Gonzalez-Rubio on the Summit K2
Kangchenjunga Base Camp
My dear friends:
A friendly hug from my BC.
I write to complete the chronicle that was
unconcluded about how it was like to spend that couple of nights in C2 at
6,800m, as part of the acclimatization. I loved it when I wrote it so I hope
About our plans, we will leave again tomorrow
towards the summit with the objective to install C3 at around 7,200m and spend
there at least two nights to complete the acclimatization process.
God willing, I will contact you again on Tuesday,
when we are back in BC.
A hug, until then.
TWELVE HOURS WITHOUT OXYGEN
After dinner which was rice, potatoes, olive oil
and meat stew, this last one imported directly from Ecuador for Kangchenjunga
2006, topped with an infusion of water, molasses and lemon, imported directly
from Colombia, each one got into their sleeping bag. It is seven in the
evening and according to my count we have twelve immense hours ahead of us,
twelve long hours waiting for the Sun to come so that we can exit our tents.
And they are immense and long because they are without oxygen.
Inside this kind of sarcophagus, Fernando moves me
to tell him some anecdote of a trip or expedition, some adventure or some love
story, in this life or in one of the previous, because he says I am a good
narrator. I am silent for a while, think, for the moment I discard a love
story and a start with that anecdote of the airport in Katmandu, when asked by
the Customs Officer, when he found out that I am a Math teacher, I had to
explain him why every number multiplied by zero equals zero, while behind me a
long line of tourists were waiting for the departure seal. The story is
funny, you will read it slowly when I publish my summary of Anecdotes of Trips
and Expeditions. Anyway, my story starts another one by Fercho, and so and
so, we weave a variety of stories of life that talk about remembrances,
illusions, daughters, sons, significant others, more mountains, unachieved
loves, dreamed loves, absences, presences, etc., etc.
We get tired of talking, more because of the lack
of oxygen than because of the lack of stories and enthusiasm to share them.
He gets quiet, I get quiet, in the other tents the also do so, we all get
quiet. Kangchenjunga, however, listens to us.
I turn on my MP3 and a set of music comes. With
each theme, stories come and I relive remembrances: I see myself training in
Parque Metropolitano, with Hevia's theme, then I am dancing in my Flamenco
classes, with Vicente Amigo and Ciudad de las Ideas; irreverent appearance of
CaraLuna by Cabas and I think about Karma; then I wonder again if this is true
or just a fantasy. From there, the rest of the themes just keep going and I
A couple of hours go by with the MP3, I turn it
off, check the watch: it is only eleven in the evening. I ask Fernando how he
is and of course, he is like me, thinking, only thinking and turning inside
the sleeping bag. We start talking again and now he tells me about the book
he is reading, Rich Father, Rich Son. At 6,800m of altitude, with a
temperature of minus
15 Celsius, with little oxygen, at midnight, inside
our sleeping bags, he generously starts to explain to me what and how I should
do to start my own business as soon as I return to Ecuador. At that moment, I
get into a crisis because just a couple of days ago I finished reading Serene
Strength by Master Sifu Rama, a treaty about Chi Kung, and all this time I
have been thinking about the principles of that philosophy, that has nothing
to do with Fercho's theory. In the middle of all that jazz and with mixed
theories, I quietly conclude that when I go back to BC I will call Andy (my
son) and I will ask him what he thinks about me, if I am a Rich Father or a
Hey Fercho, let's see if we just go to sleep for a
I don't sleep at all, I only turn around in my
sleeping bag. Sometimes my anxiety is so big that I need to sit up and do
intense and coordinated breathing exercises. How hard and difficult is this
process of acclimatization, if only there would be a pill or injection, even,
to ease this suffering!
I lay down again looking at the ceiling and before
I turn off the frontal lamp I discover that all the tent, absolutely the
entire tent is covered by a very fine ice, very pretty, but anyway ice that
has been formed by our transpiration. This ice, tomorrow morning when we wake
up, will be a torment, it will damp everything, will soak everything, I think.
In any case, as Sifu Rama precisely says, that will be tomorrow, my present
right now is the anguish and anxiety that I feel because I can's sleep because
of the lack of oxygen and, trying to forget all this, I will try to smile,
precisely from my heart.
In the middle of the exercise of moving my
humanity from the center to the right, from the right to the left, from the
left to the center, from the center to the..., from the right to the..., the
hours pass, slowly but they pass. I don't know what time it is and I don't
care, it would just be another motive for torment. Meanwhile, when my bladder
get tighter and tighter, just to think all the things I should do to go, I try
to forget it, I stay quiet like a statue, but I have to move because the bones
can't stand the hardness of the tent floor for a long time. I don't know what
is harder, the relief to pee or the sickness of staying quiet and not going to
do it, finally I conclude that the sickness is worst and I start doing it: I
try to open the zipper of my sleeping bag and it is frozen with the ice of my
own exhalations, with patience, little by little, rubbing every bit of the
zipper I free it from the ice crust and I can open it. I sit up and in that
action, with my back, shoulders and head I break the other crust of ice that
covers us in the interior of the tent; a snowfall starts, a private one, only
for the two of us: hundreds of crystals of ice falling on our humanity. I
ask my partner for the pee bottle. Right around the corner, he says. Another task comes. When I finish I must open the
tent and empty the bottle, because that is the commitment to be able to use it
again. In all this part, of course, more ice pieces, more private snowfall.
As a way to be sure I didn't bother Fernando with my movements I ask:
Ferchito, are you Ok, are you awake? Yes, brother, awake since we went to
I go back to my sleeping bag, turn off the frontal
lamp, pray once again, I think about Andy, about the card that Kami gave me in
the airport, and I pretend to go to sleep repeating dozens of times: I want to
get to the summit of Kangchen.
On the next day, with a beastly chuchaqui
(hangover for the rest of the world), we get up, with pitiful faces. It is so
god that Karma is not around, because I imagine how she would look at me. We
take two cups of Milo with milk, we exit the tent and outside there is an
spectacular day. I wonder if this is really the precious gift that justifies
all this sacrifice. I take out my camera, shoot pictures, I film, I wake up
at last and I am still happy.
That morning, as part of our South American
support, Fernando and I fix almost four hundred meters of rope above C2; by
the afternoon we are back in C2, we spend one more night, a little less hard
than the previous and on the next day we go down to BC.
A big hug with all my love.
Iván Vallejo Ricaurte
Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera
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