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 Carlos Pitarch Francisco of the Autumn 98 Spanish Everest Expedition

Carlos was the first to Summit Everest this Autumn (1998) under very difficult conditions. He is only one of two climbers that are believed to have reached the Summit this Autumn.

Carlos Pitarch Francisco, the first person during Autumn Everest 98 to reach the Summit of Everest. We understand that two or three members of the Spanish Expedition and three sherpas went for the Summit. But with bad weather and very high winds they are decided to turn around, except Carlos, who decided to try reach the summit alone, under his own risk. Nobody went with him. He had to break trail with very heavy snow and go without fixed ropes, because he was the first up this Autumn. He made it to the Summit and back down alive !

The Finest of Lines.

The phone rang late a few nights ago and to my delight it was Juan. His voice sounded harsh obviously effected by a chesty cough, but he was well. Even better, he and his wife Maria were in London with Juan’s work until the following day. So, with haste, I made plans to get to Gatwick for a short meeting.

So to the expedition, the team of nine was reduced to six: Spanish Juan Corro (leader) , Carlos Pitarch, Ricardo Villar, Ramiro Beltran, Javier Garcia and the doctor (Carlos Pardo) The Japanese (2)  joined the peak permit. At Kathmandu this was a slight problem as the team was not as much value to the government but after some days all the paper work was complete, special equipment purchased the expedition was set.

It was apparent very early that few people were to attempt the South Col, indeed only 4 camps were at the rocky and uneven base camp, a Japanese expedition was the most prominent, run by an ex-police man very disciplined and with a definite plan to follow. The Spanish team set their efforts to the mountain and on the way had a very tense number of days as one of the sherpas was labeled a ”criminal” by the Japanese team. Why? He touched one of their ladders on the ice fall which was a crime as they wanted there own unique route through the ice fall and no one was permitted to go near rope or ladder. This “crime” was taken so serious that long meetings and a jury was set and it took the highest level of diplomacy to cool things off. The result was two parallel route on the ice fall this autumn.

The acclimatisation was slow and each member worked hard to move equipment ever upward on this great mountain face to camp three when one night an avalanche thundered down the prone slopes (the new snow fall was making the route ever treacherous by the hour) and took half of the camp with it, loosing equipment as it swept past. No injuries but lost time delayed the progress upward and the weather was closing in with higher wind and more

Carlos the ever impatient to go was always up early and on the summit day was ready before any one. Juan and Carlos were the strongest at this camp 4. The sherpas and Richie were feeling the effects of the altitude and temperature so on the eve of the summit push the team was organized to go. The day came so fast, and Juan had spent the night on oxygen and was not too good. Richie was poor also. Carlos, Juan and Sherpas were left (at 1.30am !!) to the task of the summit push, the high wind and snow made conditions impossible but out they pushed. The two way radios making communication possible at a height where jets only go. The conditions closed in yet further and Juan shouted on the radio for the summit team to return as he felt time was enough, but Carlos was at the point of the finest of lines between madness and the dedication to get you to the top of the world. The oxygen mask had stopped working so there was no rich air to breath and the wind whisked up spindrift Covering footprint as soon as they were vacant leaving no trace for the retreat, on he pushed, the endless effort to his limit. Juan by now was so very concerned (as he told me of this sat in the airport bar, his slightly blood shot eyes watered as he relived the emotion of his best friend pushing on when all should be left for safety and reason, perhaps to a point of never being seen again) as he knew all was being gambled on this push, with luck a window opened in the extreme weather for a short time. Carlos made the summit (at 10:30am) , tied a prayer flag to the summit pole and collected one as a souvenir and turned back. Carlos was now fighting with frozen feet and hands. Juan, at camp four, waited to see his friend return from the white unknown and greeted him (at 2:30pm) with relief, although a fist fight was more appropriate to Carlos’s actions at 8000 meters you just have not got the resources available to spend in such a way.

The team returned down the mountain with the frozen parts of Carlos to worry about, a long walk out and delayed flight, meant the medical attention needed was delayed, there will be a few weeks of wait before we know what the fingers and toes of Carlos will remain after his dedicated and brave visit to the summit. Richie is well and resting after his adventure at home.

As for Juan he has returned after the greatest adventure. The sparkle for the great mountains burning as bright as ever, some time now to reflect and rest with his wonderful wife, Maria who stands by him throughout. No plans for an adventure next year, just quality time with the ones close to him.

After arriving in Spain, Barcelona, Carlos was directly sent to the hospital, and is currently there. At least, he will stay there one week more. He is being treated in Zaragoza by Dr. Arregui, a famous specialist in Europe for this type of treatment. At the moment, it is confirmed that will be he will lose the first section of two fingers in right hand, and very likely the big toe at on of his feet. He is with very good humor and optimistic about future, but at least he will suffer some months for complete rehabilitation.

Story by Juan Corro's friend Ian G., and assisted by the staff at Everest News. Information provided by Juan Corro, the leader of the Spanish Everest Autumn 98 Expedition.

Everest News is in contact with friends of Carlos and hope to bring You more. For more check out this Spanish site http://www2.uji.es/ceccmc/Castellano/clasificacion.html . Here it appears Carlos completed a 51 kilometer race that has a vertical rise of 1100 meters in an incredible time ! This looks like some sort of ultra-marathon.  Provides some insight into why he and Kazi were the only ones to summit in very difficult conditions this Autumn.

A photo of Carlos on the summit of Cho Oyu, as team member of the Spanish-Czech Expedition in 1993 .The picture below will take awhile to load. More soon on Carlos !

Courtesy of Ian Griffiths

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