Katmandu, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

DAWA, THE ANONYMOUS HERO

We are in Katmandu now, ready to leave this country of the mountains. After the terrible last days, we managed to recover and rest before starting our return home. We leave behind the sad past events and the bodies are recovering little by little from the great beating of climbing a mountain like Annapurna. Thanks to our insurance company, FIATC, the incipient frostbite and blindness did not go too far and their help in our quick evacuation has been of a lot of importance. Our trust in you grows day after day. Thanks, friends. In this moment of reflection and of thanks, I could overpass a fundamental person of this adventure. Dawa Sherpa and his mate Sonam. Both have worked for us in this difficult expedition, helping us with the hard work on the mountain. However, their work went beyond  of what is usual in this extraordinary experience. When Tolo was immobilized at 7,600 m., we asked the Sherpas of the close by Korean team for help, and they said they were very tired alter the ascent to the summit and could not do anything. They were in their right and it seems totally reasonable. Not much else to say. Sonam had remained with Tolo all night long and tried to bring him down, toward life, but Tolo did not walk anymore. He logically decided to save his life and went down to camp 4 in the morning. Juanito, Horia and I, who had just arrived from the summit, did not have any chance to go back up, without enough rest. I talked with Dawa, this strong Sherpa of almost 50 years old. He was our last shell up there and the truth is that he did not hesitate. Taking oxygen, food, medicines and a sleeping bag, he took off to meet Tolo, with faith and decision. I suggested it and he accepted, that was all. He left the safety of camp 4 and went to the death zone, not to work, but to search a friend, Tolo, and to bring him back to life. When he came after more than 11 hours of ascent, after not seeing any sign of life on the white blanket of snow, he had tears in his eyes. I could not find him, I couldn’t, he said… My tears were for both of them, because I had lost a great friend and I had seen another almost disappear. Dawa made and extraordinary sacrifice, not for money, not for glory, not for fame. He did it just because he understood that he was the only one that could do it and knew the life of his partner, not his boss, was at stake. When men are so close to the limit between life and death, the best and worst of them show. The bonds between us get tighter and the work liaisons fade, opening the way to human feelings. I had never been so happy to be able to hug a noble and powerful Sherpa, of telling him that I am proud to be his friend and that he can count on me, the same way as he gave us his braveness. Thanks Dawa, thanks for the effort, thanks for helping us and I hope that we could do the same with you. If someone deserves a price, a help, is of course, this anonymous hero of 50 years old, whose only way of making his life is to climb mountains, to risk his life for a salary and I think that he could rest calmly in his little town. We hope we can do something for him.

Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Earlier: Zaragoza, IN KATMANDU: Carlos, Javier and Juanito arrived in Katmandú yesterday, by the afternoon.  When they arrived to Katmandu, they found a general strike.  The access to the city was blocked and they had a lot of problems but they finally got to their hotel. Today and tomorrow they will have to do a lot of paperwork.  Tomorrow, Tuesday, Carlos and Javier will catch a flight at 8 in the evening that will take them to Doha.  They will have a scale there for two hours and they will catch a flight directly to Madrid.  It is expected that they will arrive in the early morning of Wednesday.  And so they will put an end to this long and hard expedition.


Annapurna, TOLO, THE WARRIOR FROM MALLORCA

I met Tolo Calafat in the pleasant expedition from Mallorca that
attempted Everest in 2005.  I was there with Carlos Pauner filming and attempting the same summit.  Carlos had met Tolo the previous year in Cho Oyu.  In those days Tolo climbed Cho Oyu, Everest and the false summit of Broad Peak.  I did not met Tolo again until the fall of 2009 in Shisha Pangma in Tibet, where I was returning with Carlos and Tolo came with no one else but Juanito Oiarzábal.  For Tolo and for me, being part of an expedition with these Himalayas climbers was a great honor.  Juanito, who in Shisha had just met Tolo, quickly became his friend, as everybody, and in the one thousand tasks required in an expedition, he called him Tolo “the Gudari”… “the warrior” in Euskera: “Gudari, take two stoves and gas”, “Gudari, don’t forget power for the water”… Tolo’s eyes, and mine, twinkled imagining stepping on the summit of the mountain, while he listened to stories from Juanito and Carlos in their numerous eight-thousand meters summits.  And he dreamed to continue his career as a Himalayas climber, along with famous fellows as Juanito and Carlos.  Juanito and Carlos gave him advice, in how to make his career as an eight-thousand climber from the Baleares Islands and from Mallorca.  Listening carefully to Juanito, and following his advice, many times as a joke, he was turning into a “Gudari”, as Juanito called him constantly.  We joked with him, telling him that, because of his tremendous strength, he should open the entire trail of the day of the summit, and also carry lines to fix.  “That is what you expect from a Gudari” said Juanito. And Tolo, taking the joke, without any claim, and with great respect for Juanito and Carlos, said that he would, whatever his mentors said. After Shisha Pangma in Tibet, this spring of 2010 came to Annapurna in Nepal.  We formed the same group, Juanito Oiarzábal, Carlos Pauner, Tolo, who had become a “Gudari” after Shisha, and me.  Annapurna inspires a special fear to those who come to climb it.  Tolo, who has
a piece of bread, in his goodness, expressed his doubts or fears about the mountain sometimes.  Quickly Juanito and Carlos reprimanded him, jokingly or seriously, and reminded him the path of the eight-thousand climber he was beginning to walk, and reminded him his condition of warrior to finish this mountain with success.  In base camp, Tolo, an  athlete of daily training, almost a professional, left everyday to move his legs in the surroundings of base camp.  He went out with Juanito, who most days asked jokingly “where are we going today, Gudari?” and Tolo always proposed a lot of hours of walking and Juanito reprimanded him with love… “you go then, Gudari, I have to cook garbanzos at 1”.  (Juanito had cook for us almost everyday at base camp meals as if we were being invited to his home).  The curious couple of Juanito and Tolo got my attention, when Tolo was a confirmed page and Gudari of Juanito.  We all made common plans for the future. Carlos Pauner, Juanito Oiarzábal and the Gudari from Mallorca, Tolo, made it to the summit of Annapurna, on April 27 at 16:00, Nepal time. Sadly something happened in the extremely trained body of Tolo, during the descent from the summit of Annapurna.  Dr. M. Antonia Nerín and I got the last words from him at 9 in the evening of April 28 through radio.  Our Gudari was fading.  And part of us with him.  Tolo, the Gudari from Mallorca, died in the early morning of April 29 above 7,500 meters in Annapurna.  His spirit survives, forever, in the memory of his wife Marga, and his bright gaze in his children’s. Tolo, Gudari, as Juanito called you, when we go back to the mountain, we will feel you among us.  Rest in peace, there, wherever you are.

Javier Pérez

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera