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Encounter with a mountaineer
Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal

Professional mountaineer Iñaki Ochoa de Olza is attempting face south of Annapurna I, 8091 m
by Gaëlle Sévenier - Free Lance Reporter

May 30th, 2008: Iñaki Ochoa de Olza died on May 23rd trying to reach Annapurna I...

April 1st, 2008 - Nepal - Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) - 4200m. It is early morning in ABC. The bright sun is slowly raising the temparature far below 0°C. Iñaki is outside his lodge, digging snow. Climbers from all countries start arriving in the base camp after many days of trekking. To them, it is the final destination. To Iñaki, ABC is just the beginning. He is waiting, acclimatizing and hoping for the best conditions to ascent his mountain. Iñaki is attempting face south of Annapurna I, 8091 meters, the 10th highest mountain in the world.

Iñaki Ochoa de Olza is a professional mountaineer from Pamplona, Spain. Born in 1967, he started climbing 8000 meters high mountains at the age of 22. Since then, Iñaki has done more than twenty expeditions throughout the world, reaching the highest existing peaks, most of the time without O2.

So far, Iñaki climbed twelve out of the fourteen 8000m mountains on earth. Only two are remaining. «After the Annapurna, which is a very hard mountain to climb, I will only have one mountain left in the country : the Kangchenjunga. » said Iñaki, pointing east at a white peak high of 8598 meters.

For the ascent of Annapurna I, Iñaki has teamed up with the mountaineers Horia Colibasanu, Roumanian, and Don Bowie, Canadian. When asked about the name they gave to their expedition, Iñaki answers jokingly : « Well we had thought of calling ourselves the ‘Good, the Bad and the Ugly Annapurna 1 Expedition’, but the problem is that we did not agree on who is who. No one wants to be the ugly ! »

To date, less than 160 people ever managed to climb the Annapurna, with very few through face south, the most difficult path, the one Iñaki is now using to climb this Himalayan peak. «Annapurna is an extremely difficult mountain, » explains Iñaki « it is steep and dangerous, with a high risk of avalanches. Some people say I might not make it. This gives me a goose flesh sensation down my spine. »

Confrontation to death is inavitable for professional mountain dwellers. Iñaki entrusts that 27 of his closest friends died in the mountains, friends he cared for, friends who spent time with him in what he calls his « base camp » in Pamplona. « When I was young, I wasn’t prepared for death » admits Iñaki. « I was told my grandfather had left to the sky with a nice bearded man. Here, it is a different reality. Many people die in the mountain. Death is a daily reality. »

Iñaki does not intend to take risks his entire life. « I do want children, and I will stop risking my life once I will have a girl friend and children to care for » promises the mountaineer. While many women are hoping to conquer his heart, Iñaki is now in the arms of the white Annapurnas, reaching step by step the silent, pure, dangerous and powerful Himalayan peak.

« Even if some people think we are the badly raised children of this declining society, I do not see it that way » wrote Iñaki. « I only wait for the moment to raise very high, look once again within myself with infinite freedom, and steal energy from these mountains that feed and enrich me more every day. »


May 23rd 2008 - On the descent, Iñaki had a seizure and collapsed near Camp 4. Apparent brain damage was complicated by pulmonary edema and Ochoa—despite both rescue attempts and medical care directed remotely by doctors at the Hospital of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain—succumbed at 6:45 a.m...

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