Jorge Egocheaga: "I stopped 12 meters from K2's highest point"

Posted: Aug 19, 2009 04:34 pm EDT

Barely a day after we published the preliminary list of summits in Karakoram; another victory has to be scrubbed from the already bleak results.

The announcement of Jorge Egocheagas July 19th K2 summit was soon followed by contradictory reports.

Climbers in BC who at first confirmed the achievement corrected their statements, while friends and climbing mates rallied around him. In the end, the essential testimony missing was that of Jorge Egocheaga himself. ExplorersWeb finally managed to speak to him personally and here is what he has to say. <cutoff>

<b>"Twelve meters away is a summit for me"</b>

I stopped exactly 12 meters away from the highest point, Jorge Egocheaga said. The summit was covered in a hollow wind-slab giving off a dangerous, crunching sound when I stepped on it so I didnt dare to go any further."

"I took a picture, registered the altitude on my GPS, and took note of the time. It was 7.44 am. I had set off from C3 at 9.30 pm."

As for summit claims, Jorge confirmed what journalist Javier Feito published after speaking to Jorge on the Sat-phone. I said I had summited, because from my point of view I really had made it. According to my personal considerations, those final 12 meters meant no difference. As for stats, they will state whatever they consider right.

<b>The shy climber</b>

Statistics and races mean little to Jorge. Climbing in small teams of close friends and virtually always self-sponsored, he has never made any fuss about his achievements. It was rather his friends who spoke on his behalf.

The late Iñaki Ochoa - with whom Jorge shared a number of 8000ers summits, some remarkably fast climbs, tough descents and even an close-up avalanche on descent from Dhaulagiri used to describe Egocheaga as one of the strongest climbers he had ever met.

While generally unnoticed by big media or the general public; elite 8000er climbers around the world always respected the reserved but highly skilled Egocheaga.

<b>No reason to suspect, Spanish climbers say</b>

Fellow Spaniards agree. There might be a misunderstanding; I would be extremely surprised to hear Jorge lying about a summit, Ferran Latorre stated. Its just not him.

Jorge is simply one of the strongest climbers today, he is perfectly capable of climbing K2 in whatever conditions, Carlos Pauner told ExplorersWeb. I have no reason to doubt of him if he says he stopped 12 meters from the top, I take his word for it.

Also, K2s summit is dome-shaped, he may have had just some steps left which make no difference in terms of difficulty, Pauner added. So, from a personal point of view, I might agree that he has got a summit. Statisticians will make their own decision."

"On the other hand though, I know the feeling. I stood barely meters away from Broad Peaks summit once, and afterwards I repeated the ascent in order to settle facts. Jorge will have to make his choice as well, depending on what stats dictate from testimonies and pictures.

<b>Martin Ramos: What I saw was a summit picture</b>

The most passionate defense comes from expedition mate Martin Ramos, who also throws in an extra argument. Ramos was one of the few allowed to see Jorges summit picture.

On his arrival in C3 where we were waiting, Jorge told us exactly what he had done and how far had he reached, Martin told ExplorersWeb. He was not sure about whether his highest point would be considered an official summit. Then back in BC he showed me the picture and I couldnt conceal a laugh. It was a summit picture, no doubt! Gerlinde, David and Ralf were there too that night we all celebrated Jorges success.

Jorge is honest and humble. He is not into races or peak-bagging. He climbs what he wants, mostly at his own expense. He never brags about his achievements."

"It's tough for me to see how some rather unclear summits are accepted without proof or questioning, while Jorges now is being put into doubt. It's unfair.

<b>"We were such a great bunch"</b>

All I can say is that having Jorge as a climbing mate is a real pleasure, Martin stated. After his bid, he decided to accompany Joelle and I back up on our own attempt he wanted to make sure we would be OK. It was extremely generous of him but then some mean-minded people found an argument to doubt him, suggesting he was climbing again only because he had not summited on the first attempt.

As for his own experience, Martin (5x8000ers plus Shisha Central summiteer) has nothing but good memories of K2.

Just being on K2 is an amazing experience but we were also a great, select group. Gerlindes performance on the Cesen route was plain incredible; it would have been great to summit all of us together. We tried our best, reached as high as possible, but conditions simply didnt let us go any further. Thats fine, I guess we are all back and healthy, while K2 will remain in place until I come back which I definitely will.

Ed. Note/ExWeb: ExplorersWeb is currently trying to obtain Jorges near-summit picture. Egocheaga may be out of reach in the next few months though. An MD and former WHO worker, he is currently working with several NGOs as physician in Africas refugee camps, and leaving on a humanitarian mission in Somalia this week.

Ed.Note/AdventureStats: Silvio Mondinelli, Carlos Pauner, Ed Viesturs - Jorge Egocheaga is not alone in having to make a difficult decision on what a true summit is (check "The Rules of Adventure" in the links section). Following countless interviews with climbers, most statisticians consider the summit an absolute point. Should modern mountaineers desire a change, AdventureStats could allow a <i>Lex Egocheaga</i>, which would probably lead to the demise of the service, as it would involve going back 50 years in history and adding a huge number of near summits, something AdventureStats lack resources to do. Another option is to follow Egocheaga's late climbing mate Inaki Ochoa's simple rule. One of Inaki's last statements was, <b>"the summit is where everything goes down in every direction." </b>

<i>Jorge Egocheaga summited K2 at an undetermined hour today, Sunday (July 19th), Martin Ramos (Jorges climbing mate) official website stated.

Last Saturday I reached C3 at 7,300m, above the Black Pyramid. I spent the night there, Santiago Quintero noted. On Sunday morning I woke up to loads of fresh snow it was scary, Santiago noted. I asked where Jorge (Egocheaga) was, and his mates told me he had gone up towards the summit. I thought he was mad to attempt a solo ascent in such conditions. However, I must congratulate him. He summited on his own from C3. He then told us that he would remain with us and will try to help Martin and Joelle on their upcoming summit push.

Canadian Louis Rousseau first confirmed Jorges summit, but two days later wrote there had been a mistake. Christian Stangl told ExplorersWeb he had heard Jorge mentioning that he had stopped some meters away from the top due to dangerous conditions. Other climbers in BC were unaware of the news: I have no news about anyone topping out K2 last weekend, Maxut Zhumayev told his home team over sat-phone that day.

Jorge Egocheaga was Iñaki Ochoas regular climbing mate and has summited 9, 8000ers. Previous to K2, he last attempted Kangchenjunga with Edurne Pasaban.

Martin Ramos has climbed 5 main eighthousanders: Everest (on O2), Cho Oyu, Nanga, GII and Broad Peak - plus Shisha's Central summit.</i>

#Mountaineering #Stats #feature #interview

Image of Jorge Egocheaga (left) and Martin Ramos in K2 BC, courtesy of Martin's website (click to enlarge).