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  Carlos Pauner Mt. Everest 2005: THE HEROES OF EVEREST


Makalu, K2, Kangchenjunga Summiter Carlos Pauner returns to Everest to attempt without oxygen!

By José Manuel Herraiz (screenwriter and video producer)

After 20 days I have come to the conclusion that this four ring circus called Everest base camp is up and running because of the Sherpas.  Of course everybody knows who the Sherpas are, with no need to travel 8,000 kilometers to discover it.  The name Tenzing Norgay can pass as the most easy "Trivial" question.  But I have to admit that before I met them and see them in action I had a preconceived idea about them, absolutely wrong.  If yesterday I thought that Hillary had climbed Everest with technique and elegance helped by the subordinate Tenzing, now I think that history could have happened in a different way.

In the year 2005, the Sherpas are the protagonists of the ascent to the mountain. They have in common with their ancestors a fantastic adaptation to altitude, the result of having been born in villages like Thame, Khumjung or Namche Bazar, located between 3,000 and 4,000 meters. To this they have added the domain of alpinist technique. The South route in which we are is totally equipped by teams of Sherpas who face daily the challenge of having it open.  The Khumbu Icefall is filled with ladders that the foreign climbers pass with the help of their jumars, quickly, to minimize risks.  It is not by chance that most of the accidents that happen in the Icefall, happen to Sherpas.  A matter of probabilities. The more time you are under the threatening seracs, the more the risk. One thing has not changed in these last fifty years. The foreign climber still puts the same emphasis in recognizing the collaboration of the Sherpas in the achievement of their sportive goal. The result: the role of the Sherpa is still secondary and little acknowledged.

Everest is climbed mostly with the help of artificial oxygen, this is well known.  What is not well known is that the climber does not carry the eight bottles of oxygen he or she needs to climb to the summit.  They only drag the three kilos they need at any moment. The rest is carried by the Sherpa, along with what he needs for his own (it is impossible to climb Everest without oxygen dragging such load).  But the work of the Sherpa starts much before the day of the attack to the summit.  The bottles are not only used from camp 3 and the teams of Sherpas have to carry them up there in successive climbs, in an infernal rhythm, which can evidence the toughest climber...

This morning I was woken by the powerful deep voice of Phasang, the Sirdar of the group of Sherpas of our expedition.  With the exception of Pauner, every member who shares the ascent permit has hired oxygen and Sherpas to carry it.  I exit the tent and I witness a curious event.  It is five in the morning and the group of Sherpas is huddled around the puja chanting the ritual kiki soso larguelo! (good luck and let's hope we reach the heights).  Next they begin their march, huge backpacks on their backs, in a frenzy rhythm that won't stop until they reach camp 2.  Once there, a cup of tea and turn back down, running without crampons to complete the 6 hours of activity.

When the heroes of Everest reach the summit and the newspapers are filled with their feats, nobody would remember the work of these men.  That's the way it has always been and that's the way it will also be this time.  I think that Phasang and his boys don't really care.  They will go back home with their fresh dollars and in the road they will maybe lose a part in a bad card game.  They will wait for next year, for climbers from around the world who come to step on the Sagarmatha, to pursue their dream.  Greetings for those who follow us, for Charo, my family and my friends in Spain.  So long. 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dispatches

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