Few things are more rewarding in this life than reaching the top of a mountain and, above all, enjoying the journey. The challenge is further complicated when factors such as cold, rock walls and ice come into play. The beauty of mountaineering is compatible with its hardness. The human being against nature in an unequal fight that has captivated thousands and thousands of people from all over the planet for decades. If to this already attractive cocktail is added the fight and awareness against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) as the main ingredient, the matter is worth it.
Juanra Calvo, a native of Haro and a driver in the emergency service of the local health center, is part of the ‘Give Dar EL Ama Dablam’ project, with the aim of raising funds and raising awareness in society about this disease. The challenge is important: climbing the Ama Dablam (6,812 meters, considered the most beautiful mountain in the world) with two ALS patients. The objective: to achieve repercussion and support in all levels of La Rioja and Spanish society. Sport, public institutions, non-governmental organizations, social fabric, companies …
No one better than the pitcher to explain the project: “Everything comes from ‘DarDar’, the union of Pablo Olmos and Unai Llantada, two mountain friends from Zalla.” On an expedition to Kilimanjaro, Olmos noticed a strange sensation when going down, he thought it was a fever, but in the end he was diagnosed with ALS: “This disease is unknown, it is treated like multiple sclerosis, but it is not the same”. Inevitably, this strange degenerative disease robs people of mobility, later limiting their vital functions and ultimately causing death. Reality is that tough, so hope is research.
Time trial fight
Both friends set out to summit Mount Vinson (4,892 meters), the highest in Antarctica: “Unai physically topped from the peak and Pablo joins the rope from his wheelchair at home and mentally tops the summit . Pablo narrates the adventure, ETB2 enters the project and significant amounts of money are raised ». As a result of all this, the documentary ‘Dar Dar EL Antártida’ is filmed and screened in cities such as Zalla, Bilbao, Burgos or Logroño. The last screening was to be held on March 27 in Haro, but the coronavirus stopped the programming.
Despite the progress of his illness, Olmos has the mountain in his blood. Despite not being able to physically go to the Himalayas, he launched the second challenge ‘Dar Dar EL Ama Dablam’. His initiative soon finds the answer of two ALS patients: Jaime Lafita in Getxo, member of ‘DalecandELA’ and Mikel Ángel, professor of Physical Education and founder of the Cordovan association ‘Put out the language to ALS’. With them, the project takes a new dimension: “It is not just a foray, but two sick people are already there.” And many more complete the rope from a distance.
After months of work and outreach, the project advances and adds more support: «First we will do a trekking to which about forty people will go, acclimatization to Everest base camp. From here, we will summit on Island Peak and in Ama Dablam we will summit four people: Unai Llantada, Raúl, Nova and Miski ». The rest of the team will record a documentary and will accompany Jaime Lafita and Mikel, who fight against the clock against the disease. Despite this, their condition as born athletes encourages them to progress and exploit their limits. Something wonderful.
Projects, initiatives and very special support
Last Sunday, a highly rated solidarity wine was presented at Bodegas Altún (Baños de Ebro): «José Félix Paniego, sommelier from Echaurren, has valued it as a high level». The event was also attended by Juan Carlos Unzué, ex-soccer player and ex-second coach of FC Barcelona, who related his experience with this pathology. Everyone ate at the ‘Old Winery’ in Casalarreina, where the Navarrese left everyone in awe. Also to Félix Caperos, mayor of the town, who admitted his impression: “I have no words to express what I feel right now.”
In the same place, Itziar, another ALS patient who will join from a distance, presented her informative story ‘The great adventure of Itzi’. As a riojan, Calvo thanks the support of his region and surroundings: «From the Government of La Rioja they confirmed Concha Andreu’s interest in the project; also the restaurant of Juan Mari Arzak; sportsmen from La Rioja such as the pelín players Titín III, Garrido V and Merino; cyclists Sheyla Gutiérrez and Carlos Coloma; the mountaineer Juanito Oyarzábal, the Toloño Sports Association, many social organizations… ».
What is the problem? Well, the COVID-19 leaves no room to do acts abroad. The intention is to make a screening of the documentary ‘Dar Dar El Antártida’ outdoors and make all La Riojans join this project. An event that has already garnered support from many sectors: gastronomic, sports, social, cultural and institutional. In the face of such a cruel enemy, the path is disclosure and investigation. And this project has all the ingredients to make its mark.