The 14th knight: Ecuadorian Ivan Vallejo is ready to continue

Posted: May 01, 2008 09:54 pm EDT

( I dont want to waste one single minute on Dhaulas dangerous slopes, Ivan said prior to his third attempt on the peak. But today Ivan summited Dhaulagiri at last, in cold and windy conditions with a lightning storm hitting the upper parts.

With his summit, Ivan has entered as climber number 14 on the unique list of people in the world who have scaled all the world's tallest mountains - the fourteen 8000ers.

Following Italian Silvio "Gnaro" Mondinelli last year and American Ed Viesturs in 2005, Ivan also became only the seventh mountaineer in the world to have done them all without supplementary oxygen.

The natural born climber

Gnaro's quest took 14 hard years, Ed's took 20. Ivan Vallejo, 49, was a lucky guy. Since Manaslu 1997, in an astonishing success ratio one by one the greatest peaks on Earth quickly surrendered their summit to him. Much like the Sherpa people, Ivan was born at altitude (residing at 2800m and training at 3000m). In fact, he is one among only seven people who have summited Everest from both sides w/o O2.

Still, he took a big risk when he quit his career as an electrical engineer to climb full-time in Himalaya something considered kind of an eccentric hobby in his home country of Ecuador. Yet risk is what Ivan is all about.

Charged by the bull

"Youve got to try it all, right?" Ivan told ExWeb. "Thats how I am. It is like my old dream of becoming a bull-fighter. I had to experience how it felt So I went for it, and joined a bull-fighting school! It was a couple of years ago. There I was, in my forties, surrounded by all those kids dreaming of fame and fortune in the bull-fighting game. Well, I attended the classes, and finally got where I wanted: In the ring, right in front of a bull."

It was "scary as hell!" Ivan told us. "I was absolutely terrified, my legs trembling, waiting for the wooden door to open and the bull to charge. It was a young one, as it was my first attempt, but it didn't matter: The noise that beast made by banging on the walls of the corral with its horns has stuck in my ears for ever. But you know, my children and my friends where there looking, so I did my job as decently as I could, instead of just turning around and run!"

Himalaya: Pumori sans permit, the magic of Everest

The first time Ivan went to Himalaya, he was broke and intended to climb Pumori without a permit. "I was no naĂŻve... The moment I got to BC I realized there was no way I could climb there without being caught. But that's when I decided to devote myself to Himalayan climbing."

"I quit my career as a chemical engineer, and started working odd jobs, whilst I trained and looked for money to return to Nepal." Ivan summited Ama Dablam, then Manaslu, and Broad Peak in short order.

"Then came Everest and my life changed," Ivan said, "because Everest brought me fame." Ivan became the first Ecuadorian Everest summiteer, and without supplementary O2 to boot. Back at the airport, Ivan found he had become a local star and now sponsors came knocking.

Dhaula's slap

Ivan's early fortune didnt go un-noticed among climbers: many expedition leaders would invite him to join their teams, considering the Ecuadorian as a lucky charm to warrant the summit.

There was a drawback in the process though: The risk of believing too much in ones luck and Ivan fell. Tasting the glory of completing the 14, 8000ers prematurely, Ivan was surprised when Kangchenjunga resisted and then he got a major reality check on a peak where he least expected it: on Dhaulagiri.

Ivan almost lost his spirit on Dhaulagiri back in 2006, but trekking in the Andes, he took a hard look inside his heart - and returned to the Himalayas more humble and wise.

To the Pole!

The reward was waiting for him on the summit of Nanga Parbat. The came Annapurna with Andrew Lock last year and now, 11 years after he started, Ivan is done.

So, now what? "I am not afraid of the future," Ivan told us earlier. "There are always challenges, things youve never done before and youd like to try. Polar expeditions are especially appealing: Moving on a different terrain, solve other kinds of obstacles and difficulties. Ill start working on it when Im done with the 14, 8000ers."

Ivan Vallejo was born in Ambato, Ecuador, on December 19, 1959. A natural born climber, he soon summited the main Andean peak of his home land, and gave up everything for the Himalayas. He summited Manaslu and Broad Peak, but it was Everest that made him famous after he became the first Ecuadorian to summit in 1999 and without supplementary O2.

On May 1, 2008 Ivan completed the 14, 8000ers with his summit of Dhaulagiri.

#Mountaineering #Mountaineering

Ivan in one of the many base camps of his life. Image courtesy of his website.
"Youve got to try it all, right?"