Inaki Ochoa and Ethiopian world record distance runner Kenenisa Bekele before a bull run in Pamplona (click to enlarge).
"My knee is fine now, thanks. I got the knife on December 7th, and recovered OK, climbed to the very top of Kilimanjaro in January." All images courtesy of Inaki Ochoa.
Inaki (left) and Kazakh Denis Urubko who was almost there upon learning that Inaki could hold on no longer (click to enlarge).
ExWeb interview, Inaki Ochoa part 2: "At best we might be able to postpone the death of Everest"

Posted: Mar 11, 2008 11:46 pm EDT
(MountEverest.net) In the previous entry Inaki Ochoa spoke about true summits, climbing styles and his latest summit, Dhaulagiri, marking number 12 on the Pamplona Spaniard's list of the 14, 8000ers.

Today about the two left; plus about bull runs and saving Everest.

ExWeb: You "only" have Kang and Anna left to complete all 8000ers, what are your plans?

Inaki: Only, eh? Well, let me think about that for a minute. It might take a while to summit these two, or it could take just a good season. I donât know, that's the thing, but I wouldn't miss finding out for anything in the world.

Kanchenjunga (which I spell without a "g") is a big big one, just 30 meters lower than K2 but harder technically on summit day no matter which route you climb, and much colder and windier.

The most difficult to get to the top, of the 8000´s? Very likely, in my opinion. And it is my favourite mountain and the first one I tried, back in 1990. Sometimes I wish I was a Buddhist, free of desire, to leave it unclimbed, or at least untouched. But sorry, it burns too much...

ExWeb: And Annapurna?

Inaki: Annapurna needs no introduction, and it will be the first one I try, in April and May. Nobody seems to say anything good about the "goddess of the harvest", but I think there is a lot of "alpinist life" in it, so that is what I am going to do, simple alpinism. The south side is the place for that, I think; the wall is huge, the first half is bad and the second half is worse, so very appealing to us.

When I was climbing an overhanging serac on the north side last year, surrounded by avalanche prone slopes, time came for me to be brutally honest with myself. The risk was just too high.

I realized that if I got to the summit the next day the only thing I would have gained was "scratching" Annapurna´s name from a list. And that is exactly the opposite of what I look for in these mountains. Every one of them has to be worthy by itself, without being part of any collection.

Annapurna is very much worthy indeed, without a hint of a doubt. My buddies Don Bowie and Horia Colibasanu and myself will try our best, maybe on Tomasz Humar´s route and then following the east ridge to the summit. Exactly as Joos, Loretan, Lafaille, Iñurrategi and Hamor did before us... (all great names, please note).

Sergei Bogomolov, Alexei Bolotov and another 6 Russian friends will be there too, working all of us together with the same goal. Time to keep learning Russian, I guess, in every sense. Maybe next time I go to my dentist I will ask him to fix me a couple of golden teeth, just for the sake of it. I like the look of these guys' smiles...

ExWeb: So you will save Kang for last?

Inaki: I had planned to climb Kanchenjunga with Nives and Romano, but "it will not be the same without them", as they so nicely said last year when I was injured...

I feel like waiting till Nives recovers to share the mountain with them, because friendship is much more meaningful than mountains. And this spring nobody seems to want to go to Kanch, so it looks as if we might not find anyone to share a permit with.

ExWeb: How's your knee since the injury?

Inaki: My knee is fine now, thanks. I got the knife (iliotibial band syndrome surgery) on December 7th, and recovered ok. Climbed to the very top of Kilimanjaro in January, and it did not hurt anymore, so now I am back in shape and full training, logging +30.000 meters climbing per month. It's only the second serious injury of my career, so now it's time to forget about it and keep rolling.

ExWeb: Have you done any Pamplona bull runs lately?

Inaki: I don´t like bullfighting, but the run in Pamplona is something different, a local tradition that has nothing to do with adrenaline. It's free, wild, fun, no paperwork and the police only look from outside, so I find it surprising that it is not illegal yet.

Foreigners often simply confuse it with bullfighting, but bulls are not harmed during the run, which is not always the case with us. It is an 800 meter stretch of cobblestone narrow streets, and the bulls can do it in just under 2 minutes, unbelievably fast.

It only happens 8 times per year, from the 7th to the 14th of July every year. I have run 138 times, and never been gored, even if once they knocked me out by stepping on my head against the pavement.

My dad has run for nearly 50 years without missing a single day, more than 300 times... always closer and holding his run longer than I ever did. I am a very bad and cowardly runner, I must say, but I enjoy it a lot.

ExWeb: What are tourist runners like?

Inaki: The worst are Americans, believe me. Some years ago a 300 pound black guy asked me, 30 seconds before the start of the run: "Dude, which side of the street will the bulls come out from?" I could have hit him, but I told you, I'm a coward and never hit people above 290 pounds.

We have celebrities too. I've got a chance to meet with people like Spike Lee and Dennis Rodman before the runs. Cool guys. I only hope that Elle McPherson and Scarlett Johansson finally decide to come and run too, before I die.

ExWeb: Your upfront interview at ExWeb last year was very popular. We discussed commercialization on the 8000ers among other things. Dawa Sherpa (And Tshering's son) recently sent out a call for people to advice how Everest (and soon most other Himalaya) can be 'saved'. What would be your 'five cents'?

Inaki: I'm really sorry, but I think Everest canât be saved, just as the climate, the jungles, the poles, the tigers or the ozone layer. Human kind is a predator, the worst of them, and nothing will be spared. And Everest, being the highest mountain, is certainly a good prey. At best we might be able to postpone the death of Everest. Or maybe it already died, without us noticing. I'm not even sure anymore.

I can see the logic in Everest's attraction, it being the "greatest" and all that - but except for Cho Oyu and Ama Dablam in fall the rest of the Himalayas are basically empty with kilometers of virgin terrain to climb. Many faces remain untouched for years.

Take this spring for instance: Except for us perhaps, nobody will be on Kanch. There will be 3 teams on Makalu maybe, 1 on Manaslu, 4 or so on Dhaula, 2 on Annapurna... and most those climbers will go for the same routes.

That's a small number of people compared to Matterhorn in July, with its millions of jumpy guides and clients, tons of bolts, fixed ropes, chains, huts, ladders, helicopters, mobile phones and other "adventure annihilators". That's way more people than in the entire Himalaya combined. That is why we go to Asia after all, because by saying "no" to all these gadgets and tricks we can find a certain amount of adventure, or at least something close to it.

In essence, if we donât renounce technology and the so called "progress," Everest and ultimately the Himalayas will not be saved. The worst thing about us is that we are really good at screwing up the sacred things we should cherish; and quite surprisingly we have learned to do it only in a couple of generations.

80 years from now Everest will be climbed by helicopters and cable cars. In the lift, you will hear somebody say, "Hey, remember years ago all those dumb-asses getting themselves killed in avalanches and storms?"

And people will agree, smiling and shaking their heads in disbelief. Fortunately Iâll be gone.

Next, final: About courage, Piolet d'Or, the recent Italian Himalaya winter attempts, Kazakhs Everest-Lhotse traverse, and the Beijing Olympics.


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