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  Everest and K2 Summiter Ivan Vallejo : Several Updates


From Dhaulagiri Base Camp (April 07, 2008) 

Dear friends: 

Today, Monday, April 07, I am writing to you from Dhaulagiri Base Camp. 

Unfortunately my computer has decided, without my authorization of course, to die because of the lack of oxygen, so I have been without the technological gifts of this thing.  We have tried every possible way: love, shelter, sweet words, caresses, restart a hundred of times, but when there is no oxygen, there is no way.  So simple as that, it dies and ciao. 

Luckily my teammate Nacho Orbiz has borrowed me his computer, so thanks to him I am with you again. 

Today, after so many snowfalls, we have had an splendid day which we have enjoyed to the max, including a little shower of warm water after twelve days of not having that gift. 

I send you the chronicle I wrote on Friday, which because of what I wrote before I haven't been able to send earlier.

With your understanding, I say goodbye with a big hug. 

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte

EXPEDITIONEER 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

FROM DHAULAGIRI BASE CAMP

Dear friends:  

When I write this note, it is 11h30 in the morning of Sunday at Base Camp, at the foot of Dhaulagiri, location where we have finally arrived at noon of last Friday with the help of a helicopter that took us from Italian Base Camp to this place. 

For now the immediate thing to do is to settle Base Camp with all the comforts we need for the five or six weeks we will live in this place.  But unfortunately the bad weather we have right now stops us from completing this task.  With mathematical sharpness, a rare thing in Nepal, it snows during the afternoons since a week ago.  The blizzard we are withstanding right now started yesterday afternoon and has not stopped for a moment.  The camp is covered by a whiteness of more than half a meter and there is no sign at all that it will stop in the following hours. 

So if the weather improves this afternoon, we should wait at least a couple of days to start the first incursion into to the mountain with the objective of finding the route to what our Camp 1 should be. 

Despite the uncomfortable conditions of the weather, our spirit is high in all of us, we are a strong team, enthusiastic and with the will of getting to the summit of Dhaulagiri. 

Until my next connection with you through this medium, I leave you with the chronicle I wrote abut the anxiously awaited rescue from Italian Camp. 

Enjoy. 

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte

EXPEDITIONEER 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera 

THE HELICOPTER AT LAST

Friday, April 04, 2008 

After a long wait which turned to anxiety for moments, finally, we have been able to get out of Italian Camp and arrive today, Friday, around noon, to the foot of Dhaulagiri at the northeast face where we will settle our Base Camp. 

As a reference, I have to tell you that the morning of Monday, March 31 was very critical because of the brutal snowfall that fell on the previous day, and that from the one hundred and fifteen porters we had, ninety five quitted and we were left with only twenty to carry 3,500 Kg of loads, two days away from our destination.  Although it was almost impossible to think in such operation, we didn't lose hope of doing it, but hope faded away on the morning of Tuesday when a new snowfall made half of the thin squadron of porters we had to quit.  With this black panorama, just like the sky in the last afternoons, the only way we had was to get somebody to pick us up in a helicopter. 

The negotiations, logically, were started immediately on the same morning of Tuesday.  They promised from Katmandu (unless the word promise has another meaning in Nepalese) that the helicopter would arrive early on the morning of Thursday.

We were so naïve.

On Thursday very early in the morning, we had breakfast, dying from the cold outdoors, because we had already picked up our fleeting camp.

Hours passed by, the clouds came up from the valley and we could not see the so much coveted helicopter.  We wondered with innocent faces what promise meant in Nepalese. 

Thursday passed in a sigh, like the one a young girl exhales when she sees her love adventurer leave on his way to the Himalayas.

After dinner, we called Katmandu again to ask or to beg, I don't know, for the helicopter.

With a very characteristic sweetness of any Nepalese who faces delays, Ranjai Rai promised us again: No problem my friend, tomorrow morning.

With the experience of the uncommitted promise we went to sleep with the hope of watching, on Friday morning, the awaited rig.

 

Caption: abandoned at the foot of the frozen west face of Dhaulagiri, with our poor camp, awaiting for the helicopter.

Friday 04

The wait was anxious today because we were promised a helicopter yesterday to pick us up at nine in the morning.  But the notion of being on time in Nepal is a very particular one and I don't think there is another similar one in the planet.  As expected, it was nine o'clock and no signs of the helicopter.  At nine thirty, nothing.  Ten in the morning and the clouds from the valley gathered in a subtle way, as if agreeing on a riot to boycott our escape from Italian Camp.  Just like the clouds evolved form white and subtle to thick and black, our anguish was on the way to mass hysteria facing the possibility of having to undo the packages and settle a provisional camp again, in the middle of discomfort and the snow.  Alex Chicon, one of my adventure teammates, like a good Basque began to ponder what would be the best torture to inflict on Ranjai Rai who was pulling our legs since two days ago with the arrival of the helicopter.  Ten thirty came and with a rare mix of anger, desperation and beg we made another call to Rai, he told us then that the helicopter had left twenty minutes ago from Pokhara.  We hailed victory, but with much doubt, because you never know in Nepal. 

Eleven in the morning came and no signs of the immense mechanical bug.  We were biting our nails chewing our fear inside, quiet.  Finally at eleven fifteen we heard the low roar that came from the bottom of the valley.  We hailed victory there, but one thing was still to see… that the helicopter could land in the tiny space we had prepared. 

It was a blue and yellow ship moving slowly above the canyon.  When I saw the yellow letters painted by the side of the fuselage I was sure it was from MANAG AIR and that it was Valery without a doubt, the great Valery, one of the best pilots I have met in the Himalayas, who was commanding his airship.  When the apparatus came close with its blue belly in the front we all got to the ground to sink in the bushes and to get away from the hurricane that was made by the blades.  Deep in the bush I managed to see in the corner of my eye the elegance with which such apparatus landed slowly with the precision of a watchmaker in the tiny space we had prepared.  When the revolutions of the motor diminished we all perked our heads, as prairie dogs coming out from their lairs, and I could see that it was Valery.  There he was behind the crystals of his amber eyeglasses, with black headphones that were prominent above his impeccable baldness.  I approached the window and saluted rising my right thumb, and he did the same thing back. 

What came later was what we had rehearsed for the last four days: move the packages, pick up the packages, pick up the back packs and put them in the empty belly of that flying dolphin.  When that belly was full with 1800 Kg of weight, the skipper gave the order to close the doors and start the fight.  In the first trip there were four expeditioneers and four Nepalese.  With the same quickness with which it came, he elegantly lifted the rig, sided it slowly in the direction of the valley, drew a couple of enormous circles in the air and there we were flying above the canyon, the pines and the rhododendrons of the west face of Dhaulagiri.

We made it to our destination in a matter of fifteen minutes. 

With the same craziness with which we loaded our packages, we had to unload them, he had to make another trip.  When we finished the task, with the roar above us, I turned to the stepladder and entered to the cabin to look for Valery, I patted his shoulder, he turned around to see me, I gave him a poster of my summit in Annapurna and rising my voice so that he could hear me I said: Valery, you are the best.  He gave me back a smile rising his thumb.

I jumped out the door in the direction of my teammates, we all huddled to endure another hurricane. The blue dolphin rose in the air and we had arrived to our Base Camp.

 

Caption:  With the same quickness with which it came, he elegantly lifted the rig, sided it slowly in the direction of the valley and started to fly

 

Salté por la puertecilla en dirección a mis compañeros, todos juntos nos hicimos un ovillo para aguantar de nuevo otro huracán. El delfín azul se alzaba por los aires y nosotros habíamos llegado al Campamento Base.

 

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte

EXPEDITIONEER

 

Translated form Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Earlier:

On the way to Dhaulagiri BC, Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dear friends:

I write this note on the way to Dhaulagiri, BC, at the bottom of the west face of the mountain, in a place called the Italian Base Camp at 3,610 m. of altitude, two days away from our destination.

On Sunday, March 30, at three thirty in the afternoon, we arrived to this place with a snow fall following us closely.  While most of the porters arrived, snow fell abundantly and the walls of the mountain were illuminated at intervals with they thunder of the storm.  The snowflakes that fell were huge and in a matter of one hour the entire place was absolutely white.  One by one the porters came with their loads, and they were completely white because of the snow.

Hours passed by, hand by hand with the snow fall and we were numb and uncomfortable bearing the cold in a mess tent that we installed in extremis. 

The snow fall stopped at eight in the evening, the stars finally were seen, we had dinner and we went to sleep worrying about what could happen on the next day.

Yesterday, Monday, March 31, it was completely clean by daybreak, a blue sky in the front and on our backs the immense west wall of Dhaula, but the news were really bad: almost all of the porters did not want to continue their work because they saw that the conditions of the march to Base Camp were really hard.  In an uneven negotiation, with the language barrier in the middle, we resigned impotently to the dismissal of EIGHTY porters.  We had only 20 of them for 3,500 Kg of load.

The situation was undoubtedly complicated. 

Any way, with our optimism we had the idea of going to BC with the few porters we were left, counting of course, with at least tour round trips to carry all the loads.

For the moment the situation looked like it had a solution, but when things want to get really complicated, there is always material for that (read the Murphy Law).  It started to snow again at 12h30, just like on Sunday afternoon or even more.  While the snowflakes feel we saw with anguish that we had reduced possibilities to get out of this place.  To make a long story short, we went to sleep and it was still snowing. 

Today, Tuesday, April 1st, at six thirty in the morning we woke up to the shouting of the porters, with the high notes of three Sherpani girls (female Sherpas) who were part of our staff.

Just like we had feared there was more desertion.  9 more porters were leaving (including the three women who were among the strongest) and we were left with only 11 for all the equipment we had brought.  It was logical to understand the desertion, with the fresh snow up to our knees and in the poor conditions they move, there were no arguments to convince them to stay and finish the job.

Now the situation had changed from difficult to dramatic.  We would be simply left abandoned somewhere in the Himalayas two days away from Dhaulagiri BC.

Now that we had accepted the problem, we had to look for a solution and it was the only one: to get a helicopter that could get us out of this hole.

When I write this note now, it is four in the afternoon of Tuesday (it is still snowing for a change), we have already called for help and they said that they would come Thursday morning with a helicopter to get us out of this place and that in a ten minutes flight they would leave us in the awaited destination, Dhaulagiri BC. 

Caption: One of the most difficult passages of our approach trek.

Caption: From the Italian Camp, with the west wall of Dhaulagiri in the background, where we were left with no porters. 

With my affection from Nepal. 

Ivan Vallejo Ricaurte

EXPEDITIONEER 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Earlier

ON THE SHORE OF LAKE POKHARA

(Pokhara, March 25, 2008)

Dear friends, 

Today is Tuesday, March 25.  I write from the hotel in Pokhara, on the way to Dhaulagiri. 

We have come to this enchanted place by the foot of the Himalayas, in a matter of forty minutes, from Katmandu, thanks to a Yeti Airlines flight.  With that we have saved six hours of a trip that covers only two hundred kilometers of distance (you can imagine how complicated and difficult it is to travel by that road).  Anyway, now in Pokhara this is wonderful because there is no noise, or the chaos of Katmandu.  We have the lake that has the same name as the place and that is the mirror of a part of the Himalayas mountain system, where usually one of the most beautiful mountains of this part grooms at dawn: Mapuchare which in Sanskrit means Fish Tail. 

     Caption: Lake Pokhara is the mirror of this part of the Himalayas

The hotel where we are is called Khantipur, just a minute from the lake.

From the peace of this place I feel calm and I send you this note.  But before continuing I have to confirm what I wrote three years ago when I came to this place for the first time, precisely on the way to my first attempt to Dhaulagiri.  If I ever get married again, I would chose this place for my honeymoon, without a doubt.  There is no rush here, everything goes slow, no hurry, at a slow rhythm like the small waves that come to the pier of the lake to break into foam.  Above Pokhara is the Himalayas, white, shiny, silver or red, depending on the sun and the hour.  On the edge of the boardwalk is the main street and on it are hundreds of stores that sell everything a tourist need to prove they have been in this place, but there are also some little terraces with a view to the lake, not the sea in this case, which are just charming.  There you can order a banana lhasi (a shake with yougurt), a green tea, a very cold Everest beer or a cup of wine (red or white, your choice), and the daring would also order an omelet with hallucinogen mushrooms, in which case in a matter of minutes they are flying high above the Himalayas with no effort, or suffering like yours truly, who now wants to get to a point at 8,167 m.  Anyway, this is a beautiful place, because time has another rhythm here and the geographical surroundings are unique.  That is why, if that is the case, I would come here to spend my honeymoon without a doubt.  When Sebas hears my comment he says no, it is not necessary to marry to come for a honeymoon, because anyway, it is not the same but it is.  Just like that song from Silvio Rodríguez says.

After a walk on by the boardwalk we go to the shore of the lake where Sebastian, Ferran and Manolo are prepping up the equipment to make us an interview for Televisión Española, to Edurne and I.  Behind us, bending down, two Nepalese girls wash their colored clothes in the water of the lake with their bowls which shine like silver with the light of the afternoon; their children, small, with innocent smiles play to jump between the boats that rest in a line by the edge of the water.

My interview ends and they continue with Edurne, I sneak up to where the Nepalese are and with a bow I ask them to let me take a picture of them, then nod and continue washing, making foam with their hands, twisting clothes between water and soap, taking water from the lake with the bowls and from the bowls to the grass.  They talk and smile while they wash, they pull my leg because they think I am from Nepal and I tell them I am from Ecuador.  The ladies with two words in English and I with two words of Nepalese, but the smile is the best language in any part of the planet.  I get close to one of them and ask for her name.  Susila, she says, and gives me a beautiful smile, and I thank her saying ramro (pretty, in Nepalese) smile.  She smiles again and illuminates lake Pokhara even more.  I take some pictures of her and thank her with a smile and a bow.  I show her the little screen of my camera and she makes a party when she sees the pictures, she speaks to her friends in Nepalese and the only word I get is ramro, ramro.  So now I nod: dany abhat, baini ramro, (thanks a lot, pretty woman).  In the middle of the noise one of the children, the one with the most lively eyes, talking to Susila says something in Nepalese ending the phrase with umcha mami (ok mom).  In a goofy mix of English and Nepalese, without hiding my surprise, I confirm he is her son.  With the help of her fingers she makes me see that Muktu is 4 years old.  I do my math, more by visual than by chronological signs, and I assume that Susila is not older than twenty.  Young mother, I think, like in my town.  Taking Muktu by his shoulders and the rest of his partners, I put them around Fusila, and they stay there for a second, quiet, like mother hen with her chicks.  I look through the viewfinder, everybody smiles, Muktu turns to watch his mom, but it is too late, the light is caught and the picture is taken in milliseconds.  There are the children, the boats, lake Pokhara and Susila's smile.

   Caption: Susila gives me a beautiful smile and I thank her saying ramro smile

   Caption: There are the children, the boats, lake Pokhara and Susila's smile.  

I turn my camera off and I touch one by one the faces of the kids, I touch Susila's shoulder and I say once more: dany abhat, baini ramro.  She generously gives me one more smile and says: see you tomorrow. And I answer: No, tomorrow Dhaulagiri expedition.  She and the kids shake their arms and we mutually say good bye. 

When I come down from Dhaula I will come back to lake Pokhara, God willing, and I will probably meet Susila playing again with water, soap and clothes, and I will tell her: 

Dhaulagiri summit.

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte

EXPEDITIONEER

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

 







 

 

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