A chat with Andres Delgado: Everest without Oxygen, Part I of III
11:28 a.m. EST Feb 24, 2004
Andres Delgado is a seasoned Himalayan climber. He’s been on K2, summited Everest with oxygen, stood atop Cho Oyu three times, and also reached the fore summit of Broad Peak. This spring he’ll be on Everest with a joint Mexican/Canadian team and will be climbing without oxygen. ExplorersWeb recently caught up with him to chat about his upcoming Everest and K2 expeditions.
An ExplorersWeb interview with Andres Delgado:
Today, part one: To use O2 or not to use O2?
Tuesday, part two: Everest and K2 - a double header
Wednesday, part three: Favorite and most frightening climbs
Today, part one: To use O2 or not to use O2?
ExWeb: What made you decide a return to Everest this spring, and why without oxygen?
Delgado: When I summited Everest I did it in 96 with oxygen, which I started using from below the balcony. Just below the balcony, halfway on the traverse I was getting too cold and could not think well, I was getting too anxious and decided to plug into the oxygen. Since that day I have always thought that if I train a little bit harder and get a bit more experience on controlling my mind under that big anxiety that you feel on high altitude, I would be able of doing it without using tanks.
Going without oxygen is a better achievement sports wise talking. Everybody has their own personal ambitions and capabilities and I don't mess with that, each one can achieve their particular goals the way he wants, but talking about mountaineering as a sport, it is a lot better achievement to do it without oxygen. And I want to believe I am one of those who can put his mind and body in the shape and coordination that is needed to achieve such a goal.
I want to know I am capable of such control over my body... on the other hand, I want and have to be able to live and understand the mountain to achieve the ascent, because you can have all the control of your body you want, but if you don't live with the mountain, you won't be able to climb it.
ExWeb: Have you been training differently and are you planning on a different acclimatization strategy?
Delgado: Yes, I have done a lot more aerobic training. I have been trail running and cycling a lot. On the mountains around Mexico City I have guided a lot, as my work, and since I have to go at the clients pace on those days, I load myself with a heavy pack.
As an acclimatization strategy, I will try and listen to my body and look for the precise moment where it is acclimatized but not yet tired. By living at altitude I believe you reach a point where you cannot acclimatize any more. Of course you have to get high enough so your body learns about the altitude and come back to BC, after doing that several times you get to learn when you have reached an optimum level of acclimatization before you start to loose strength. I do not and have never believed in spending days and nights above 8000m. I think we will try a summit push from C3, even though we don't expect to summit on that particular day, we do expect to go past camp 4 and come back down.
We hope to get very acclimatized by doing this, and then go for the summit from C3 and spending just a few hours on C4 melting and drinking. On the other hand, if we are very lucky, feel good, and are strong enough we might summit on our first push from C3... you never know.
This system proved to be good to me when I summited Cho Oyu two times in just ten days. I had gone only to C2 once on Cho Oyu, went back to BC, and then went up to C2, spent a night there and then pushed for the summit. It was hard and slow but I reached the summit via a direct line from C2. After resting three days in BC went up again with a client, spent a night in C1, C2, and C3 and then summited. I have never felt so strong.
Sitting here and trying to explain all this and plan all the strategy I feel like I am not respecting the mountain, because on the end, the weather and the mountain will dictate.
ExWeb: You've climbed on many previous expeditions, how do you think this team compares to say your previous teams?
Delgado: I have climbed with a lot more technical people and a lot stronger people. I have also climbed with less technical and weaker people... Once you reach a certain level of strength and technical abilities, attitude and commitment is what makes the difference. All of the ones on this expedition have the technical abilities and the strength to do the climb, plus I think all of them have the right attitude to live together and aim for a particular goal in a stress filled ambience as an Everest expedition can be.
I would say the one particular difference from the teams I have climbed with, is my particular attitude. I have failed and succeeded on different expeditions, but I use to think that success was due to my greatness and failure to everybody’s stupidity... I haven't climbed in the Himalayas since 2000, I have married since then, I have a 5-month-old baby boy, I have seen some life since my last Himalayan expedition and I think I have grown a little. I now can see success as a lot of everybody’s effort put together at the right moment, with a lot of sacrifice from everybody thinking of others, not only on oneself, all mixed with a lot of planning, a lot of hearth and some luck.
I want to be more tolerant, I want to practice emphatic with everybody on the group, I now know that I can be an idiot under stress and I am willing to control it. This may sound like a bunch of bull, but it is actually what I feel and think.
Andrés's previous summits include Mount Everest and three ascents of Cho Oyu -- summiting twice in 10 days in 1999! He has also reached the foresummit of Broad Peak and holds the record for the fastest climb of the Polish Glacier on Aconcagua (a peak he has summited fourteen times) – in 9 hours, 17 minute from Base Camp to the top. This spring/summer he’ll be going for both Everest and K2.
Image of Andres courtesy of Andres Delgado.