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ExWeb interview with Inaki Ochoa: No fear, no regrets just stay alive to keep climbing

Posted: Apr 09, 2007 04:45 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) One may say, Inaki Ochoa de Olza is a lucky man. After more than 30 Himalayan expeditions and 11, 8,000ers summited, the Spanish climber carries along many experiences, good and bad, in his backpack but feels the climbing-bug biting on him as hard as on his first visit to the highest peaks on earth. Before setting off for Dhaulagiri, Iñaki sat for a chat with ExplorersWeb. On this first part of the interview, Iñaki talks about what really matters for him: Mountains, friends, and the freedom to do exactly what he wants.

ExplorersWeb: Your first experience at an 8,000-er was on Kangchenjunga in 1990 a lot has happened since then. Are you the same guy who looked at the Himalayan peaks for the first time, or do you feel different? What has changed? What have you learned?

Iñaki: I hope I am not the same guy! At least I do not feel like the same guy, but it is never easy to see yourself from outside. I think I am not as naive as I was back then, and certainly I know a bit more about Himalayan climbing now, though never too much, after more than 30 expeditions. Maybe my friends would say I have not changed that much, not only physically, and that would also be a compliment. I have learned a great deal, in many aspects, but basically the Himalayas have ordered from the beginning on my scale of values, with love for life and freedom being on top, and money on the bottom.

Kanchenjunga was, to me, an awakening in the Zen sense of the word. I realized for the first time, and strongly, that there was a path ahead of me, and I only had to follow it, without setting up obstacles, without fear, without regrets. It was much easier than what people may think, and I never looked back with nostalgia.

"I would return to every mountain"

ExplorersWeb: Any mountain you would never return to? Any you would really like to come back? Reasons?

Iñaki: I would return to every mountain, no doubt about it. I love the mountains, truly, passionately, and I make no distinction between them I like them all. Maybe I would avoid some particular routes, like the normal route on Manaslu, but even that mountain has other sides that are appealing. And I would sell all my possessions (except my dog!) to go back to K2, Kangchenjunga, Nanga Parbat, Makalu or Dhaulagiri, which are, in my opinion, the most attractive of the 8000ers.

ExplorersWeb: Youve got 11, 8000ers summited, many of them with rather fast ascents last year you summited Shisha alone via a new variation/route, in conditions that made everyone else turn back. Why dont you have the media coverage other climbers enjoy both in Spain and worldwide?

Iñaki: I think my name does not sound Slovenian enough!!... How about New route on Shisha Pangma, solo and in 13 hours, by ex-communist ugly powerhorse Iñakek Ochoovich? :) No, seriously, I have no clue. And, if that is true, it does not worry me at all, as long as my sponsors are happy with what they get. One of the reasons for my refusal to become a professional/sponsored climber (it only happened in 2003) was reluctance to media coverage and exposure. I still think I keep part of that in my character. In Spain it is different, and, except for a few guys in the north, or here and there, most of the general media does not have the education or knowledge to understand what is worthy of attention or not. Most of the time they only refer to fatal accidents or Everest summiteers.

The art of staying alive

ExplorersWeb: Speaking of speed fast ascents seem to be your specialty. How important it is to be fast on an 8,000-er?

Iñaki: On the 8000ers the only important thing is to stay alive. The rest is secondary. But how you stay alive, that is your art. I think that speed is most of the time a very sure way to climb safely, and someone who is able to make it down one of these giants in 12 or 16 hours certainly has better chances of survival than someone who needs that amount of time just to struggle up the last 500 meters. If you had seen Jorge Egocheaga descending all the way from the summit of Manaslu to Base Camp in under four hours you would understand what I mean. I never heard of a climber who had any kind of accident while he was trying a speed ascent on an 8,000-er.

Anyhow, to climb in that style requires dedication, commitment and a lot of training beforehand. And if you really want the summit by all means you will not use it, because the chances of running out of gasoline close to the goal the top are quite high. My express climbs on Lhotse and Dhaulagiri, both stopped some dozens of meters before the summit, and the successful one on Shisha Pangma last year left me as finished as my body and mind can be, and took me to a place inside myself that I had never been. And I was satisfied, for a while. I have climbed six or seven of my 8,000m-plus peaks in that style, and I would not change it now.

ExplorersWeb: Also, Denis Urubko is planning on an express ascent on Dhaula. Are you joining him on the fast-track? If so, do you plan to summit at a normal pace before, or will you acclimatize any other way?

Iñaki: Yes, I am sure Denis will fly up, as will Jorge Egocheaga and Joby Ogwyn; these three are some of the fastest climbers I ever saw. And they are very nice guys and good friends too, lucky for me. It is very tempting to join the party and try myself a fast climb, but first we have to acclimatize properly and then we have to think about having Annapurna on the program too. But I can't say I will not try, because I know myself a bit by now...

In May 2005 I tried, and went in 16 hours to a point 100 meters below the top, but conditions were not allowing the traverse below the summit ridge. When I came down I had hallucinations, for the first time in my life, due to extreme tiredness. It was cool, looking back on it now...

Bukreev - The Man

ExplorersWeb: The speed climb on Dhaula is reportedly a tribute to Anatoli Bukreev, who made the fastest climb on the peak ever. Tell us about it. By the way, did you ever meet Anatoli? Whats your opinion on him?

Iñaki: There are some people who inspire and leave a mark in the heart of everyone they cross; Anatoli was one of those people. Yes, I met him many times, and he was a friend. As a climber he was way ahead of the pack, and as a man he was a much better one than the snakes who tried to bite him for obscure reasons. He invited me for his last trip, to Annapurna in winter, but I did not go because I was tired after a busy year away climbing.

Actually it would be nice to climb Dhaulagiri fast, as a tribute to this dear and sorely missed friend, who climbed Dhaula in 17 hours and 15 minutes back in 1995.

He was The Man, and some of us learned a whole lot from him. Now we can wink an eye and say, Toli, we are following your tracks... Anyhow, one has to assume that there was only one Anatoli.

ExWeb interview with Iñaki Ochoa, part 2 final: Everest, the way it is climbed nowadays, is by far the easiest of the 8,000ers

Iñaki Ochoa de Olza has Kangchenjunga, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna left for the complete list of 14, 8000ers. In addition to his 11 summits, Iñaki also has summited Cho Oyu twice more, plus done Shisha central and the foresummit of Broad peak.

Last year, besides Manaslu, Iñaki summited Shisha Pangma main in less than 15 hours. Climbing alone in rather bad conditions which had turned all other climbers on the spot away, he followed a new variation from C3. For that climb he was awarded among ExplorersWeb's Best of 2006.

Ochoa was born in Pamplona, Spain on May 29, 1967. He had his first experience on an 8000+ meter peak, Kangchenjunga, at age 22. He has since taken part in over 30 Himalayan expeditions and also worked as high altitude cameraman and guide.

This spring Iñaki s giving Dhaulagiri a second try after a failed attempt in 2005. Ochoa has made sure he is climbing with long time friends who share his criteria: ascending without O2 or Sherpas and minimizing the use of fixed ropes. Ochoa's team mates will be Jorge Egocheaga, Oscar Fernández, Ignacio Barrio, Romanian Horia Colibasanu, American Joby Ogwyn and Swiss female climber Joelle Brupbacher. After Dhaula Iñaki, Horia and Joelle will attempt Annapurna. Australian Andrew Lock may join the group after climbing Shisha Pangma.


Iñaki departed C1 (6400m) on the normal route (NE side) at 01:00 am, October 3 and arrived on the summit at 2:15 pm that day. Self-portrait of Iñaki on the summit - central summit in background (click to enlarge).
Ochoa de Olza has Kangchenjunga and Annapurna left for the complete list of all 14, 8000ers.
"There are some people who inspire and leave a mark in the heart of everyone they cross; Anatoli was one of those people. Yes, I met him many times, and he was a friend. As a climber he was way ahead of the pack, and as a man he was a much better one than the snakes who tried to bite him for obscure reasons." In the image Bukreev and a younger Iñaki (click to enlarge).
"The wind was so strong, I though the tent was going to blown off the mountain - with me and the three Peruvian climbers inside," said Ochoa about the night he spent in C2 after summitting. In the image by his girlfriend Corinne, Inaki finally takes a rest back in BC. All images courtesy of Iñaki Ochoa de Olza (click to enlarge).
Iñaki and Jorge have shared a number of climbs, including an alpine style attempt on Shisha last year, and Manaslu summit this spring. Image of the two climbers in Manaslu´s C1. All images courtesy of Iñaki Ochoa de Olza (click to enlarge).
would return to every mountain, no doubt about it. I love the mountains, truly, passionately, and I make no distinction between them I like them all. In the image, Ochoa trains near home in Pamplona, Spain. All images courtesy of Iñaki Ochoa de Olza/Navarra 8000 (click to enlarge).