ExWeb Makalu special: interview with Santiago Quintero

Posted: May 14, 2008 08:20 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) After summit this Sunday, Santiago Quintero was reportedly helped down with signs of AMS to high camp by German Ralf Dujmovits. In camp 3, an Argentinean fellow climber took over, administrating medicals and supplementary oxygen. Meanwhile, two Sherpas were sent up by two Brazilian climbers.

Late yesterday a triumphant email arrived from Santiago Quintero, telling about his summit of Makalu. Hopefully this means that the descent has been successful, for Santiago is special.

Santiago lost most of his toes to frostbite during a solo climb on Aconcagua in 2002. He is determined to keep climbing, and would like to go to K2 next, providing all went well on Makalu.

Santiago's Makalu report

As for his Makalu summit, Santiago wrote:

"Hello friends, it's 11.30 pm Nepal time and I have returned from my summit on Makalu. I never imagined anything so beautiful. The ascent was very demanding. At the sight of endless inclines and never ending rock sections; I wanted to turn back so many times. But then I reached the edge and knew that I would make it."

"I started to cry. Now it was as if I had got wings: I ran pass my mates, and arrived next to Irivan who climbed on artificial oxygen. Also my friend Waldemar obtained the summit. My cutoff time was 1 pm, but I arrived already at 11am. God gave us a spectacular view; I could see both Everest and Lhotse."

"When I arrived on the summit, I cried and to cried. I was so immensely moved by this beautiful summit, where a small flag with a photo of Dalai Lama greeted us. What a great welcome."

"It is incredible to see that after so many years of intense faith and hard work, the results have arrived. I really feel very thankful to God and Life to allow this, and knowing that you all are part of this dream, my adventure. Nothing of this would be possible without all the people who believed in me, and never tired to send support messages."

"I arrived high camp at 6.30 pm and began to climb 11.30 pm Saturday, ascending more than 1850 meters in the last day. I'm very happy to have reached my second objective, the Makalu. Thank you all, I will send my full report with photos soon."

The interview

Just as Santiago was leaving for Makalu, ExWeb arranged an interview with him. But then Everest blew up and climbing turned into Chinese politics. Santiago's interview was stuck in our "to-do" story board. Well, here it goes, at last.

ExWeb: Hello Santiago, how and where did you lose your toes?

Santiago I lost my toes in 2002 when I climbed the south face of Aconcagua (ed: Santiago became the fifth man in the world to solo the wall).

I wanted to climb it in 24 hours but took 36. I had 3 bivouacs and was very tired in the last one, near the summit, where I slept. The next day, on February 1, I got up with the sun and started my descent. When I got close to Base Camp on the normal route I removed my climbing boots and only then noticed that my feet were frozen. I went to the MAZ hospital in Spain and stayed there for 8 months.

ExWeb: What made you decide to keep climbing?

Santiago: When I was 15 years old, at the base of the Antizana peak in Ecuador, I felt an unusual love for the mountains. I decided right then and there to never let anything separate me from this fantastic world of climbers, adventures, and dreams.

ExWeb:You've made a number of great ascents. Which were the hardest, and the ones you're most proud of? Why?

Santiago: My most important, and hardest climb was the 3000 meter wall on the south face of Aconcagua. My second most important climb was a new route on Yeruaja (6634 meters) in Peru. I soloed that one as well, in 2001.

But I was also very proud to reach the summit of Broad Peak without oxygen last year. This because everybody thought the hard climbs were over for me; while I myself was dreaming to climb K2 in 2009. My courage started to feel tired and my feet hurt. But in the last 4 years, God helped me to overcome that.

ExWeb: Climbing on altitude with old frostbite is very difficult, as new frostbite forms much more easily. What medical problems do you expect? What are your injuries exactly?

Santiago: The pain is the most difficult to me. I actually lost most of my toes. I lost half of my right foot and most of my toes on the left foot. The pain disappears little by little over the years; I learn to climb with it and continue to find new solutions.

I had special prosthesis made for me with point technology in Colombia. We worked hard for 9 months to see the final results. I also have special socks, and Boreal makes special, extra wide boots for me, adapted to wear with my prosthesis. It would be impossible to climb K2 (8611 m) without this aid.

ExWeb: What do the doctors say?

Santiago: That I am incredible, because they thought I would never climb again.

Since my frostbite, I have done another 4 solos; 2 routes in Colombia, Sierra Nevada del Cucuy 5200m, the first solo climb of the Monja Grande Ecuador Altar 5350m, and a new route on Antizana 5740m (5to,90) D+.

ExWeb: How have you prepared for the climbs in regards to your injuries?

Santiago: I use special oils by the American Young Living company and I do energy therapy.

But I also run, bike, ice climb, rock climb, and mountain climb. My training is hard; I will grab my climbing bag and ride my bicycle 120 km from Quito for twelve hours to climb Cotopaxi in 3 hours. The same training goes for the Cayambe Mountain in Ecuador. I soled Chimborazo in 20 hours, twice - in one day.

ExWeb: Climbers such as Edurne and Juanito have lost quite a few toes. Have you spoken to them, or other climbers about climbing on altitude with severed limbs?

Santiago: Yes. Juanito helped me with the Boreal boots, and Edurne showed me the heat pads she used for Nanga Parbat. On my own I have discovered Reiki therapy, meditation, various books about motivation, special vitamins - all combined with my experience it results in many valuable lessons.

ExWeb: What do you expect to be hardest on Makalu?

Santiago: The final part from Makalu la at 7400 meters; this is a big chunk to climb to the summit and back in one push, in addition there's also some technical rock.

ExWeb: You plan for K2 next summer. Will you use oxygen?

Santiago: I would never climb with oxygen; this is not climbing on your own.

My 2009 K2 project is called "K2 sin D2." D2 means toes in Spanish, so the project is "K2 without toes."

This summer I plan to climb Chacraraju in Peru. Then K2 in 2009. In 2010 I'll go for Cerro Torre in Patagonia, with that returning to difficult big walls, rock and ice. And I want to do more solo climbs in the future, on 8000 meters.

ExWeb: Do you have any role models?

Santiago: Jerczy Kukuczka because in spite of big limits in technology and money; he did the greatest climbs.

ExWeb: How would you like your climbs to be remembered?

Santiago: As an example of daring to be different, with no limits to what humans can do, and a message of peace.

Iquito, Ecuador resident and mountain guide Santiago Quintero, 33, started to climb because he had found his joy and believes that we should do what we desire. "I discovered the true purpose of my life in the mountains," he said, "and without them my eyes have no light."

As for his climbing team, Santiago simply states his friends, his girlfriend, his parents and his sponsors in Ecuador; the Ministry of Sports, Toyota, and Energizer.

Santiago says that Claudia, his girlfriend of 6 years, is his big love and greatest support. 10 years from now, he hopes to have actively helped in preserving this planet; bagged K2, "and live with Claudia for the rest of my life."

And one more thing: "14x8000 my friend."


Iquito, Ecuador resident and mountain guide Santiago Quintero started to climb because he had found his joy. "I discovered the true purpose of my life in the mountains," he told ExWeb last year, "without them my eyes have no light."
Santiago added only this image to his interview replies.