TBY talks to expeditionary Iván Vallejo on his achievements as a mountaineer and entrepreneur.
TBY Since you are one of only 10 people who has completed the “eight-thousanders” without oxygen support, what are your main strengths?
IVÁN VALLEJO I am a very optimistic person who always sees the glass half full. Also, I am very disciplined and committed to achieving my main goals. Organizational skills are always a must when facing the challenge of climbing such demanding mountains. And last but not least, I have been very fortunate to connect with the mountain at a spiritual level to a degree that I would have never imagined, and I believe that has been a plus for me.
What are the main psychological challenges when facing the ascent of an “eight-thousander” without oxygen support?
The lack of oxygen at high levels affects you very badly, and at such high points with very bad weather—including storms, snow, and avalanches—you have to be very careful. Also, I think when setting off from the base camp, you have to know what you are about to do and not to risk too much because of your selfishness. Finally, when taking up such a big challenge as the 14 “eight-thousanders,” you have to keep in mind your family, as you won’t see them much and that can be very hard and certainly takes its toll.
How many expeditions did not end in success?
To be honest, I have lost track, because I am not a big fan of statistics. Fortunately, only a few of my expeditions were unsuccessful, but I learned from the experience. In fact, the mountains have taught me many things over the last 30 years and helped me to overcome my divorce in 1996. Going back to the question, I made the summit of some the 14 “eight-thousanders” after several attempts. For example, I did Kangchenjunga on my fifth attempt, and Dhaulagiri on my third. However, I have been very lucky because of all the “eight-thousanders” I have climbed, I made the summit of many them on my first attempt.
What are your main goals for the future?
When you are on top of any of the “eight-thousanders” looking at the horizon, you realize that there are countless mountains surrounding them and you have achieved only a very small amount of success. Therefore, I will always have challenges ahead of me. Once I completed the 14 “eight-thousanders,” I set up a very ambitious project, entitled “Ecuador on the World’s Mountains,” which brings together the most talented Ecuadorean mountaineers aged 20 to 30. Our aim is to climb as many mountains across the globe as possible, and we have already been to Alaska, Patagonia, Bolivia, Russia, and the Alps. Also, we are planning to climb one of the “eight-thousanders” in 2012, in order to prepare for the Nanga Parbat, which we are planning to climb in 2013.
What prerequisites does any aspirant need to meet?
They have to be technically good, possess a great deal of creativeness to solve problems up in the mountains, and they also have to have great capacity for suffering. In addition, they must be kind people, because for me it is pointless to be a mountaineer if you do not have a good handle on emotional intelligence.
Since you are an entrepreneur as well, how can your personal experience help other entrepreneurs?
When I give conferences at universities I always stress the importance for us to dream big and not to put any more hurdles in our path, which would make it difficult for us to achieve these big dreams. You should not let others to put you off your dreams, and you have to work hard in order to achieve them, being confident in yourself and never surrendering, because things do not come to you, you have to go after your dreams. In addition, you have to be passionate about what you do.
What has Ecuador given you?
Ecuador has given me everything in this life, and I have always felt privileged by having been born in this wonderful country. With this new project, I want to start giving back as much as I can to my country.
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