Ivan Vallejo: Desde Ranche,
camino al Kangchenjunga
From Ramche, on the way to
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
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
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
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.
from Spanish by Jorge Rivera
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