19 April 2010

Colombia to the Everest: a dream of one, a dream of all

 I know this is suppposed to be a Colombia travel blog and I swear that when I wrote my last post about the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota, I promised myself that the next one would be the first in a series about traveling around Colombia in a month.  But then I received an email from a friend in Katmandu reminding me of some of the amazing things that are currently happening among Colombians and being as in love with my country as I am I couldnt help the urge to tell you about them.

As  I'm writing this words, there is a team of Colombian hikers on their way to Mount Everest, among them my very good friend Marcelo Arbelaez y Carolina Ahumada who sent me the e-mail I'm talking about. 
Some of them have already been at the top of the Everest three times, but what is very special about this one is that they will be attempting to take the first handicapped man with no oxygen to the 8.848 m.a.s.l. of Mount Everest, his name is Nelson Cardona, one of the nicest and bravest man I've ever met. 

Nelson's history is very inspiring. He has always loved the mountains and that love took him to become a warden in the Nevados National Park of Colombia where he first met Marcelo and  his climber friend Juan Pablo Ruiz training for their first attempt to Everest in 1995, they bonded very well and a few months later he was invited to join their expedition. 
 He couldn't believe that he could actually have the chance to see  Mount Everest in person or even better, attemp to climb it, the dream of every climber in the world. So for the next months they trained  very hard in the highest picks of South America until 1997 when they headed for Nepal for the first time, during that first attemp they couldn't reach the top and Nelson almost died in an avalanche. During the next ten years, he encountered many setbacks, even deadly ones, in 1998 he saw his friend Lennis Granados die in Mount Manaslu (The 8th highest mountain in the world, in Nepal) and another friend, Gonzalo Ospina almost died in his arms due to a brain edema in Cho Oyu (Tibet).

But the biggest setback of his life was yet to come. In 2006 when training for the 2007 expedition to the Everest with no oxygen, he was climbing the Nevado del Ruiz when he slipped from a  18 mts rock and fell all the way to the bottom of the mountain. He broke almost every bone in his body, he had face and hip double fractures, his right foot was very damaged. He was rushed to hospital in Manizales where he had an 11 hours surgery. After loads of therapy and having had an infection in his foot, the doctors said that he could never run or climb again. But another option was presented to him,  if they would partially amputate his leg he would be able to climb again...and his answer was yes.

Juan Pablo en La Cumbre, Suesca-Colombia

 He retrieved to the mountain in his now home town Suesca  (A post about that beautiful place is to come in the next few weeks) and did what he calls the "letting go ceremony". He basically asked his foot permission to let it go because letting it stay would have stop him from doing what he loved the most. So, in November 2007 Nelson was voluntarily amputated and it was then when the Expedicion Epopeya Sin Limites 2010 was born. As soon as he had recovered and got his prosthesis donated he started training again which takes us back to the beginning of this post, Nelson and his team are now on their way to the Everest.

Nelson training in La Cumbre, Suesca-Colombia

 Nelson trained 4 hours a day. Getting used to walk, run and specially climb with his new prosthesis took a bit of time... I was very privileged to do some climbing with him and Marcelo whilst visiting Suesca last October. 

This is me taking photos from Marcelo's house in Suesca-Colombia

 The team is divided into two groups. The leader group which includes Nelson will attempt the top of the Everest. The second group will join the leader group to base camp and will then attempt to reach 6.119 m.a.s.l to "Lobuche". This is a group of entrepreneurs and business people that share a passion for Colombia and that have put the resources together to make this dream come true. There is a grand total of 21 Colombians that during the next month will be on their way to make Colombia bigger at the top of the Everest. 

 Marcelo, Nelson, Edgar, Carolina, Juan Pablos and the rest of the team... EXITOS, EXITOS, EXITOS!



**Some pictures on this post have been taken from various sources. Credits to Epopeya Everest Sin Limites 2010, El Espectador.


  1. I really enjoyed your Columbia blog. I have always wanted to go there. Continued fun on your travels, Eric

  2. Your travel photos and retold adventures are inspirational.

  3. esto nos demuestra que el que es percistente alcanzara llegar a su meta.