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  Mt Everest and K2 Summiter: Ivan Vallejo Kangchenjunga 2006: TWELVE HOURS WITHOUT OXYGEN: God willing, I will contact you again on Tuesday

Fernando 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 you enjoy.

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.


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 keep thinking.

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 Poor Father.

Hey Fercho, let's see if we just go to sleep for a while.

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 bed.

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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