Pumori seen from Base Camp on
May 2nd at dusk
Everest Base Camp, May 7,
Today should be a day to
And it is so, today at Base
Camp we can rest and celebrate that we have finished our acclimatization
process, some of us have gone higher than the others and our acclimatization
would be better or worse, but at the end the acclimatization process has ended
with what we would have achieved so far... Today we can loosen our body and
relax our mind...
What is next... to wait for
the weather to give us a chance... 4 days with no wind or storms... four days
to fight against our bodies and minds, four days to search into our souls the
internal fire that brought us here...
Today should be a day to
However my soul aches... to
loose our body to recover... but relaxing my mind has brought me pain and
nostalgia. Relax the mind to rest, to not be alert anymore or afraid of
crevasses, of avalanches, of the cold and the wind... but relaxing my mind has
also brought me pain when I think that Cristi and Iñaki are far away... of the
smiles that I have not seen in two months and the heat of their skin which I
have been missing for sixty days...
Today should be a day to
We are so close to the end
and so far at the same time...
Today and always we are going
to celebrate!!!, because we are lucky to realize all this, because we have
dared and that is just winning!!
With a knot in my throat,
with tears in my eyes and my heart in a knot I write this so that Cristi,
Iñaki, my parents and my brother, Mónica and the termites also celebrate,
today and always... because they are together!!.
On April 30th José Luis and I
began to see in the weather forecasts that there looked like there was a
possibility to slip into the wind and to gain altitude. Things did not look
clear at all, it looked like May 5th would be a good day to be at 8,000
meters, the problem was, how to get to 8,000 meters? At least three days are
needed to get to 8,000 leaving from Base; the 5th looked good, but the
previous days looked very bad... We cracked our heads waiting for the weather
reports... noon of the 5th was our objective. At twelve on May 5th we should
be at 8,000 meters and come down right away like crazy trying to get to Camp 2
at 6,400 meters.
That was the plan, and like
every plan... they usually change.
On May 3rd we woke up at 4 in
the morning, it was cold as always. I had not slept well, I was just
recovering from a bug that had me vomiting and with diarrhea for a whole
day... that early morning, along with my alarm clock, I got up with a pain in
my belly that sent me directly to the can... the diarrhea had came back, it
was surely the big chicken dinner I had the night before.
I got dressed and went to the
diner with all my equipment ready for the ascent, not before going to the
latrine for the second time.
We finished our breakfast and
began the ascent towards Camp 1 via the well known and frequented Khumbu
Icefall. Just when I stepped on the ice, I took three steps and I had to
inaugurate the Icefall latrine... the third in the day...
It was clear that it was not
my day, I felt weak and tired, I could not keep up the pace and the steps
craved in the ice looked twice as high than in previous occasions... but well,
I swallowed my pride and I marched at the end, slowly like a grandma and
quiet, there were not beautiful landscapes or pretty sunrises that day for me,
this day I just looked at the ice, counted each step as one less to go to Camp
2... I lowered my head like a stubborn bull and walked very slowly the whole
day... I left the Khumbu Icefall covered with shit...
Andrés in the Khumbu Icefall
on his way to Camp 2 on May 3rd
When we got to Camp 2, Lakhpa,
our cook looked at me as if he saw a ghost. I asked him to cook me some
boiled rice. I ate three plates of rice with olive oil and salt. Luis,
Alejandro and Tom, who had climbed with me, looked at me with sadness. I must
have looked pathetic climbing like a grandma, eating my rice and sleeping all
afternoon. By dinner, another three servings of rice with olive oil and salt
and a lot of water. That night I told them that since I was screwed up, the
next day I would leave at five in the morning and not at 8 or 9 like all the
others planned. I planned to go slowly and since a lot of wind was
forecasted, I would wear the feather suit. If I left early I would have time
to find my pace and I would avoid the sunny hours, so I would not get roasted
in the feather suit.
At four in the morning on May
4th I got up at Camp 2, for breakfast I had my big plate of rice with olive
oil and I started to walk. It was very cold and the wind hit hard. While I
walked, my mind kept asking me, Where the heck are you going?, but a little
voice deep inside said "today is the hard day, hold on, the price will come
tomorrow". So I got deeper and deeper into the Lhotse wall towards Camp 3.
On the ice almost at 7,000
meters, the wind began to get stronger, it did not hit constantly, it attacked
in gusts and it looked like every other one hit harder. Some must have been
70 or 80 kilometers per hour, there was a gust that hit to sudden that it took
my breath away, for a second I felt how the wind made a void in my mouth and
nose and I was left breathless... "One more, one more of these and I turn
Suddenly a terrible idea
assaulted me: What about the tents? Will they be there when I get to Camp 3,
or would the wind had blown them away?
I started to pray.
I was very close to Camp
3... The curiosity to see the condition of the tents moved me as much as the
search for the day of May 5th.
Everest seen between the
gusts of wind on the way up to Camp 3
When I got to Camp three I
found the obvious.
Tents of all brands, colors
and tastes ripped, flapping in the wind. Some others were still standing...
I could not see ours... step by step I went walking between the tents of
different groups... Some would have disgusting surprises, it was like a ghost
town... the wind was hitting very hard...
The yellow top of one of our
tents was flapping visibly in the wind, it was like the victory flag of the
force of nature, the door torn and the tent filled with snow... "That is one
of our tents" -I thought- "The other one could be still standing" -I could not
see behind the one that was filled with snow-... I walked like someone who
enters a cemetery at night... For my surprise it was standing, practically
intact! I could not believe it, it was like a movie in which the good guys
win! I crawled inside the tent like a lucky brat. No
one from my group had climbed behind me. The Sherpas had turned around
because of the wind and when they got to the camp they had advised Luis,
Alejandro and Tom not to climb. The wind was very strong.
It was 13 hours when I
finally found shelter in the tent of Camp 3. I grabbed my radio and told Base
Camp that I was fine and sheltered. Immediately I began to
melt ice and to cook. As the afternoon went on, the wind diminished...
little by little the gusts of wind became a rumor... it seemed to bring a
wailing message, like the one from the mermaids... a captivating and daring
message... that invited me to continue climbing... sunset was the biggest
temptation in the world... little wind, it was not too cold... almost
seductive... to keep climbing...
At 21 hours I gave up to the
seduction of the mountain, I got off my sleeping bag, lighted the stove and
began to prepare to climb up to 8,000 meters. There was practically no wind
at all but it was very cold. I was already wearing the feather suit, I put on
my boots and the mittens inside the tent, the harness, water, food, I pulled
my hat on my head and left, captivated by the mountain... it was 23:30.
The moon was
glowing brightly, the path was very well seen.
Walking alone, in the
immensity of this mountain gives you an impressive sensation of insignificance
and vulnerability, in some occasion, a similar situation had led me to believe
I was invincible, but with the humbleness that defeat brings, you learn to see
those moments the way they really are: an opportunity to see the greatness of
God and the fortune of the human being. A moment of intense communion with
your self and your capacities, a moment of delight in the most intimate part
The yellow band, a rocky
protuberance at 7,600 meters of altitude seemed to be farther with each step.
When I got to its base almost at midnight I held on to the fixed lines and
started to ascend. I was very tired and it was very cold. The fatigue I felt
was unusual, it was not due to the altitude or the low temperature, it was
because of the accumulated fatigue of my sickness, because of the effort of
climbing with strong winds to Camp 3 and the lack of sleep... I was very
tired... I was about to turn around and go back... the warmness of the tent,
to end the effort, the sleeping bag looked so seductive... but to turn around
would mean to throw away the effort of the two previous days to the garbage...
but I was so tired...
Then I thought about Iñaki
and Cristi, in what they would be doing at that same time in Mexico... Was it
Iñaki's bath time? Would Cristi be in the Valley or in Mexico?... little by
little I advanced forgetting my fatigue from time to time.
I passed the yellow band and
I kept on climbing... it most have been around 3 in the morning, immersed in
the painful cold and in my family I started to notice that the full moon was
not shining much any more... I could not see the path in front of me, I barely
saw the little light from my frontal lamp... it was not normal, at three in
the morning the full moon doesn't set yet... it was all dark... I kept on
walking... I did not know, but nature was playing a joke on me with a lunar
A little later the moon
shined again on my path. The cold was ever more intense and the fatigue did
not go away with the memory of Iñaki and Cristi. The sky was not black
anymore, now it seemed to turn into a purple-blue tone, there was more clarity
in every moment, the day was about to break without a doubt.
Sunrise from 7,850 meters.
The shadow of Everest and Lhotse can be seen with the moon.
It was around 5:30 in the
morning. I was at 7,850 meters, almost on the summit of the Geneva Spur, just
50 or 60 meters from the South Col. I could not give another step, my ego
wanted to keep on walking, but my mind said I should not go a step further up,
the fatigue I now felt had come to the border of being uncontrollable, so far
everything was useful for my acclimatization, the lack of oxygen, the physical
effort, to go beyond the threshold of comfort, everything would be useful for
my preparation, but one more step further up could put me in a dangerous
situation, of irrecoverable tiredness and terminal fatigue...
I started to descend, I
already had too many hours immersed in the night, in the cold, in anguish and
pain, it was time to go back.
Auto-picture of Andrés
starting to descend from 7,850 meters.
At 7:30 in the morning I went
into my tent at Camp 3. I slipped into my sleeping bag and shook until 10 in
the morning when finally the sun warmed the interior of my tent. That's when
I fell asleep. At noon I woke up and forced my self to stand up, to drink and
take care of my tired body, I ate and drank until I felt fine to begin the
descent to Camp 2.
While I was changing sox for
a couple of dry ones, I listened to Luis' voice outside the tent. Alejandro
and Luis have left Camp 2 at two in the morning and had gotten to the yellow
band, now they were coming down and José Luis had asked them by radio to go to
Camp 3 to check how I was. Luis waited for me until I was ready to begin the
descent. We went down together to Camp 2. While passing the Lhotse wall we
joined Alex and all three of us went to Camp 2.
The three of us were so tired
that afternoon, that none of us showed up for dinner.
The next day we descended to
Base Camp where they greeted us with beers and orange juice.
Now, here I am, writing these
lines to tell you about our feats.
To wait for the weather to
give us a chance... 4 days with no wind or storms... four days to fight
against our bodies and minds, four days to search into our souls the internal
fire that brought us here...
Today should be a day to
However my soul aches...
Cristi and Iñaki: I miss you
Translated from Spanish by
Jorge Rivera for EverestNews.com