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Everest 2006 north side debrief - Patricio Tisalema w/o Oxygen: "I didn't feel the altitude until 8550m"

Posted: Aug 08, 2006 03:03 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) Patricio Tisalema was one of the many independent climbers who climbed Everest from the north side this year. Sharing BC with other teams under Monterosa Treks climbing permit, he claims to have achieved this year's first no O2 ascent on Everest, on May 16. Here is Patricios debrief on his summit push:

Patricio Tisalema: Cool with altitude

"After acclimatizing for over one month, I felt, and was ready for a final push to the summit of Everest. During the whole adaptation process, I never had any problem with altitude. But at the beginning people in BC had me worried, saying I was crazy to climb without supplementary O2."

"However my self-confidence increased when I realized that I could progress above 7000m without any problem, moving even faster than Sherpas. In fact, I reached 8200m as training before the final summit attack, which in my case was very helpful. Of course then I descended back down to BC or even lower for a few rest days."

A fast climb

"My plan was to do a fast ascent, in order to remain the least amount of time possible at altitude. Thus, on May 14, I set off from BC and climbed all the way to C2 at 7500m I had previously left a cache there, so I quickly pitched my tent and slept until morning."

"On the next day I took it easy I just needed to climb to the last camp before sunset, in time to rest some hours before the summit night. I left at midday and by 5 pm I was at 8100m. I pitched the tent there, since I thought it would get too late by the time I reached the higher camp at 8300m. So after setting up the tent I boiled water and prepared everything for the final climb, rested a bit, woke up, got ready, and left at midnight."

The death zone: Corpses and thin air

"On Tuesday, May 16, there were other climbers around. I kept their same pace up to 8550m at the ridge, which I reached by sunrise. There, for the first time in my life, I started feeling the effects of altitude. I threw up once and then kept going along a traverse, where I found three dead persons - it was very horrifying! I calmed down and went ahead. Then I realized the difference of climbing without O2: Those climbing on O2 passed me by as I was slowing down."

"The First and Second Steps were tough to climb, specially the last one. Then I took the last snow ramp, and at its beginning I found another deceased climber. By then I was getting exhausted, and for the first time I used the fixed ropes. At that moment I was alone, since all summiteers with Oxygen had already (passed) me on their way down."

Hesitation above the Steps

"I was also getting worried thinking about the descent I couldnt get those four corpses out of my mind. It was getting late and I still had to climb the last 150m which seemed to me the most difficult climb in the world. It was the most difficult part, my pace was very slow and I had to make the greatest effort I have ever made. Twice, at 8750m and at 8800m I thought to myself, I should make this point my Top (summit), and return to my tent (while I have the strength)."

"But at those moments, more than my physical strength, it was my motivation that kept me going. I thought of the commitment I had with all those back in Ecuador who had trusted and supported me. How was I going to contribute to my country, to fulfill my dream of getting to the Top of the world? all these things raised my will power to its limits! I kept fighting till the end."

Alone on the summit

"Finally, extremely exhausted and with the greatest sense of accomplishment at 1:00 pm I got the Top of the world! I was completely alone there. Tears came out of my eyes, one thousand thoughts and memories came to my mind including my beginnings as mountaineer, when the mere thought of Everest was a remote idea."

"It was the most fascinating moment of my life. I was there, on the top of the world, there was nothing else above my feet. I said thanks to life, and I thanked Everest for letting me have the honor of being on its summit I philosophized and meditated for some minutes, took some pictures and videos, then started down. I knew the descent was the most difficult part and that a small mistake could end in my joining those four dead people that occupied my mind all the way down."

"I never stopped, not even to drink. I was very afraid of sitting down, losing consciousness and dying up there. Eventually I reached C4 at 8300m where I slept in a friends tent. Some Sherpas suggested that I use oxygen to sleep. I was physically finished, but I also felt I was breathing well. I decided not to use Oxygen at all, and slept without problems."

Healthy after a no O2 climb

"On the next day (Wednesday, May 17) when I opened my eyes, it was tough to get moving again. But after struggling a bit I woke up, took my things and proceeded down. I retrieved all the caches I had left on the way it was night already when I entered ABC, very tired."

"Once there, I realized that I was the first climber without Oxygen this year and felt very happy for making it back down completely healthy."

Ecuadorian Patricio Tisalema (30) summited Everest from its north side, w/o supplementary O2 or Sherpa support on May 16, 2006. He was sharing permit with other teams and independent climbers on Monterosa Treks permits.

Patricio had previously summited Cho Oyu. He is currently focused on the 7 Summits project (Kosciuszko version), with only Vinson to go: He plans to travel to Antarctica in November, in order to finish the quest.


Pato on top of Everest without 02 in 2006, May 16 at 1:00 pm. This time he hopes to break the current no 02 speed record on the peak.
Image by Patricio Tisalema courtesy Patricio Tisalema
In 2006 Patricio became the first South American to summit Everest w/o supplementary oxygen.