“I’m happy to still be alive”

Oscar Cadiach (Tarragona, 1953) was born to climb Everest. His parents gave him the book La conquista del Everest [The Conquest of Everest] when he was nine years old. “I had to work on my reading skills to get into a high school prep course. They thought it would be a good book for me.” They were right. The comic book told the story of Sir George L. Mallory and Sir Andrew Irvine’s attempt at climbing Everest, an expedition during which the two English mountaineers disappeared in 1923. It also included the story of the first ascent and descent of the world’s highest mountain by New Zealand’s Sir Edmund Hillary. This was in 1953, the same year Cadiach was born.

Cadiach began climbing at 14. “If I didn’t master this discipline, I wouldn’t be able to climb big mountains.” He started young. At 22, he was already a rock climbing instructor, and by the time he was 35, he was a mountain guide. Now he is a professionally certified sports instructor who enjoys taking groups on rock climbing and backcountry skiing trips to different parts of the world. “My father spent 40 years sailing around the world, and he taught me to be disciplined and passionate about my work.”

As it turns out, it was no coincidence that Cadiach was born the same year as the first Everest ascent. The events in his life would prove it. In 1985, Cadiach became the first westerner to climb Everest’s legendary Second Step without bottled oxygen. In 1993, he became the first Spanish person to climb the mountain twice, from different sides.  Everest was his second eight-thousander (the first was Nanga Parbat in 1983). Many others followed: Shisha Pangma (1993), Cho Oyu (1996), Makalu (1998), Gasherbrum II (1999), Lhotse (2001), Manaslu (2011), Annapurna (2012), Dhaulagiri (2012), K2 (2012), Kangchenjunga (2013), Gasherbrum I (2013) and Broad Peak (2017).

Climbing these 14 eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen made Cadiach the second Catalan (the first without oxygen) and the fifth Spanish alpinist to do so, after Juanito Oiarzabal (1999), Alberto Iñurrategi (2002), Edurne Pasaban (2010) and Ferran Latorre (2017). His first thought after completing this feat was “I’m happy to still be alive. The loss of friends and fellow climbers always stays with you, and you think that it could happen to you at any time.”

With his Broad Peak ascent, Cadiach completed the circuit, but he still has one project pending: climbing Gyachung Kang, on the border between Tibet and Nepal, the world’s tallest seven-thousander. “The mountain is not well known. It is just 48 meters shy of 8,000 and has rarely been summited.” The last time was over 50 years ago. Will Cadiach make it to the top? If his mind is set on it, he most likely will. We’ll be watching.


A Brief Taste

The best moment to enjoy a glass of wine?

A glass of red, with some good cheese.

A song to accompany a glass of wine?

I’m partial to Spanish classical music like Falla, Granados, Albeniz, Yepes, but I also like New Age music.

A flaw and a virtue?

Virtue: perseverance and tenacity. Flaw: excessive humility and shyness.

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