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  Everest and K2 Summiter: Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte ON THE way to the summit

On the way to the summit (2)


Ramiro Navarrete was one of the best mountain climbers there has been in the history of Ecuador.

His return to Ecuador after a long season climbing the Alps, while he was finishing his doctorate in philosophy (and in that order of importance) between Navarra and England, meant a great injection of vitality for our sport, but above all it showed us a different way to view and to face the challenges on the Andes.

His contribution served to open new ways in Ecuador, to make us see that organizing an expedition to the Andes in Colombia, Peru or Bolivia was not so complicated as we thought; I myself took a bus to Alpamayo and Artesonraju, supported unconditionally by Ramiro.  He made exceptional climbs in Alpamayo, in Santa Cruz, Huascarán in Peru and Illampu, in Bolivia.  Then he turned his gaze to the highest mountains of the world in the Himalayas.  His was the idea of being the first Ecuadorian to climb Everest.  With his always methodic ways, he prepared a plan to let him make sure to reach the summit of the highest mountain of the world successfully.

In 1986 he climbed Communist peak with more than seven thousand meters of altitude; then he chose Shisha Pangma as his first eight thousand and reached its summit with no one else than one of the most brilliant stars we have had in Himalayan mountain climbing: Jerzy Kucukza.  To finish his preparation he chose Annapurna as the last step before facing Everest.  On October 17, 1988, he reached the summit of the Goddess of Abundance by a long and complicated way through the south wall; on the next day, October 18, while he was climbing down from the last camp to BC, the weather was not good and visibility was almost null.  This prevented him from seeing a cornice that was treachery under his feet; his climbing teammate Francisco Espinosa only heard the crack and the following thunder of the enormous piece of ice breaking.  Ramiro Navarrete slipped over that infinite and abrupt slope of the south face of Annapurna.  He remained in that mountain forever.

I had the enormous luck of being one of his close friends, or better, I had the luck of having him as one of my teachers: he taught me photography, he pushed me into the first expeditions out of the country, but above all he taught me to see a wide and gigantic horizon that was beyond Ecuador.

It hurt a lot when Ramiro left, with his absence I lost my great friend and my great teacher.  Now that I was going to Annapurna, the mountain where he is, it was my special occasion to greet him, to talk to him; to ask him that, if possible he would go with me on this ascent.

At the bottom of Annapurna in its west face, a modest memorial has been built to remember the countless mountain climbers that have lost their lives in that mountain, a memory for Ramiro was missing in that place.

From Ecuador I took a modest homage to Annapurna, a plate to deposit there the gratitude and love of several friends who shared with him part of our march over the mountains.  On May 20, on the way to the summit of Annapurna I raised this memorial, with Fernando; we had a prayer, I talked with Ramiro and we place his plate.  When I took my backpack again I knew he would go to the summit with me.


                        Caption: At the memorial, at the bottom of Annapurna with the plate I left as a memory of love from his friends.

Editor: Doris Arroba 

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera


Islamabad, June 18, 2007 

Dear friends of Ecuador and the world. 

Warm greetings from Islamabad, now on the way to Broad Peak, the twelfth highest mountain in the world with 8,047m on the Karakorum mountain system.  I am here as a member of the Al Filo de lo Imposible expedition for Televisión Española.  For me it has been glad to get an invitation again from this team, famous because of their adventures and the quality film work which they have done for more than twenty years.  As members of the expedition we are, except for Fercho, the same as in the Annapurna expedition: Edurne Pasaban, Asier Izaguirre, Ferran Latorre and yours truly.  We will meet with four more members at Broad Peak’s BC to sum eight in total in the group.  I will let you know the names of the new teammates later. 

For now, as promised, I start sending you the chronicles I have written regarding our ascent to the summit of Annapurna last May 24.  There will be several chronicles thought and written for you my friends and ascent partners.  One of the ways I can thank for your support and company is precisely sharing with you these expedition chronicles. 


With my affection, 

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte


On the way to the summit (1) 


On Friday, May 11, Andrew, Fernando and I had reached 6,400m, the location of Camp 3, fixing almost a thousand meters of rope through a precious trail through ice walls, snow blankets and long and steep slopes, always having behind us a falling yard which seemed to want to swallow us at the least error.  The charm of this trail was that from time to time, for very short moments, we had the pleasure of defying gravity.

Back at BC we only had to wait for a window of good weather.  We had to have at least four days in a row of good weather, where especially the last two had to be perfect because they were going to be used to reach the summit and come back down. 


I read the book Letters to Albert Einstein at BC.  This book, besides giving a brief biography of one of the greatest geniuses humanity has had, makes reference to numerous letters from children from all over the world who with their simple ways and innocence make the most divers questions to Dr. Einstein, and certifies the stature of such a human being reflected in the extraordinary simple way with which he talks to children.  Reading it was useful for me to make a brief and flat review of the theory of relativity, which was good while we waited. 

Every wait brings anguish and normally comes with a time that is always relative because it can be enormous or small, infinite or precise.  Everything depends… 

The expecting mother that waits for the ninth month.

The baby that grows in the mother’s womb and although it waits, it doesn’t know anything about the wait.

The lover that waits for the kiss and love of a quarter of an hour.

The inmate that waits for the sentence.

Closing the eyes waiting for the first kiss.

Waiting for your turn to visit the dentist because the judgment tooth has no room.

Forty five thousand fans waiting for the match to end.

Someone waiting for the grades of the final exam.

Ten mountain climbers waiting for four days of good weather.


You can wait standing up, sitting down, calm, with despair, with euphoria, crying, talking or in silence.  That’s how the wait is like.  It is like death, we all get squished by it. 

But every wait has a godfather or executioner: 

For the mother, the passing of time

For the baby, just its mother

For the lover, his lover

For the inmate, the sentence

For the kiss, the lips

For the patient, the anesthesia

For the fans, the referee

For the student, the teacher

And for us… the weather forecast from Vitor Baia.

Vitor Baia 

Vitor Baia is from Portugal, he lives in La Guarda, on the north of Lisbon. 

After Kangchenjunga, with the company of Joao Garcia, I went to meet him and to thank him for the immense help he gave us with sending the weather forecast which was key to reach the summit of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain of the world.  Vitor has deadly passion for parapente, he started to fly with it and now he is the instructor of his own school, that has taken him to understand the readings of winds, of those winds which let him fly and let me climb.

When Vitor sits in from of his computer to calculate the meteo, he lives his special everyday ceremony, a kind of reading of the oracle which makes him know if it is feasible or not, if there is a flight or not; in sum, it means if you live or die.

In from of the screen of his computer Vitor is different, he transforms, because for him getting the meteo is not just interpreting the graphics and the colors; is a whole thing, a whole that makes him live and vibrate, which makes him feel like a kind of Merlin of the winds, the sun, the clouds and the humidity. 

That night he asked me for a place and I said Kangchenjunga, just like that.  He found the latitude and longitude and came up with a bunch of maps, curves, colors and bars.  In that moment he entered a trance, possessed by the spirits of the wind, the water and the mountains.  That, which for me was and unexplainable thing, for him was snow, wind, sun, clouds, humidity.  With the index he made curves on the computer screen, as if commanding the path of the wind.  The Vitor Baia of that moment, possessed by the gods of the meteo was full of light, covered by that glitter of the power to predict.

Every night, after his wife and his two daughters go to sleep he slips out to read the oracle and the deck of magic cards with which he plays with the designs of the sun, the clouds and the wind.

This Vitor Baia, dear friend, has all our trust and confidence in such delicate topic of the weather predictions.                                   


Literally: days 22, 23 and 24.  Good weather.  Day 24 sun, wind west 40 – 50 km on the summit.  Days 25, 26 and 27 still with good weather but with stronger winds. 

It was very clear, the week from the 22 to the 26 of May was the window of good time we were waiting, we would have clear skies although we were worried of the wind speed, because normally the bearable limit for any human being is between 30 and 40 kilometers per hour.  The fifty worried me a lot, and I suppose everybody.

On May 20 we left from BC, Edurne, Asier, Fernando, the two Sherpas and I from our group, Al Filo de lo Imposible; Andrew and Sergev from the other expedition.  A day later Iñaki Ochoa and Horia would leave and they would reach us at Camp 3.

Editor: Doris Arroba 

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

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