065 with good wishes and good vibes.  Also Nepal is having constitutional elections, a new hit that will mark the future of this small country full of mountains.  For us these are days of calm, of rest, after having climbed to the 5,900 m mark and having installed camp 1, the first high altitude camp out of the 3 we need to climb to the summit of this giant.  In some 6 and a half hours we crossed under the little Eiger, a vertical wall that looms over base camp, to then cross a glacier lake up to a huge Col that is part of the beginning of the NE ridge of Dhaulagiri.  We arrived with good weather, mounted the tents and started with the job of melting snow to get water.  As the night fell, the snow came and on the next day a white blanket covered everything.  After spending the night in that place we started to descent to base camp, to rest and to let the body recover from the effort we made.  So far, everything is going as planned.  On the next leg we will have to mount camp 2 at around 6,500m, but that will be in a few days.

Today the sun is like new over our base camp and we have cooked good food.  We brought two good pieces of cod and our friend Asier, member of another expedition, has instructed our cook in the arts of cooking this delicacy.  The result couldn't be better and we have tasted a good pil pil cod which was a gift to our mouths.  Our spirit can not be higher and we are fine, with our work up to date and with energy to strike hard on the mountain.

Despite the altitude and the cold, the computers and cameras are working perfectly.  We use the central hours of the day, the hour with more heat to work with them and to send the chronicles and pictures of our doings, and the videos for Aragon television.  It is a hard job, but it is nice to be able to share you all these landscapes, so far from our home like wild things because of their forms.  We spoke with expeditioneers from other countries about our mountains, about our customs and we can't help showing some melancholy after these three weeks we have been away from our home.  Little by little time passes by and we get used to be here, to live among the ice and stones, listening to avalanches during the night or feeling good with the first sunshine in a frosty morning.  Like animals of habits that we are, we need to keep going up, to keep dreaming with the far summit of our mountain.

Carlos Pauner 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dhaulagiri, Thursday, April 10, 2008 


We finally went into the mountain.  After all this preparation time, approaches and problems, we mounted these first snowy slopes of Dhaulagiri.  The idea was very simple, to start to move a little and to take some load to make an intermediate depot between base camp and camp 1.  We took advantage that the weather was good and we left base camp around 7 thirty.  The first steps are always hard, because the acclimatization is not complete and we can note the lack of oxygen, because at this altitude it is 50% of what we enjoy on the beach.  Little by little we go higher over the edge of the glacier, until the most horizontal part of it, where we leave the dept and turn around.  From here we still have a good part of the cracked glacier and some formidable slopes that will take us to the 5,900 m of camp 1.  But that will be another day.  So far, the objective has been met.  We left 2 tents, shovels, gas and some rope in this place.  We will pick all these on a next day along with the sleeping bags, and it will be enough to mount our first high altitude camp.

Today, 10, we woke up to a fantastic sun.  The sky is completely clean and it is hot.  We notice the exhaustion in our legs, but it has been good to make them march a little.  We had fried eggs and ham for breakfast and we tried the energy recoverer from Domingo, the owner of La Paz orthopedics, who as always, has given them to us kindly.  That is a curious mix of new technology and traditional food.  Personally, I think that the two things can be together.  The taste and the senses rejoice while tasting the food of our land, and muscles get benefit of these light and energetic shakes that help us recover a little from the whipping we are getting here.  We are in a world of contrasts.  Tents on ice and stones, but inside we have the most advanced technology to send pictures and video.  Energy bars of the latest generation and a can of olive oil from Aragon.  Unbearable heat during the day and freezing cold when the lights hide.  Everything is like that here.  Tranquility at base camp or situations of extreme danger above it.  Contrast after contrast.  It is an special world where climbing, as Duch, is just a part of a whole.  You have to get used to living in these places, to negotiate with cooks and porters.  To face solitude which sometimes smothers you.  To stand the pressure of an imminent departure to a treacherous and dangerous terrain.  In definitive one has to learn to live with new rules, simple, precise and hard.  Nothing is free in the Himalayas, you have to fight for everything.  Maybe that is why we are so attracted to be here and to prove or physical strength and weaknesses.  If, as we had planned, tomorrow we would leave with all the equipment to camp 1, without a doubt, we would have a good slice of the Himalayas for our bodies.  But that, that, is another story… 

Carlos Pauner 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dhaulagiri, Tuesday April 8, 2008
The Puja ceremony again.  The lama recites some sacred chants and an offer of tsampa and food is made for the spirits of the mountains.  Everything finishes with the trowing of flour and rice to the wind and then the prayer flags are hanged in the direction of the cardinal points.  The sun shines and you could almost say that Dhaulagiri gives us its polite side.  We won´t let us be fooled.  Dhaula is a cruel and dangerous mountain, which has taken a lot of good friends.  Although the sun shines and everything looks fine, soon we will have to face a number of dangers and difficult situations.  It is just a parenthesis in our expedition.  We feast the gods, we wish us all good luck on the mountain and we celebrate the occasion with good food.  Even with our faces covered with tsampa, we sit down by the table to taste a potato tortilla in the most hispanic style, some meatballs that look homemade and salad.  The Cariñena wine wets our throats and for a moment we feel like transported home.  We are here at 4,700 m, but we enjoy our customs and gastronomy.  Tomorrow will be another day.  Tomorrow at 7 in the morning, we will leave to the first snowy slopes.  Our intention is to fix the first 400 m of rope.  It is a very vertical part, with unstable snow, which gives access to the glassier, the entrance gate to camp 1.  At the end, a long slope of frozen snow takes us to a big flat, at 5,850 m, where we will locate the first high altitude camp.  We are not going to get so far.  It is just a matter of installing equipment in this first part and to have the first contact with the mountain.  We will check the status of the snow and we will stretch our legs a little, because they haven't worked since a few days ago.  We start our first climb, with calm, focussed and with a deep conviction to reach, this time, our objective in a few weeks.  The mountain will decide later.
Carlos Pauner
Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dhaulagiri, Thursday, April 3, 2008


I couldn't have said it better, we are trapped in the middle of nothing.  Above, a journey to get to base camp, by a very dangerous trail because of the large amount of snow that has fallen.  Below, the valley we left, covered with clouds and with bad weather.  Our porters have ran away after seeing the current conditions and the helicopter can't fly to take us with our loads to base camp, well above 1,000 meters up.  We couldn't make anything, not without waiting and see how the weather changes.  It was better yesterday, but this morning, sitting on these stones, waiting for the big iron bird to save us, our hope is fading.  While time passed by, larger clouds appeared and by lunch time the snow feel on our improvised camp.

Tomorrow we will repeat the ritual, we will unmount everything and we will wait for the weather to calm, just for a few hours, early.  Let's see if there is luck and if it is enough to reach our destination.  We need to get to base camp, mount our home, which is going to be home for a long time, rest and start a new chapter in this expedition.  All this makes us think that an expedition is a lot of things and always there is something bad with one of them and that disturbs our spirit.  We are going to be optimistic and we will hope for the best, that maybe we will soon enjoy the arrival to our destination, the end of our long trip to the most far away point from the civilization that we know of.

Carlos Pauner 

Translated form Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dhaulagiri, Sunday, April 06, 2008 


Such are things in the Himalayas.  When you think that, after so many expeditions nothing can surprise you, an event comes and it does in a hard way.  Our approach to base camp has not been, after all, what you could call easy.  It is true that right now, we are resting with all our equipment here at this place 4,700 m of altitude, in the such called Dhaulagiri Base Camp.  But to get here we have lived a very hard to imagine odyssey.  On Friday we were at 3,600 m of altitude, blocked by the snow and with no porters.  Aware of our poor situation, we had decided to call a helicopter to carry all our load to our final destination.  After a day of waiting, this Friday morning, although late, that monster Russian apparatus that cruises the skies of Nepal came.  It made two trips, fully loaded, to carry our colleagues of Al Filo (de lo Imposible, of Televisión Española), because they had been waiting for 5 days in this place and our turn came.  We loaded the rig with all our equipment and the bird attempted to take off.  Impossible.  The pilot said we had to leave 400 kg of weight there.  We opted to leave some kerosene and rice.  It was too hot at that time of the morning, sustentation was low, the chopper was heavy and it was not possible to control during landing.  I could not avoid goose bumps, to remember how 2 days ago, in this very same place, we crashed on the ground with a similar rig, although we miraculously saved our lives.  The pilot aborted the maneuver and turned with no doubt, to Pokhara, where we landed by noon.  Incredible.  We were with all our equipment, wearing our mountain clothes and with goofy faces, in this pretty town where our trekking had started one week ago.  The pilot said he was sorry, but he felt he could not land safely.  We were left for a while with no idea what to do, heated up because of the tropical temperature, watching how our things were unloaded.  We had changed from being in base camp to be back to the beginning.  I could not believe it.

Luckily, we made the right paperwork and on the next day, very early, we rented a new flight to base camp, where we arrived without trouble, although, I could not believe it until I stepped on the ground.  We are here now.  This troubled trip has ended and, although it snows endlessly and the weather is hellish, we are happy because we start the fundamental part of our expedition to Dhaulagiri.  We have lived days of incertitude, of edgy flights between cliffs and glaciers, of risk, of carrying loads from here to there, of desperation and uneasiness.  Luckily everything has passed.  We are safe in our little home and although we have not been able to mount it the way we want, we hope to see the sun and to get comfortable for our long stay on the mountain.  

Carlos Pauner 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera


Once again, our steps are in the direction of one of these great Nepal mountains.  Little by little we are gaining altitude by these green valleys, filled with vegetation and humidity.  We are on our way to Dhaulagiri (8,167 m.), a big mountain that rejected me in 2006.  That time, luck, so needed in these expeditions, was scarce and we had to quit to our dreams very close to the summit.  Time has passed by, there have been other summits and again, the turn has come for this white mountain of the Himalayas.  We left from Pokhara a few days ago, Javier, Marta and myself, towards Beni, over a wrecked road.  From there we started to walk and today, after walking for three days, we are now at 3,000 m. of altitude.  We have walked over this large valley, in parts very similar to others.  We are 2 days away from our base camp, which will be located at 4,700 m. of altitude and the news that come from above, as usual, are bad.  There is a lot of snow and porters can't reach our base camp.  Tomorrow we will go up to 3,500 m. to the Italian camp, where other groups are waiting with their porters for the weather to improve.  So far it doesn't look likely.  It rains every day and at this altitude, that means snow.  It looks like the only solution is for everybody to go by helicopter up to base camp, which is not very funny for us.  On one hand because of the cost and on the other because of the risk involved.  I still get goose bumps when I remember the accident we had while we were leaving this same base camp in 2006.  Luck smiled at us that time and we were miraculously alive and safe, after hitting the ground while taking off from our base camp.  We will see tomorrow and if there is no choice, the risk would have to be taken, like many others we had taken on our backs.  Anyway, this is not good.  If the snow doesn't let us reach base camp, it is not difficult to imagine how much snow is loaded on the mountain.  Anyway, let us wait.  There is still a long way to go and we have just begun.  Let's trust everything goes nice in this expedition we are starting. 

Carlos Pauner 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera





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