ExWeb interview, Inaki Ochoa final: "Personally I'll boycott the Beijing Olympics this summer"

Posted: Mar 13, 2008 02:55 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) "I always loved the Games. In 1988 we watched Seoul in the Yosemite cafeteria."

"During Barcelona 1992, we were walking towards Everest. Atlanta 1996 we were coming down from the Gasherbrums, and in the 2000 Sydney games we were walking towards Ama Dablam."

"In Athens 2004 we were coming down from K2, but this year will be different."

Boycotting the Beijing Olympics

Where climbers have been finding all kinds of excuses for China's behavior, for Inaki there are no two ways about it. "I'll personally boycott the Beijing Olympics this summer," he told ExplorersWeb.

"China executed 1.010 people last year, according to their own figures, or between 7.500 and 8.000, according to Amnesty International," says Inaki. "Even in the best of cases, this represents 65% of executions done in the world per year."

"The family of the executed pays for the bullet, while the state sells the organs. The Tibetan genocide is still unpunished, after 1 million Tibetans were exterminated between 1950 and 1970, and another million are living in exile. And the IOC awards China with the Games?"

"Dont count on me following any of it in the newspapers or on TV. I'm very sorry I will not see the Ethiopian long distance runners Bekele and Gebresselasie that I admire so much, but it will be easier to sleep if I dont cooperate as a spectator of that circus."

To climb worthy

Inaki is a true mountaineer; one who knows that there is more to it than summits. "Friendship is much more meaningful than mountains," he said yesterday, "and each peak must be climbed in a worthy way, not as a mere part of a collection."

About Everest Inaki said, "80 years from now Everest will be climbed by helicopters and cable cars. In the lift, you will hear somebody say, 'Hey, remember years ago all those dumbasses getting themselves killed in avalanches and storms?' And people will agree, smiling and shaking their heads in disbelief. Fortunately Ill be gone."

Being a true mountaineer is to be a true human being, and in Himalaya personal integrity is put to the test in a revealing way. Today the final interview with Inaki Ochoa: about courage, Piolet d'Or, the recent Italian Himalaya winter attempts, the Kazakh Everest-Lhotse traverse, and his private life.

ExWeb: You point out how the off-routes on Everest remain empty. Is it that not only guided clients, but also regular mountaineers are getting skittish? Is this a general trend in the world perhaps?

Inaki: Comfort, security and money are the three modern Gods of our western civilized society. Everything is ergonomic, insured, and aimed to take least possible physical effort. The value of whether a thing is good or bad is determined by how much money you can make out of it.

Himalayan climbing is regarded useless and stupid, because you have to sweat to make your dreams come true and because you might die - as if you would live forever were you not a climber.

Cimbers, guided or not, are just people from this society, and it will always reflect in the way we climb. Bob Dylan says that behind every beautiful thing, there is some kind of pain. Himalayas are beautiful, Himalayan climbing is painful. If you are not ready for some kind of suffering, ready to pay a certain price (cash not accepted), ready to accept that it may leave scars on you, then it would probably be wise to stay home.

If you are not willing to put years of preparation, desire, passion and imagination, dont even think you are ready. All the money in the world will not save your ass up there if things turn really rough.

ExWeb: What's your take on Piolet d'Or?

Inaki: I dont like it at all. I completely agree with what Tomaz Humar said in a recent interview: Prizes are like hemorrhoids; sooner or later you will have one in your ass. I even got one from you guys at ExplorersWeb last year... (thanks, by the way ;).

When we were kids we used to ask our dad: who is stronger, a lion or a whale? Our poor old man was sweating bullets trying to explain to us that it is impossible to compare. The same happens with climbing, but still some people wants to make it classifiable and ranked like any other sport. In the end they just want to sell; their products, their people, their ideas, their vision, their records, their grades...

It's 100% pornographic to offer prizes and honors in an activity where the risk is so high. Half of the elite climbers dont die in their beds, that is a historical fact. There are people out there, now and in recent years, who have been killed (and nearly killed) trying to get the award, this Piolet dOr, because it would improve their contracts and their chance to keep going, or even to sustain their families.

And I'm talking of very famous people. The guys from Piolet dOr will always say we dont force anyone to take risks, but they know they lie, and so do the rest of us.

Right from the start when I took up climbing, I liked the absence of written rules, officials and judges. As I said before, I'm very happy that bureaucrats belonging to mafias like the IOC keep their sharp claws away from our activity, and I hope no one comes to substitute them. Especially if they belong to an elite group or a private, commercial company.

I only hope the Piolet dOr is dead and truly dead, and does not reincarnate.

ExWeb: So back to climbing then - you have said that Italians are most fun to hang out with on the hills. Speaking of which, what's your take on Simone Moro's and Nives/Romano's winter attempts? Any such plans for yourself?

Inaki: I know I'm an Italian at heart; I feel home each time I go there. Italy is chaotic, but beautiful and full of interesting, vivacious people. They learned how to enjoy life many centuries ago, and they still do.

Simone, Nives, Romano, Denis and others like them still try to find their own limits; they dream and work hard to farther themselves. I think I mentioned already last year that there are maybe 2 or 3 dozen people out there like them; strong, honest and dedicated. You recognize them by a certain look in their eyes, telling you they are doing exactly what they want with their lives, and they love it.

Other examples include the Slovenes (Stremfelj, Kozjec, Prezelj) the Russians, the Kazakhs, Hamor, Egocheaga, Morawski, Kopold, Gerlinde and Ralf, House, IĂąurrategi, Kammerlander, Steck, the Pou brothers, Zabalza... exactly the same life as Lafaille and Boukrev and some others (gone, but not forgotten) had.

In winter 2005, I was on Shisha Pangma, alone. It was simply cruel and came pretty close to finish badly. I'm not in a hurry to come back after seeing my friends suffer like dogs on their attempts.

It's not easy to explain in words what a miserable thing Himalaya winter-climbing is. If someone feels tempted to criticize Simone, they better go first and summit Shisha any 11th of January, and them come down and talk.

Talk is cheap at the bar. There will always be people who prefer to just watch, and talk, rather than climb, and so...shut up already.

ExWeb: You also said that your only problem with the Kazakhs is they teach you all the bad words in their vocabulary - what's your take on their Everest-Lhotse traverse?

Inaki: You dont do that to your friends, that was my idea!! ;))

It's really a very interesting thing to try, but I have my doubts about the west ridge descent. The west ridge is a very underestimated climb, maybe the best ever done by Americans in the Himalayas... And Tom Horbein´s account of the climb is absolutely exceptional, everyone should read it.

Anyhow, if anybody can do the traverse like this, it's Maxut and Vassily. They are so outstanding... and it is good that someone tries it decently, without Sherpas preparing camps and without 02. I wish them the best, of course, and send them a big hug!

ExWeb: You told us once that each time you're in an airport, your plane is headed to all the 'wrong places' - Pakistan, China etc (instead of the Seychelles). Has that changed at all? What would be the destination of your dream flight?

Inaki: It's slowly changing, but I have a feeling that I will never get to be a good tourist. Last year I was in Kenya for a week, (even did a safari!), and now I just came from Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, where the sea is exceptional.

I love apnea diving, that is what I will do if I'm born again. Still, I cant stay in those places for long without going mad. I think doing a Safari in a vehicle was very decadent, something like climbing Everest with guides, 02 and the whole lot. Been there, done that, here are the photos. Look how nice I look!!

It's the same thing; If the technology would fail, happy tourist would be eaten and gone in a matter of hours, by the mountain or by the animals.

No, I think I will be very happy to come back to Kathmandu soon. To hell with the Seychelles.

(Ed: find previous two parts of this interview in the links section).

Inaki Ochoa has climbed 12 of the 14 8000ers, including a new route on Shisha Pangma. Although an advocate of freedom in climbing style; he dislikes artificial help. "If you use oxygen, you are not an alpinist, you are more of an astronaut or a scuba diver. I know it looks like I am repeating myself plus not making many friends, but that is the way I think. I am a very bad diplomat," he said.

He has a 7 year old Golden Retriever named Ulises and says that his mom and dad are great Himalayan climber parents, "they know everything about it." Inaki's dad was big in martial art, and so is Inaki - perhaps reflecting his overall life philosophy.

Inaki has 3 younger brothers, "none of them a climber, and all of them more talented than me."

Truth to be told, Inaki has a rep as a ladies' man in Himalaya. "I was married for a while, but they released me on parole. To her credit, she is still my best friend." If you want to make him dinner skip the meat, but he'll do fish and really appreciate a pasta salad. In return, he might make you his own Dhal Baht. Ice cream for dessert is OK, but no drinks unless you have an agenda, "no alcohol except for half a glass of wine on occasions, which makes me feel immediately like being at 8000 meters," Inaki told ExWeb about his healthy lifestyle.

Inaki likes writing, music (Manu Chao, punk rock as well as the classis - Van Morrison, Credence, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan) and literature. The mountaineer says he has more than 500 climbing books at home, and could spend fortunes in Kathmandu bookshops.

His latest movie was No country for old men ("simply great, the Coens are superb") while his all time favorite is Monty Python's Life of Brian.

His latest book; The constant gardener, by John Le Carre he did not like all that much, while he loved Last days, by John Roskelley, "a superb climber and an amazingly good book." All time favorite is A confederacy of dunces by John Kennedy Toole.


Image of Inaki Ochoa, ExWeb files.
"In Athens 2004 we were coming down from K2, but this year will be different." Image from K2, click to enlarge.
"Jorge Egocheaga and Peter Guggemos, I will miss you this time brothers!! Good luck..." Ochoa (left) in K2 high camp (click to enlarge).
Inaki's lonely footsteps on the top of Shisha Pangma. All images courtesy of Inaki Ochoa and his website.

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