(Angela Benavides) We know Gerfried Göschl and Louis Rousseau, but who is Alex Txikon? Here goes a closer look at the third part of the winter Hidden Peak team: a chunky woodchopper from Spain with potential to become the youngest candidate for the 14x8000ers summits.
Known in the Spanish climbing community as a hyper-active muscle man, Alex Txikon is also famed for being passionate, spontaneous, wild, healthy (he doesn't drink or smoke) and extremely strong: a professional "aizkolari", Alex does rural Basque sports consisting mainly of axing huge tree trunks and lifting heavy rock (over 100kg/200 lbs).
Teaming up with late Iñaki Ochoa de Olza, Txikon entered Himalaya before the age of twenty. He made himself at home in Kathmandu, where he owns a motorbike and seems to know just about everyone. Sherpas, climbers, outfitters, shop-keepers and the very Miss Hawley whose vintage blue Beetle VW Alex offers to buy every time they meet.
Differences during a 2004 K2 climb made Alex and Inaki part. In fall 2006 on Shisha's south face instead, he met Edurne Pasaban in BC and secured a spot in her team. They posed together on Edurne's summit pics and Alex was expected member in her no-O2 Everest climb this spring.
An offer to be refused
A fully-funded chance to summit Everest sounds like an offer that can't be refused for a potential candidate to become the youngest 14x8000ers summiteer (at only 29 he has bagged seven).
But Alex chose instead a small group of climbers he barely knew for a low-odds Pakistan winter climb. He left for Pakistan only one week after removing plaster from a recently broken hand, and toes sensitive to cold from frostbite suffered on Kangchenjunga last year.
So couldn't he have both? The deadlines were too narrow for leader Edurne Pasaban who needed a healthy, focused and trained team together by February. Alex's decision made many mouths drop: Everest was a no-go.
"Time has come to go my own way," Alex said. "It's GI, via a new route in winter and climbing light, that really motivates me now. I'll attempt Everest w/o O2 sometime in the future."
The decision made, things went fast from there. Alex was in a plane to Islamabad, then in a car to Skardu (feeling uneasy at being alone) and one day later in Askole meeting Gerfried Göschl and Louis Rousseau.
Getting to know each other
Reporting extremely cold temperatures, Txikon's spirits rose in Urdukas last Thursday, where the team caught their first sight of K2 and the Gasherbrums. This afternoon, they reached BC after 12 days of travel.
The climber is getting to know his current mates. "Thursday night, I spent quite a lot of time chatting with Gerfried and Louis - not just about climbing, but also about life, and myself," he told his home team.
The young wood-chopper then confessed, "I was so tired that I suddenly fell asleep while sitting at the table, like a statue, with a glass of milk in my hand. Gerfried and Louis burst out laughing, calling all porters to come and see the show - that is, me :-)."
Alex Txikon (Chicon), 29, from Lemoa near Bilbao in the Spanish Basque Country, summited BP, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Shisha (from both sides), Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, and Annapurna, some of them as member of Edurne's team.
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