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Cho oyu Lhotse wall

Cho Oyu — In the Land of the Heights, the Goddess of Turquoise Dwells (1)

It has been two and a half years since I last walked among the majes­tic giants of the Himalayas, and drank tea and ate dal bhat with the friend­ly, hardy, and incred­i­ble strong peo­ple for whom this is home.

Then, after end­less days of incred­i­ble scenery and intense effort on some tru­ly awe­some (in all sens­es of the word) ter­rain, I stood atop the incom­pa­ra­bly beau­ti­ful and inspir­ing Ama Dablam with Lam Babu Sher­pa, the two of us alone on the wind­less sum­mit for near­ly an hour. Around us the range spread out as far as the eye could see, made even more real and *big* see­ing the giant monastery at Teng­boche and the trekker-worn trails of the Khum­bu Val­ley as tiny, bare­ly dis­cernible fea­tures far below us.

From there I stared at the impos­si­ble-look­ing Lhotse wall, ris­ing steeply up three thou­sand metres above the val­leys below, and the jet stream-blast­ed sum­mit of Mount Ever­est peek­ing out from behind. Stand­ing in front of this wall, and 600m below me, Imja Tse (Island Peak) looked like a mere bump in the land­scape, a giant any­where else in the world. At near­ly sev­en thou­sand metres alti­tude, I felt like I was on top of a lit­tle more than a foothill, sur­round­ed by eight-thou­sanders: Ever­est, Lhotse, Makalu, even Kangchen­jun­ga clear­ly vis­i­ble over 100km away.

And there I set eyes upon the mas­sive peak for which, unbe­knownst to me at the time, I would return to the range to set foot upon.

Trans­lat­ed (rough­ly, and with some debate) as the God­dess of Turquiose, Cho Oyu lies just 30km north­west of Ever­est on the bor­der of Chi­na and Nepal. It is con­sid­ered one of the eas­i­est” of the eight-thou­sanders by its nor­mal route, and is also one of the safest. But at 8,200m (near­ly 27,000 feet) alti­tude, it is the sixth-high­est moun­tain the world, and in this realm noth­ing comes easily.

Cho Oyu can be climbed from either Nepal or Chi­na. The most com­mon­ly ascend­ed route, and where I will be head­ed in late August, is the North­west Ridge-North­west Face route, climbed from Chi­na (Tibet). Although it is still four months away, I am deep into train­ing; the time will go by quickly!

Attached image: The giant and fear­some south­east face of Cho Oyu seen from the sum­mit of Ama Dablam on Novem­ber 7, 2015 10:29 NPT. The nor­mal climb­ing route is not vis­i­ble, on the oppo­site side of the moun­tain. This side is rarely climbed (for vis­i­bly obvi­ous reasons).

-Alex B.