It has been more than a century since anyone had achieved such a feat, and it is the first time in history that two Latinos, Mexicans to be precise, have done it, one of them being completely blind. They have conquered the summit of Mount Denali, the coldest mountain on the planet and the highest peak in North America. They tell us about their feat in Sol de Medianoche.
Still tired, but ecstatic because of their achievement, Mexican climbers Rafa Jaime Jaramillo and Omar Alvarez receive us by videoconference in their comfortable hotel in Anchorage on July 4. They have just a few hours left to catch a plane back to their country, Mexico, where they will undoubtedly be welcomed as national heroes.
And no wonder! Rafa and Omar have just achieved what no other Latin American climber had ever achieved before: defying the cold of thirty degrees below zero, winds of up to ninety kilometers per hour; climbing ropes that freeze; snow avalanches, containing large and heavy rocks... And all, to reach the summit of Denali, one of the mountains integrated in the Seven Summits of America Challenge. “It was like touching the sky. From the top, one of the roofs of the world, you experience a great peace, tranquility, you feel closer to the Creator, and you know the depths of your being,” they tell us.
Omar Álvarez and Rafa Jaime Jaramillo form a climbing tandem, which is the only rope-climbing team of which one of them is blind.
Rafa Jaime Jaramillo and Omar Alvarez, have conquered the 6,190 meters of Mount Denali, known until 2015 as Mount McKinley. Denali is its indigenous name, which it should never have lost, and which was rightfully restored by President Obama in August 2015. Denali means “The Great One” in Athabascan. Omar and Rafa tell us their story of self-improvement and effort, without surrendering to adversity, with resilience. They are an example to be followed by all the universal youth, not only Mexican, and not only by young people.
Rafa was always an athlete, but at the age of 18 an accident caused him to lose his sight completely. “Despite the blow that this means for such an active young man of only 18 years, from the first moment I knew I had to continue. Otherwise, I would be like the ‘walking dead,’ defeated and imprisoned by blindness,” says Rafa. “And my parents encouraged me to do what I found most satisfying because, as my father told me, life is for living. And I decided to live it. And I live it! Today I can almost say that thanks to blindness I have gotten where I am, I give talks on self-improvement and personal motivation, and I like to think that I serve as a guide to motivate many others.”
Omar Álvarez began climbing to fulfill his father’s last wish to have his ashes scattered on the highest peak in Mexico: Citlaltépetl, or Pico de Orizaba, a dormant volcano on the border between Veracruz and Puebla. From then on, the mountain called to him. “I felt the need to experience those sensations unique to climbing the heights, and on one of those occasions I crossed paths with Rafa,” says Omar. And since then, they haven’t separated.
The conquest of Denali is the second feat of the “American Seven Summits Challenge,” which consists of climbing the seven highest mountains on each of the world’s five continents.Omar and Rafa had already conquered the 6,961-meter Aconcagua in Argentina in January 2020. The next summit on their list is the 5,891-meter Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa, which the couple plans to tackle later this year. Followed by the world’s highest mountain, the 8,849-meter Mount Everest.
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