Harila, Others Should Summit Cho Oyu This Week

Fourteen Sherpas from Pioneer Adventure and Seven Summit Treks are fixing the route together on Cho Oyu’s difficult South Face. Today, they advanced toward Camp 4. Meanwhile, their international clients prepare to leave Base Camp tomorrow in order to summit on October 23.

The skies have finally cleared, but winds remain very high: 90kph, according to Adriana Brownlee’s home team.

Brownlee, Gelje Sherpa, and Kristin Harila (for whom every day counts), have an ambitious climbing schedule: They will set off from Base Camp toward Camp 1 on Friday, October 21. They then hurry all the way to Camp 3 that day, advance to Camp 4 on October 22,  and push to the summit on Sunday, October 23.

Rope fixing on Cho Oyu stopped last week after a nighttime avalanche between Camp 2 and Camp 1 swept away the ropes. They had to be reinstalled first.

At last word, the rope-fixing team reached at least 7,300m, above Camp 3, today. Pioneer Adventure leader Mingma Dorchi Sherpa told his office in Kathmandu that the lead team expects to summit between October 22 and 24.

The first clients will likely top out right after the rope-fixers. That has been Harila’s method on several climbs, including K2 this summer. On Manaslu, the ropes had been in place a week earlier, but she was the first foreign climber to summit. Her Sherpas had to unbury the ropes for most of the way during summit morning.

The Manaslu argument

Harila is in such a hurry because she is trying to become the fastest 14×8,000m summiter ever. She needs to finish Cho Oyu, then somehow enter Tibet to climb Shishapangma before November 3 in order to break Nirmal Purja’s 2019 record.

Close shot of harila, with rainproof jacket and threadlocks

Kristin Harila in Lukla last week. Photo: Sandro Gromen-Hayes

 

So far, there is no news about Shishapangma opening to foreigners this season. China has been closed to international climbers since COVID. But things seem about to change: Mingma G’s Imagine Nepal has announced an expedition to Shishapangma next spring, with only 10 places available. And here is where Manaslu could enter the game.

During this 14×8,000m race, Harila reached Manaslu’s true summit, while Purja only reached the foresummit during his Project Possible year. He only did the complete Manaslu climb two years later.

If Harila had to wait until next spring to enter Tibet, one could argue that no one really reached all 14 summits within the same year. Others would say that Purja’s record is valid since until last year, it was common for almost everyone — and all commercial groups — to stop at the foresummit on Manaslu.

Harila in red downsuit on a snow cornice and the sea of clouds below in background.

Kristin Harila approaches the summit of Manaslu.

 

No doubt there will be passionate arguments on both sides. However, there will be no debate if Harila and her team do manage to obtain a special permit this fall for Shishapangma, as Purja himself did.

Other Cho Oyu climbers

Other climbers on Cho Oyu may push later for the summit. Csaba Varga of Hungary, for instance, says that he returned to Base Camp yesterday after an acclimatization round in which he reached 6,900m, shortly below Camp 3. He will now rest for a few days. A new climber, Khai Van Nguyen of the U.S., should reach Base Camp tomorrow. Grace Tseng of Taiwan is also in Base Camp but has said nothing about her plans.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specializing in high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.