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  Annapurna/Dhaulagiri 2005: IVAN VALLEJO RICAURTE Dispatch from Kathmandu

picture copyright© Piotr Pustelnik

IVAN VALLEJO RICAURTE fresh off his Shishapangma summit with his Spanish partner, Santiago Sagaste via the the South West face (British Couloir) was planning on Kangchenjunga Spring 2005, but now has changed plans due to the cost of Kangchenjunga with a small team. " I have new plans because the Kangchenjunga was so expensive for just two members. So we decided to changed it. Alex, my partner, is going to Makalu, west pillar, with Spanish Television. And I will go to Dhaulagiri  and then Annapurna with an Italian expedition. With my best regards from Quito, your Ecuadorian friend. Ivan

His first dispatch from 2005: My dear friends of Ecuador and the rest of the world.

I send a warm hug with love from Katmandu, the capital of Nepal.  Here I am since yesterday, March 29, with the same illusion and enthusiasm as always, now thank God, towards the summits of Dhaulagiri (8,167 m) and Annapurna (8,091 m).  I am back in this city like every spring or autumn before going to an expedition to the highest mountains of the world, located most of them here in the Himalayas.

Katmandu is the same, with its same colors, chaos and noise, but also with its hospitality and love.  This city, where the god of tooth ache and the flute salesman live shoulder to shoulder in any corner of the street; living goddess Khumari and the highest representative of the Maoist guerrilla; a shadu who worships Shiva and a hashish salesman.  By the way, there must be something in my appearance because they come repeatedly to me to offer the purest and highest hashish; and then I have to explain them that I get high once I am over eight thousand meters of altitude, because of that little detail of the lack of oxygen.  Well, this is Katmandu.

But this particular city and the country in general are immersed in continuous convulsions since 2001, when the late king was murdered with the whole royal family and the current king took power.  As part of those manifestations, in the last years the clashes between the Maoist guerrilla and the Government have been fiercer and precisely a brush of that activity came also upon climbers; I guess that you remember that during last year, in spring, we were assaulted in Makalu base camp.

For an update, I have to tell you that the Government administration in Nepal was made by the monarchy and the parliament, each with a fifty percent.  On February 1, (two months away from certain decision in Ecuador, because that is what is between December and February, you see, what a coincidence) the king said that the parliament was no more and annulled its rights, claiming to be the only authority of the nation.  As it could be supposed, obviously the Maoist manifestations raised radically, forcing the king to suspend cellular telephone communications and Internet to avoid conspiracies, attacks and revolutions.  Luckily, the communication blackout through cyber space lasted a little more than a week.  But the suspension of cell phones has gone for over a month and a half.  That is the way my dear friends in Katmandu are now, like five or six years ago, relaying only on fixed telephone lines.  Of course, only when I learned this I could understand why the heck nobody from the agency was in the airport to pick me up, when they have already promised me.  My flight from Bangkok was an hour late and that changed all the plans; when I came to feel alone and abandoned I asked for phone to call Nima Serpa, the owner of the agency in Katmandu.  When I was dictating the number to the Nepali who was renting the phone, he said very courteously:

-Sorry Sir.  One month ago no mobile telephones.

- Ahhhhhh!  OK my friend.

Two images came to my mind:

First, I remembered my dear friends Alberto Sandoval and Luis Bernardo Silva (President and Vice-President respectively of Bell South, now Telefónica-Movistar, my sponsors) and how spectacular it could have been for them and their team for almost one month and a half of vacations, just like that.  Cute!  To suddenly be forced to throw away the daily stress of the meetings, validations, deadlines, sponsorships to climbers; well, so many things.  To take their luggage and move to any of the little beaches of our charming country, wear sneakers, jog on the beach a few kilometers, to celebrate with a Pilsener or cold lemonade, and then...  A mixed ceviche of shrimp, octopus and clams with salty sidings.  Wow, that would be crazy!

After having a laugh for a moment imagining this possibility, on the other hand, I thought that it is the same thing on both sides: because here in Nepal there are children who work in the street, because here in Nepal there are hospitals that cannot accept patients because there are no resources, because here in Nepal there is corruption in most instances of the government; because in Ecuador, having taken decisions against any democratic principle is nothing more than to shut ears to the basic fundament of the existence of the human being: the communication and what it stands for; in other words, to listen, to attend, to propose, to accept, to conclude, to respect and finally... to decide.  One way or another, using this same analogy between the Government of Nepal and us, in Ecuador we have been with no communication since December 1, between the Colonel and the people.

From my dear Katmandu, I pray for these to months while I stay around here for the restitution of the values of the verbs to listen, to attend, to propose, to accept, to conclude, to respect and finally... to decide.

A big hug for all of you.

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera




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