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  Mt Everest and K2 Summiter: Ivan Vallejo Kangchenjunga 2006


Dear friends: Warm greetings, now from Quito, Ecuador, where I am enjoying the happiness if being back home, although just for a little time, because in early September I will be back in the Himalayas going for the summit of Dhaulagiri (8,167m), God willing.

As I have told you from Nepal, I wrote this chronicles after the summit of Kangchenjunga, where I write in detail what I lived and felt during those hard but unforgettable days, that took me to the summit if this mountain (8,586m).  I have only sent two of those chronicles because the master of technology who does this job, my dear friend Mauro Quito, was out of the country enjoying some deserved vacations.  That is why we now take the topic again, sure that you will enjoy these narrations I have written for you. 

A big hug.

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte

GETTING TO C4, AT 7,700 m. 

Above 7,000m the climber suddenly loses weight and gets weaker.  He is like a sick man, always tired.  Rolling while sleeping, stretching an arm to pick up a boot or a box of matches leaves him breathless; any effort turns into an exercise of strength of will.

Charles Evans

Antecedents

In the two previous chronicles I have told you that we set May 19 as the date for the second summit attempt, after the first failure.  I also told you that my Portuguese friend Joao García, who also failed on his first attempt to the summit but with another group, couldn’t join us on that date because he hadn’t physically recovered from that attempt.  

In this chronicle I tell you about the part of the ascent that leads us from C2 to C4, getting us ready for the next summit attack.

Thursday, May 18 at C2, 6,800 m. 

Compared to the previous times, we have changed our strategy today about how to move above Camp 2.  Instead of climbing from C2 to C3 in one day, resting there and on the next day move to C4 to make the summit attack, we will now climb directly from C2 to C4. 

I get up in C2 at 6,800m, fresh as a turkey before Christmas eve.  It is the fifth night I sleep at this altitude and I suppose that my blood is thick as chocolate because so many red cells have married, have been together, had kiddies and have reproduced like bunnies benefiting my acclimatization.  The day is perfect, the sky is blue, there is no wind, the clouds are really low but there is a terrible cold (minus 17 degrees Celsius inside the tent).

            ** At 7,200 climbing to C3, in the middle of an infernal heat: 32º C.  My teammate J. Bereziartua without shirt.  In the background, the summit of Kangchenjunga.

We left after breakfast, everybody dying from the cold, some more than others.  The plan is to reach 7,700m and to install our C4 there.  We have reached some especial logistics agreements in the benefit of losing weight in our backpacks.  The friends from “Al Filo” carry only one tent for the four of them and only two sleeping bags to share between two, one as a blanket or quilt (is sounds more glamorous that way, right?).  Such thing can be done, because at this altitude we cover ourselves with the feather thing that gives us a nice cover.  From our part, Fercho and I carry a super light tent of only one layer, whose weight is not above 2 Kg and also just one sleeping bag, mine, which despite the relatively small size can be warm like 101 Dalmatians around the chimney.  At 10 in the morning we reach C3 and the thing gets complicated because of the intense heat.  The thermometer reads 28 degrees Celsius, like vacations in Thailand.  Since the day is precious, there are no clouds, no wind; the place, of course, becomes an oven.  We arrange our backpacks with more food, gas, the tent for C4 and the feather cover.  When my backpack is ready, I pick it up and… I almost die. 

-          My God, this will break my back! 

By the way, since last year in Dhaulagiri my back constantly bothers me.

The friends of “Al Filo” have climbed with their Sherpas Pasang and Pemba, to help us opening the trail from C2 to C4, so that we will be fresh on the next day when we do the same hard task, but above 7,700 up to 8,586m.  When we reach C3 the Sherpas are weak and it is not clear if they can do it for themselves up to C4, to Ferrán proposes that if we all work for half an hour each one, we can open the trail to that mark.  Motion accepted.

** Our Camp 3 close to 7,300m.  In the background, still far away, the summit of Kangchen at 8,586m.

We leave C3 at noon and, if someone saw us from BC or from a plane, I suppose we would look like a colorful eight part caterpillar that crawls up on this immense frozen whitness of Kangchenjunga.

The sun hits on us mercilessly; despite the fact that I only wear the thermal T-shirt, I sweat as if I was training in Esmeraldas (a city on the Pacific coast of my country), at noon.  I check the thermometer in my watch and it reads 32 degrees C.  I add to that the huge weight of my backpack that splits my back in two and I turn into one of the parts of the caterpillar that moves slower, that tries with all its strength to get ahead to help opening the trail, but can’t do it.  I feel uncomfortable because I cannot get ahead to help my friends, I have never been one that likes to have everything served; I see myself as a worker on the mountain that puts on his apron, rolls his sleeves and gets to work.  But now the pain and the weight make me useless.  I recall one of the principles of Chi Kung: let go, stop controlling.  This is my case now, I can’t control weight, pain, heat and boredom.  So let go, walk, advance.  Today is like this, get advantage of it and thank that there is an open trail and you can use it.  It feel better, I relax and enjoy.  Stupendous moment to apply the Bamboo Law. 

At four in the afternoon we reach the location for C4 at 7,700m, almost at the foot of the corridor which Carles Evans, chief of the first expedition who crowned Kangchenjunga, baptized as The Handrail.   When I get there I ask for the understanding of my teammates for not having been able to help at all when they opened the trail, but I promise to be the first to do it on the next day when we leave to the summit, knowing that I won’t carry a closet-like backpack, and my back will be better.

Each one installs the tents and before going inside we see that the clouds that were hugging, cuddling, embracing in the morning, have now flown up above us, making the sky look almost milky, not precisely as we would like it to be hours before the summit attack.

We agree that the hour to start our preparations will be at midnight, to leave for the summit around two in the morning.

After melting snow, making water, hydrate and try to eat something, Fercho and I get together, and like twins protected in a uterus we both cover with the same sleeping bag.  I set my alarm clock to eleven thirty in the evening instead of midnight, because since our tent is very small, the capacity to move is a lot more reduced and we need more time to get ready.  I turn off the frontal lamp, I dream about the summit and I think about a bouquet of flowers.

Next chronicle:  QUITTING TWO HUNDRED METERS AWAY FROM THE SUMMIT

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte

EXPEDITIONEER

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

 

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