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  Annapurna Dhaulagiri 2005: IVAN VALLEJO RICAURTE: A kiss from my tent

Note these updates appeared very delayed:


Dear friends:

From Base Camp in Dhaulagiri, I continue my report of the expedition.

 Thursday, April 21Ecuador: The former president look for asylum in the Embassy of Brazil

Nepal: I leaf at 7 in the morning from BC and I arrive at 11h.  Iñaki has already installed the tent and we dedicate a lot of time to hydrate and to rest.  We share some snacks of Spain and Ecuador.  From his part, Serrano ham and Pamplona cheese, from mine, "El Lojanito" toasted corn and beer chifles.  We close greatly with half a canteen of orange beverage directly brought from the middle of the world.  We talk about mountains, common friends, ex-girlfriends, books read.  We stop talking and we read, "La vida de la Milarepa" for him and "The mountains of Buddha" , by Javier Moro, for me.  We fall asleep.

At 6 in the afternoon, my belly roars making me note that it's hungry.  Ochoa is hungry too.  We light up the stove and we heat the rice with potatoes I brought from BC; we add some vegetables (dehydrated, of course) which I had from my visit to Shisha Pangma last year and we have a great dinner.  What else can you ask for at 5,800 m.

After dinner we slip into our sleeping bags; before this I put a plastic cover on the roof of the tent, with pictures of my kids and a gift from Karma.  When Ochoa sees the picture he says:

-          Look, Kamilita and Andy.  They are already like family.

We chatted, remained in silence, read and once again fell asleep.

 Friday, April 21

Tac, tac, tac...  I am inside my sleeping bag, with my hat down to my eyes to cover the great amount of light.  I guess it is a good day.

Tac, tac, tac...  The thick drops of condensation inside the tent hit the top of my sleeping bag.  Five more minutes...

Tac, tac, tac...  It is impossible, not one more minute!  This is a Chinese torture (a propos of the book I am reading about the atrocities of the Chinese against the Tibetan people).

I look my watch: 6h38.  Up, up Vallejo!

- Good day Ochoa.

- Good day brother.

A precious day outside; thick drops falling here inside. 

From inside the tent, Mr. Liu, Il Capo della spedizione coreana (the boss of the Korean expedition, in Italian, like my friends would say) is seen against the blue sky and the white wall of Dhaulagiri II, smoking at seven in the morning.  There is when a fill like a schmuck, me with training plans, sports physician, disciplined, taking care with food and all that stuff, and here I am in CI at 5,800 m in front of a Korean who smokes like a Chinese (the Chinese again), just like that.  The stove purrs, ice melts, turns into water and then boils with laziness and tiredness.  Bubbles are fat and go up slowly from the bottom of the pot to the surface, they lack oxygen too. 

Cappuccino, cookies, infusion.

More bubbles, more water and we fill the canteen.  Ochoa adds pills of Isostar with orange taste, Vallejo, Dextrosa with orange taste, to vary a little.  Out goes Iñaki, out go my Italian friends, out go the Koreans, Out go the Korean Sherpas, and I am still preparing my backpack.

8h38.  Come on Vallejo, up all you can, carrying a tent, a little gas tank and a pair of thick gloves.  The advantage of having my friend from Pamplona in ahead of me is that I am sure we will get very high looking for a place for Camp II.

Recovered from the tremendous inflammation of the sciatic nerve, I feel like a fish in the water; between by two canes and I, we become one.  At last I am happy of being able to climb, to ascend, to breathe; not like the previous days when I suffered so much with my back pain.  Today I enjoy, climb, fly, I even daydream and I chat with her:

Listen dear Karma, do you know what I feel like right now?  Juicy grilled chicken.  Why don't you invite me when I return?  If you don't know how to do it don't worry, we just buy one and that's it, we light two candles, open a bottle of Marquez de Cáceres and that's it.  You see that for me, the most important is not that you are a wizard in the kitchen, it is ok for me that you boil the water and add the right amount of oregano so that when someday, eventually my belly aches and you can take care of me.  The magic of the preparation of food is not the most important for me, against what Isabel Allende proposes in Afrodita.  What really matters and I am irreducible in that (like Oliverio Girondo would say) is that you know how to FLY, that you know how to DREAM.

So when I am back, please invite me to grilled chicken, bought anywhere, but dressed with your smile, your charm, your voice, your conversation; and in the background the lights of our city and music by Keith Jarret on the piano.

6,200 m: I join Jangbu, the chief of the Korean Sherpas, who gives me in such heat, tato pani (hot water in Nepalese), of course I accept.  In my theory, tato or chiso (cold in Nepalese) work the same to hydrate my radiator.  While I sip he makes me note that the mountain behind me is ANNAPURNA.

Wow... the Annapurna!  The place I am going right after this mountain, if God permits.  The Annapurna, the first mountain of over eight thousand meters that was conquered by a human being, the mountain where my master and friend Ramiro Navarrete left his life.  Beautiful Annapurna!...  There is the shekel, that long slope of snow named like that because of its form, which goes from the middle of the mountain to the summit.

-Hello, hello Annapurna, what a pleasure to meet you, for now from a distance!  I hope to have the honor to be on your highest point later.

I take the last sip of tato pani, a return the cup to the Sherpas and continue.

6,400 m: Iñaki and I meet at a ropes depot of the Koreans, each one take a roll of 50 m of rope that will be used to secure the way above CII, the we drink, literally, the beverage we prepared in the morning.

Beautiful day, nice sensations, I give thanks for my health, the company, the moment and this space. 

I climb next to Iñaki, chatting, talking him into going to Kangchejunga next year.  I share some zugos (chewable candies like the frunas of my town).  We climb, film and take pictures. 

We reach the ridge at 6,600m reaching Peter and his Sherpa Lakpa; I am generous to thank the trail opened by Cristhian Stengel, who goes ahead.  What a job he has done today!  We keep climbing, the layer of oxygen is thinner each time.  With our gaze on the steps where I have to step, I only worry about breathing fine and rhythmically.  Oxygen, oxygen is all I need.

6,850 m: We leave the top of the ridge to cross the slope for a moment to reach a little rest under a big mound of ice, where it will take a lot of work to place a couple of tents, Cristhian's and ours.

Almost without taking a breath we dedicate to make a platform on such a slope.  When we notice that the work to place a tiny tent looks like having with no end, I remember that zen story of a monk who, if he wanted to go from one place to another had to make 10 million steps and he patiently said: easy, one by one, but without stopping.  I take my piolet and I start like a zen digging in the snow, stroke by stroke without stopping, with not much strength but on the right place.  My strokes mix with my breath and the falling snow.  The platform is ready, we leave a tent tied to the snow, the little gas tank and a roll of rope.  We say goodbye to Cristhian, Peter and Lakpa who will stay in this camp.  Iñaki and I go to camp I.

We get there in an hour.  We rehydrate, rest and eat just a little (we ran out of food).

Saturday, April 23: 

We carry more ropes up to 6,500 m and 6,800 m; then we all go down to BC.  At two in the afternoon and with a lot of hunger, three plates of rice with lentils and herbs stew make me feel satisfied.  After two cups of tea with lemon I go to my tent to rest at last, to enjoy the 4,800 m.  Tomorrow I will take a shower under the sun.  Today, I don't worry about how I look.

It's so good, dear Karma, that you are there and I am here, because sometimes, want it or not, I loose the glamour in these conditions.

A kiss from my tent.

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte.


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera 




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