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Cho Oyu Peak

Cho Oyu — In the Land of the Heights, the Goddess of Turquoise Dwells (3)

With just days to go, the inevitable last-minute fran­tic run­ning around has begun. No mat­ter how many times I do this, there’s always a ton of lit­tle things to do at the last minute, and there’s always a cou­ple of incon­se­quen­tial gear deci­sions that seems to cause more stress than nec­es­sary (it’s a bit of a nec­es­sary rit­u­al, it seems). ;)

So here’s a rough out­line of the plan:

The team will meet up in Nepal, in Kath­man­du. This will be my third time there. I will fly out from home on August 25, going the long” way, tran­sit­ing via Hong Kong and a near­ly 16 hour non-stop flight that I’m look­ing for­ward to; time to catch up on sleep!

Our team con­sists of a grand total of four peo­ple: two guides, two clients. Hap­pi­ly, I already know both of the guides, whom I have climbed with on pre­vi­ous expeditions.

Oswal­do Ossy” Freire is from Ecuador; I first met him and his fam­i­ly in 2013 on a moun­taineer­ing school” trip. He was­n’t my guide for that trip, but we stayed sev­er­al nights at his Hacien­da Rumilo­ma”, an incred­i­ble and lux­u­ri­ous hotel at 3,500m alti­tude high up above Quito on the slopes of the vol­cano Pich­in­cha. It’s hard to imag­ine a bet­ter place to accli­ma­tize or rest in between adven­tures; the accom­mo­da­tions are gor­geous and incred­i­bly com­fort­able, the food is stel­lar, and the grounds are awe­some, includ­ing a bird refuge with dozens of dif­fer­ent species. I got a chance to climb with him on my sec­ond trip to Ecuador in 2016. Incred­i­bly strong and skilled, def­i­nite­ly a peo­ple per­son and always with a smile on his face, he has seen the sum­mit of sev­er­al eight-thou­sanders him­self, includ­ing Ever­est with­out oxygen.

Lam Babu Sher­pa is from the Solukhum­bu region of Nepal. I met him in the post-mon­soon climb­ing sea­son in 2015 when I spent a month with him in a climb of the beau­ti­ful Ama Dablam. He def­i­nite­ly falls into the super­star” cat­e­go­ry, with numer­ous eight-thou­sander sum­mits and many oth­er low­er peaks, hav­ing worked his way up through the ranks from porter all the way to expe­di­tion Sir­dar. Incred­i­bly strong and a often-quirky sense of humour, I’m not sure he actu­al­ly broke a sweat dur­ing our climb (while I was pant­i­ng my way up at a snail’s pace). Not con­tent to sim­ply guide in the moun­tains, he has been involved with the Nepal Moun­taineer­ing Instruc­tors Asso­ci­a­tion, teach­ing impor­tant skills to aspir­ing Nepali moun­tain guides. I remain con­vinced that he knows lit­er­al­ly every­one in the Khum­bu Valley.

We will spend a cou­ple of days in Kath­man­du, sort­ing out var­i­ous logis­ti­cal details such as our Chi­nese visas, before tak­ing a flight up and over the high­est moun­tains in the world to the gate­way to Tibet in Chi­na, Lhasa at 3500m alti­tude. This will be my fourth time to Chi­na, but the first time I have been for­tu­nate to vis­it this incred­i­ble part of the world. We will spend a cou­ple of days in Lhasa sort­ing out logis­tics and see­ing the sights. Once we arrive in Lhasa, our acclimi­ti­za­tion begins.

From Lhasa, we dri­ve west for sev­er­al days, pass­ing through small vil­lages and vis­it­ing local sights along the way, to arrive at Cho Oyu’s Chi­nese Base Camp” at around 5000m alti­tude. The name is a bit of a mis­nomer, since we only spend a cou­ple of nights here to accli­ma­tize and take a day hike up higher.

From here, it is a two day trek in to Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 5700m alti­tude where we will spend most of our time. ABC is only slight­ly low­er in alti­tude than the sum­mit of Kil­i­man­jaro and we will spend four weeks here and high­er up on Cho Oyu’s slopes.

The route we will be climb­ing is the nor­mal route”, the route of first ascent, aka the West Ridge-West Face route. We will set up three camps on the moun­tain: Camp 1 at ~6400m, Camp 2 at ~7000m, and Camp 3 at ~7450m. We will fol­low a clas­sic expe­di­tionary climb­ing approach where we make sev­er­al rota­tions” up the moun­tain to high­er camps to accli­ma­tize and stash gear each time, before return­ing to ABC to rest and recov­er. Once the rota­tions are done, we wait for a good weath­er and con­di­tions win­dow. On the sum­mit push itself, we will spend a night at each of the three camps on the way up, and like­ly a night at one of the high­er camps on the way back down, though the goal is to get as low as pos­si­ble safe­ly, for a total of four nights and five days. The main sec­tions of some tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ty are an ice cliff/​serac wall between Camp 1 and Camp 2, and a mixed rock band known as the Yel­low Band” above Camp 3.

With a lot of luck and sweat, we will stand on the sum­mit of the world’s sixth high­est peak at almost 8200m some­time in late Sep­tem­ber, and gaze upon the immen­si­ty of Ever­est’s West Ridge and stare deep into the West­ern Cwm at the famous Lhotse Face, with the splen­dor of the Himalaya spread out around us.

The plan is to return to Kath­man­du over­land on or about Octo­ber 4. From there, I will fly to Seoul, South Korea, for a cou­ple of days of R&R, and then to Vic­to­ria, BC, for some more R&R with some good friends. I will then return home on Octo­ber 9, after near­ly sev­en weeks away. Phew!

Fol­low the jour­ney on social media:

Insta­gram: @spacealpinist (https://​www​.insta​gram​.com/​s​p​a​c​e​a​l​p​i​nist/)

Twit­ter: @spacealpinist (https://​twit​ter​.com/​s​p​a​c​e​a​l​p​i​nist/)

Stra­va: (https://​www​.stra​va​.com/​a​t​h​l​e​t​e​s​/​s​p​a​c​e​a​l​p​inist)


Alex B.