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Dhaulagiri: Iñaki and Pete's "fantastic voyage" to BC
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Apr 15, 2005 14: 01 EST
Iñaki Ochoa and Peter Guggemos are finally on their way to Dhaulagiri BC, where their international team has already assembled. However, Maoist road blocks have made traveling in Nepal rather tricky. The climbers had to take some risks just to get out of Kathmandu, as Iñaki has just reported.

Mission: Impossible

“Getting to Dhaulagiri Base Camp, up the Kali Gandaki Valley has proved to be quite a difficult task. Nepal is a hot zone right now, and getting out of Kathmandu is almost mission-impossible. The only viable way out is through the Khumbu valley, where the Maoists haven’t taken control – in fact, they were repelled when they tried.”

“With the guerrillas blocking all the roads in the country, our only chance to reach Pokhara, the second biggest town in Nepal, was to fly. So, we got there by plane. That’s when the problems really started.”

All flights grounded

“Domestic flights from Pokhara to Jomson have been canceled for the last five days due to strong winds. We waited in line, but with no luck. All flights were grounded. We felt trapped at 800 meters above sea level.”
“We tried to get a bus, and we were ready to encounter Maoist troops and pay the ‘revolutionary tax’ they would for sure demand from us. However, no driver even considered taking that risk. Yesterday a land mine exploded, smashing a van crowed with local citizens to pieces.”

Trusting in karma

“We were near despair when a Nepalese friend of Peter’s came to greet us, saying he was trying to fill a charter helicopter flight. He needed 24 passengers. We jumped at the opportunity and signed on as passengers, without giving a thought to the wind, (which was apparently strong enough to prevent planes from flying, but not helicopters). After all, last year we also flew to Makalu BC as a last resort, trusting in our karma.”

“Both the aircraft and the pilots were Russian, and both looked mean. At least, we thought, the chopper was real, it wasn’t not just a scam for naïve foreigners keen on giving away 100 dollars each. The miracle continued as the helicopter took off with both of us inside.”

“The pilot followed the Gandaki River, accurately tracing all its turns without concern for the violent shakes. I felt my hands sweating with fear but, finally, the aircraft landed.”

”That’s what makes us happy”

“We are safe on firm ground and there is nothing but mountains around us. Now we just need to cross two saddles slightly over 5000m, but that’s not a problem. We will surely be delayed as the cols are overloaded with snow but, hey, that’s what we do and what makes us happy! We could get thrashed and we would keep on coming here, again and again, for the rest of our lives.”

Iñaki’s first goal this season was a solo attempt on Shisha Pangma. The attempt was aborted when Ochoa was caught in an avalanche during the summit bid.

Along with Pete Guggemos, he is joining Italians Nives Meroi, Romano Benet, and Luca Vuerich to climb Dhaulagiri. They will then move to Annapurna’s North side where he will share a permit with American Ed Viesturs.

Iñaki Ochoa de Olza (born in Pamplona, Spain, 1967) is currently involved in completing the 14 8000+ m peaks, having already summited nine of them: Cho Oyu three times (1993, 2001, and 2004), K2 (2004), Makalu (2004), GI (1996), GII (1996), Lhotse (1999), Everest (2001), Nanga Parbat (2003), and Broad Peak (2003). He has also summited Shisha Pangma Central (1995).

The Italians, among a group of 18 climbers and trekkers, were unable to reach Pokhara from Kathmandu by road last Sunday. Maoist rebels were blocking the roads as a reinforcement measure of the 11 day-long strike they had declared. The group was forced to turn back, but reached Pokhara at their second attempt, after a 13 hour drive. They have encountered Maoist troops on their trek to BC, which they reached earlier this week.

Image of ‘helpless’ Iñaki courtesy of Iñaki Ochoa/Navarra8000.

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