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  Mt. Everest 2004: Joseba Sanz Dispatch Two


BIZKAIA 2004 EVEREST SIN OXIGENO

A BIGGER PAGASARRI 

After a few days in Katmandu, we crossed the Tibetan border and after passing by Zhangmu, Nyalam and Tingri we arrived to the so called Chinese Base Camp.  So far, the trip is by jeep, with our liaison officer.  From here we climb, trekking for two days, up to the 6,400 meters of Advanced Base Camp, along with yaks that carry our entire load.  We go back to Base Camp to complete our acclimatization.  After a few days of bad weather, now we are again at ABC waiting to be able to start our work on the mountain, with the first climbs to the North Col.

After our interview, Elizabeth Hawley gets in her VW beetle and disappears among the chaos of Katmandu.  In the forty years this eccentric lady -Reuters correspondent- has been interviewing climbers...

The next morning, along with the Dutch members of my group and their Sherpas, we visited the Buddhist site of Boudgnat and we were blessed by the local Lama in a Buddhist ceremony.  All the members of the expedition had dinner together: we are three Czechs, three Dutch, one from Greenland and I. With Nick Nielsen, the one from Greenland, I connect right away and we start making plans to organize the high altitude camps, etc.  It is curious and odd, in our group, that we all go without oxygen.  It is a little unusual. The Dutch, however, go with two Sherpas, because Wilko wants to fly a glide from the summit.

We leave Nepal behind and after the paperwork and the usual controls we enter Tibet.  The first city is Zhangmu, which I remember from my previous expedition to Cho-Oyu with deep bitterness.  In fact, Zhangmu is still exactly the same: it is a Chinese city of concrete, located on a hill. Everybody is a Chinese government officer here, children of Chinese government officers or owners of stores where Chinese government officers buy. 

In the next towns of Nyalam and Tingri, Nick, -my Eskimo friend- and I use the free days to make some acclimatization climbing in the surroundings.

Passing Rongbuk Monastery and after four hours by jeep from Tingri, we get to Chinese Base Camp, at 5,200 meters.  We will spend three nights here.  At Base Camp it becomes clear the technology and media superiority of some expeditions in respect to others: computers, satellite phones, solar panels... On this occasion I have everything and still I am considered the poor guy of this Base Camp.

The others, the rich, who have paid 10,000's dollars to be taken to the summit, walk by like dizzy ducks by the stony paths with their harnesses on and their new boots.  God forbid that they get a scratch on the day of the summit.  They has no insurance against that -only against cerebral edema, falls in crevasses and other minor ailments. 

The 10,000's dollars -65,000 on the Nepalese side- don't guarantee the summit, but you would have to be very dumb if you don't make it, breathing bottled oxygen from 7,000 and practically being pushed by a Sherpa along the route stitched with fixed lines and equipped with comfortable high altitude camps.

Of course I will also tie myself to those lines - which the army installs and we all paid- (I am not stupid), but the differences between my ascent and that of those eople wants to place on the summit, are a lot.  In a nutshell, I will only state the most important: I take my own decisions on the mountain.

This season there are a lot of commercial expeditions on both sides of Everest.  In this circus, which the roof of the world has become, nothing is missing.  Only on the Tibetan side we have grandpas breaking age records, first women and even a South African who plans to throw a golf ball from the summit.

We leave behind the clients of this bonfire of the sports vanities at Base Camp with their altitude sickness and their pre-conquest dizziness.  Maybe it is the same vanity which guides us all.

On the way to Advanced Base Camp (6,400 meters) Everest looks huge and sublime, like a giant Anboto from this Tibetan Arrazola.  But let's not let fear and incertitude invade us: we are from Bilbao and, as Unamuno would say, Everest is nothing but a bigger Pagasarri.

--Joseba Sanz Basque Country Spain

Sponsors for this adventure: Fundacion Athletic Club, Diputacion Foral de Bizkaia, Ayuntamiento de Bilbao, Euskaltel, Euskal Telebista, Bilvending, FORUM, TNT, Eroski-Bilbondo, Ikatz, Serval, Artiach, Chiruca, Calcetines Mund, Isdin, Coleman.

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dispatches

 
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