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  Carlos Pauner Nanga Parbat 2005: BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL


I am back in base camp, after two very hard journeys.  Day before yesterday, at two in the morning, we left this place, loaded with tents, sleeping bags, stoves, gas, rope, etc., the usual on a journey of these characteristics.  The idea was to climb to sleep in one try in camp 2 and then work up there.  That's how it happened, in the frozen morning, we began walking in the weak light of our frontal lamps.  The weight was big and we couldn't stop thinking that we still had 10 hours of hard work ahead of us.  The dawn surprised us in the proximities of camp 1, where we put on our helmets, needed for this ascent, and we continued by the endless corridor that ends dead in a wall of rock of 100m of height, the Knshofer wall.  Bended because of the weight of the load and after 7 hours of effort, we reached the bottom of such wall, which looked much more difficult than what we've heard.

We started climbing, using ropes that we fixed a few days ago, as well as countless pieces of old ropes from other previous expeditions.  Little by little the wall got more vertical and we had to make a supreme effort in order to pass these vertical and exposed passes, crushed by the weight of our backpacks.  Scratching this flat wall with the crampons, using all the tricks of a climber and puffing as locomotives, we couldn't wait for this torture to end.  After 2 hours of fighting against this wall, we could step on its top, a sharp edge of snow where camp 2 is located, at some 6,100 m of altitude.  We fell on the ground, exhausted, but happy to have reached this place in a marathon session of almost 10 hours.  But as you know, extreme mountain climbing is not an activity that has benevolence as a characteristic, so after this break, we still had to work for 3 more hours, building the platforms in the hard ice, to later place on them the tents that will be used for shelter.  Once inside the tents, we took turns to melt the snow so that we could get the necessary liquid to hydrate and recover.  No food at all, because we were sleepier than we were hungry, so we went to sleep, hanging in this eagle nest we have for camp.  At four in the morning, Jorge Egoecheaga, an Asturian teammate wakes me up, to climb to work a little on the superior part of the route.  I am about to desist, but the duty call is stronger and without breakfast, I put on my frozen boots and I leave up with the rope.  Thanks to his push and will, we could fix almost 400 m of rope, on the way between camp 2 and 3.  at 9 in the morning we finish our work and we face this vertiginous descent of almost 2,500 m.  Rappels, jumps, a lot of concentration.  On the first part, concentration to avoid a bad step in mixed terrain, of rock and ice, very steep.  Then on the wall, to avoid errors on the change from rappel and rope maneuvers.  Later, already on the corridor, almost 1,000 m of descent on a very vertical, frozen terrain, where you cannot relax not for a second to avoid a fatal mistake.  Camp 1 and there is just a glacier to cross, short, but full of betraying crevasses.  When I am just 200 m away from the end, watching the grass close to the other side of the ice, suddenly the ground under my feet disappear and a fall in an ice crevasse, well, in an abyss, that lead me directly to hell.  I fall, stretch my arms and I am able to stop just 5 m below the surface.  I calm down, watch the abyss under my feet and I think that it would not be pertinent to continue going down or it would be the end.  Luckily, I have my crampons on and putting my legs in position on the walls of hard ice, I can reach the border and perk my head out, and I scream to my teammates who come fast to help me get out.  I was really close, but this game is like that.  I journey of alpinistic glory, of hard and good work, can be annulated just a few steps away from base camp.  A hard sport, without a doubt, where you have to walk on the edge of the razor continuously.  We have used our time well, making a gigantic step for this expedition.  We have walked between heaven and hell.  We have lived one of the most beautiful journeys of Himalayism, tasting the absolute essence of this activity, sport or whatever you want to call it.  Now I rest calmly, without the image of the abyss that tried to swallow me, without the pain of my wounds perturbing my sleep.  Between heaven and hell, earth, where I am now.  I am going to enjoy it these days with a very well deserved rest. Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

 

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