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Cho oyu

Cho Oyu — In the Land of the Heights, the Goddess of Turquoise Dwells (2)


In the immor­tal words of George Mal­lo­ry, Because it’s there.” That would be the clas­si­cal answer, part philo­soph­i­cal part flippant.
Odd­ly, I don’t actu­al­ly get asked that ques­tion very often. Is that because every­one gets it and don’t need to, or they don’t think they will and are afraid to? I tend to think it’s more the for­mer, but for those who fall into the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry, here goes:
Because of the moments when one paus­es, pos­si­bly more than a lit­tle exhaust­ed from phys­i­cal exer­tion and men­tal focus, looks around, and is ren­dered speech­less and moved to tears by the mag­nif­i­cence around you. When you realise that the piece of the world that you are see­ing is hard earned and com­par­a­tive­ly few are for­tu­nate enough to see it for them­selves. When you realise just how small and frag­ile you real­ly are.
For most peo­ple, moun­tains are beau­ti­ful and awe-inspir­ing, even if they nev­er real­ly get to see or expe­ri­ence them in an up close and per­son­al way; they are more abstract and less real, liv­ing, breath­ing, grow­ing, evolv­ing pieces of the world around us. It’s not hard to trawl through pic­tures and videos of past trav­els and find shots and clips that blow peo­ple away. It’s easy to appre­ci­ate a wild pic­ture from the moun­tains, it’s even more awe­some to have tak­en the pic­ture, and recall the incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence and lev­el of effort and tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ty that it took to be there, in that place and at that time, and all the great peo­ple whom you met and whom you jour­neyed with along the way. Beyond the sheer phys­i­cal beau­ty, it’s hard to con­vey the deeply per­son­al con­text that lies behind the dig­i­tal moments.
I was nev­er the sporty one in the fam­i­ly; as kids, that was def­i­nite­ly more my old­er sib­lings. I nev­er par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed PhysEd in high school; look­ing back, the focus was far too much on team sports, which to this day I do not par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoy, and a gen­er­al assump­tion that every­one was already pret­ty fit. Of course, climb­ing is still a team sport, but the focus is much dif­fer­ent, and you can’t beat the con­text. I hat­ed going for runs, large­ly because they pushed the group too hard, too fast, which isn’t great when one does­n’t already have some sort of use­ful base. Phys­i­cal achieve­ments were just things that oth­er peo­ple did, and it nev­er real­ly occurred to me to think that was some­thing I, too, could do. Then one day, lit­er­al­ly, I dis­cov­ered that I could. Along with that, I dis­cov­ered the sat­is­fac­tion that come from set­ting a chal­leng­ing goal, work­ing hard to try and get there, and the rush of achieve­ment (or the intro­spec­tion and learn­ing from failure).
But why Cho Oyu?
For many, Cho Oyu’s biggest draw is as a train­ing climb for Ever­est. It’s not a des­ti­na­tion unto itself, it is a step along the way. Unlike most of the peo­ple I am like­ly to encounter there, I am not on a road to Ever­est. Prob­a­bly the most com­mon ques­tion I get is if I will go there some day; I’ll nev­er say nev­er, but I do not have the same draw to stand at the world’s high­est point in the way that many oth­ers do. But I do not begrudge those for whom this is a life goal, and to do so is an incred­i­ble achievement.
First and fore­most, I want to know how the world looks and feels at 8000m, and not through the abstract look­ing glass of an air­craft win­dow. It’s an itch I’ve want­ed to scratch since I start­ed my jour­ney into the moun­tains. There are only a few places in the world to go on such a jour­ney. Of all of them, Cho Oyu is one of the safest and eas­i­est”. As much as that, I am thrilled and excit­ed to expe­ri­ence a piece of Chi­na I have not yet seen, the mys­ti­cal and cul­tur­al­ly vibrant Tibet.
I don’t know what I will find there, but the only way to know is to go and try, and expe­ri­ence the jour­ney and the moments along the way.
Two long weeks to go!
Alex B.
A pre­cious and awe-inspir­ing moment in the moun­tains. Paus­ing to rest and reflect on the beau­ty of the Earth and the strength of the human spir­it. Look­ing north along the spine of South Amer­i­ca from The Cave” at ~6700m on Cer­ro Aconcagua’s nor­mal route, Feb­ru­ary 9, 2013. The ris­ing bulk of the Andes vis­i­bly divides the con­ti­nent, falling off to Chile on the left and Argenti­na on the right.

The ascent across the open slope of the Gran Accareo up to this point was the hard­est part of sum­mit day for me. There were many points where I was­n’t sure if I would make it. Look­ing back, I was woe­ful­ly under-trained and still find it hard to believe that I found the strength to keep going when so many oth­ers turned back. Once I reached this point, stopped and took in the moment, I knew I would make it to the sum­mit. I stopped the stress­ful doubt­ing and began to enjoy every step. It allowed me to enjoy the gul­ley of La Canale­ta above and ride the eupho­ria all the way to the sum­mit at 6961 metres above sea lev­el and the high­est point of the Americas.