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  Mt Everest and K2 Summiter: Ivan Vallejo Kangchenjunga 2006: On the way to BC in Kangchenjunga

Back to Kangchenjunga

Ivan Vallejo: Desde Ranche, camino al Kangchenjunga 

From Ramche, on the way to Kangchenjunga 

Dear friends: 

I write this note from Ramche at 4,400 meters of altitude in a point of the trek trail while approaching BC in Kangchenjunga.  To get here normally nine days are needed from Katmandu: three days by bus from the capital to the town of Taplejung at 1,700m, to cover a distance of nearly 700 Km; and another six days by foot from Taplejung to the place where I am writing this note now.  I think that you are wondering, why three days for just 700 Km?  The answer is because of two fundamental reasons.  The first: the geography of Nepal is very capricious and wrinkled.  There are a lot of high hills followed by several deep abyss, then new hills and new depressions; and so, these waves of steep slopes up and abrupt slopes down that repeat without a break until they all form this long and immense green and turquoise tide.  One because of the jungle and the other because of the Himalayan rivers. 

The second reason is because during the distance that has to be covered on the road, there are a countless number of military posts taking precautions against the Maoist guerilla.  The controls harm transit, because it sometimes takes three long hours to pass a checkpoint.  What I am telling you is not by memory, as you know I was in 2002 traveling on the road to Kangchenjunga and I had to deal with these inconveniences.

Well, once in Taplejung, the next thing is to hire porters to start the approach march from there to Base Camp in the mountain, either on the North Face or the South Face.  In any case, the approach from there takes eight days departing from 1,700m to get to the respective camps above 5,000m.

That should be the normal way of doing things to get by foot to the bottom of the mountain.  But, it was not like that this time.  With the experience of 2002 I proposed Fernando to bet on a helicopter flight from KTM to Taplejung, even if it cost more money, and then from there to Ramche, which although it is still not Kangchen's BC yet, by the south, it is the highest point where copters can get to. 

Flying by helicopter would gain us nine days of traveling which would leave us at just 4,400m of altitude.  You can imagine, not even at the same altitude of the shelter of Cotopaxi which is at 4,800m, and these approach marches are exhausting, no matter what, because that means to install and uninstall camps, march at altitudes close to just 1,800m which in Fernando's case and mine, coming from Bogotá and Quito respectively, won't help us in anything in the acclimatization process. 

With these arguments, Fercho immediately accepted my proposal to fly by helicopter.  The next step was to negotiate the price, because if there were just two members in the expedition it was clear that the costs would be very high.  So, taking advantage of our Latino way of negotiation we entered in a push-and-pull that lasted two days until we all made an agreement between Manang Air (the company who owns the helicopter), Valeri Bubanov (the master of the Russian pilots here in the Himalayas) and the South Americans, that means us.

On Wednesday, April 5 at 4:20 in the afternoon, Valeri started the motors of the huge apparatus towards Taplejung (I'll send the details of this hallucinating flight in the next chronicle).

Due to bad weather, we had to stay in Taplejung on Friday, and on Saturday, with a partially clear sky (as the weather men say), at six thirty in the morning, we flew to Ramche.  In just twenty five minutes we got to the mountains of the Himalayas and the proximities of Kangchenjunga.  Valeri's experience was useful to make this huge rig to land between the hills in the middle of a snowy field.  The motor kept running, the blades spinning and making whirls of snow and ice fly, while we unloaded our staff, freezing in the wind.  With all our things in a safe place I said goodbye to Valeri with a big hug and I said: "My friend, you are the master of this sky".

Now I am at 4,400m of altitude, in the middle of an immense snowy field, from where I still can't see Kangchen, because it is still hidden from this place.

The plan is to stay here until Monday or Tuesday as part of the acclimatization and then take off with the final two day march that will take us to BC at the bottom of Kangchenjunga.  It is five in the afternoon, it has stopped snowing and , while I listen to my MP3 music, I write this note with half my body warm inside my sleeping bag, ant the other half out, freezing to death of course.

A big hug from my road to BC in Kangchenjunga. 

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte



Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera



Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte


Ivan is one of the few climbers to summit Everest from the North and South, both without oxygen. This quest for the 14 shall continue this Spring... Stay Tuned for more.

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera


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