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Photo: Maike Gerlach

Gratitude to Shisha Pangma

By Iván Vallejo Ricaurte

Dear friends, both in Ecuador and throughout the world: Receive my affectionate embrace from Katmandu, given with great joy and intense emotion after reaching the heights of Shisha Pangma, my tenth climbing of a mountain over eight thousand meters high, astonishingly enough through the “British Route”, considered one of the most demanding of those leading to the peaks of the “eight thousands”.

I would like to start by deeply thanking everyone for the efforts taken to accompany and support us in this new goal amongst my “Challenge 14”. I’m very grateful for your words (great companions for as long as I could retrieve them), for the strengthening energy that each one conveyed and for the wonderful time you invested praying to the Cosmos up to the palace of the Great Spirit, requesting enlightment for both Santiago and me, and for It to generously take our hands and lead us to the right path.

To all, thanks again and again, because all you kind thoughts reached the skies and came back converted in strong and endless will to reach the heights.

On Tuesday, October 12, at one thirty in the morning, we arrived to the safety and relief of the Advanced Base Camp, after spending almost day and a half determined to descend each meter back from the peaks of the Shisha.

This climbing has been, from a technical viewpoint, the most demanding of all I’ve done in the Himalayas. The explanation for this is that it was accomplished absolutely “Alpine Style”, meaning that we didn’t establish a previous camp or fixed even one centimeter of rope. Friday, October 8, Santiago and I started ascending from a height of 5800 meters. The territory was unknown, each step a new discovery for us.

To increase the difficulty of this three day adventure, we were forced to move all in fours through icy slopes slanting between 65 to 70 degrees.

Because this challenge was planed “Alpine Style”, we carried all our equipment every day: tent, stove, fuel, food, sleeping bag and pad, protection suit (mostly we wore it, but the heat forced us to carry it sometimes), ropes, hardware, cameras, and so on. The bottom line is the burden was large, the weight was tough on our backs, as we barely leaned on the tips of our crampons while our heels complained over the discomfort and lack of support.

This tale is still missing one small detail: the Shisha Pangma is one of the highest peaks on the planet, raising over eight thousand meters, a fact that of course difficult the task. Because climbing like African monkeys and enduring loads like camels in the Pushkar market while precariously hanging from some wires and ropes at seven thousand meters of altitude… well, that’s suffering. But I’m not one to complain, not now and not ever, because Santi and myself brought it upon ourselves.

All the stories and details blend together in a delicious “mountain cocktail”, which now I can enjoy as I remember this whole experience, one of the most endearing of all that I’ve lived. It was a beautiful trail amongst those in the Himalayas, therefore my gratitude to the generous Shisha Pangma.

Dearest Shisha Pangma:

From the stillness that surrounds me, I thank you for your kindness, for welcoming us through your doors to enjoy the wonders of your gardens, passages and bends. For as I watched over one of your balconies, you pampered my tired and weary face with the warm, loving rays of the afternoon sun. And from that balcony you allowed me to see, beyond the horizon, the heights of the Manaslu, my first “eight thousand”, and remember then, my heart filled with gratefulness and humility, my primary steps into this great road leading to your palace, the place you share with the Himalayan gods.

Thank you, again and again, Shisha Pangma for your gifts: the wind, the cold, the ice, the snow, the lack of oxygen. I’m also grateful for discomfort, light, abundance, fear, anguish, hope, joy and, of course, thank you immensely for that peak, that breathtaking peak, which we reached past midday.

Above all, I’m thanking you for not only letting us into your palace, but also generously letting us part from your kingdom back to this earthly reality where events don’t follow our wishes, and where us human being so often forget the value of small details to concentrate on trifles like wearing matching socks.

Nonetheless I shall tell you that this earthly world, along with its imperfections, also brings immense beauty, given by all the love we can give and also, all we can receive from our children, partner, deep friends, dreams, projects, struggles, defeats and accomplishments.

You see, our gardens, though not as beautiful as yours, are also filled with cherish.

Thanks again, dear Shisha, for your tokens filled with your kind goodness embellished on us.

My dear friends, maybe this gratitude note to the Shisha is written within the emotion that I feel in my heart due to this wonderful experience. I’m very glad to share it with all of my loyal “audience”, that silently cheers from their homes, working places and everyday life so that I may reach my goals.

This peak, like all the others is mine, and yours too.

I end this letter by deeply thanking all the good friends that make “Challenge 14” keep on track.

·         DINERS CLUB INTENACIONAL:  Pablo Salazar E.

·         BELLSOUTH: Alberto Sandoval - Luis B. Silva

·         CHEVROLET: Pablo Ross - Jannise Mejia

·         TESALIA SPORT: Luis Eduardo Alarcon - Marcelo Torres

·         IDELA ALAMBREC: Kohn family·          

·         Thanks to the support of:·          

·         DHL: Boris Aguirre D.

·         MAQUINET: Mauro Quito 

·         IMPRENTA NOCION: Fernando Guevara

·         ROYARY INTERNACIONAL: Jorge Burbano 

Best Regards, “The” Iván Vallejo R.


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