Cho Oyu: Russians Reach 7,000m on the South Face, Summit in Sight

The Russian team has reached 7,000m on their second foray up the south side of Cho Oyu. Back in Gokyo, they gave details about their progress.

The Russian team led by Andrey Vasiliev is attempting the SSW (or SW, as they describe it) ridge of the mountain without supplementary oxygen or sherpa support. The route has been previously attempted but never completed.

Following their usual approach, the five climbers have worked in shifts, divided into two groups. The duo of Sergey Kondrashkin and Vitaly Shipilov made it to the top of 6,528m Lungsampa last weekend. Lungsampa stands right along the route and has to be surmounted in order to get to a high plateau. From here, a second steep section leads to the summit headwall.

After going over Lungsampa, the climbers progressed further along the ridge to the first gendarme.

“The ridge turned out to be technically very difficult: sharp, steep in both directions, with cornices on the south side,” one of the climbers told their home team. “I had to cut down a meter [in the snow] and crawl as if along a fence.”

a climber on a sharp snow ridge.

The climbers cut a meter of snow from the precarious ridge to make it passable. Photo: Vitaly Shipilov/RMF


A final headwall remains

Meanwhile, the second group of Andrey Vasiliev, Victoria Klimenko, and Kirill Eizerman helped by carrying loads to 6,400m. On the following day, the lead group completed the ridge, passed two more gendarmes, and reached the plateau at 6,600m.

On Monday, the climbers crossed the plateau to the southern ridge of Cho Oyu, bordering Tibet and Nepal, and spent the night at 7050m-7100m. That section was technically easier and allowed the climbers to get a first glimpse of the final headwall that ends at the summit. Unfortunately, the weather turned worse that day.

On the following morning, the climbers endured a complete whiteout. They had to orient with their GPS in order to return to their tents at the opposite edge of the plateau. One day later, they descended and trekked back to Gokyo to rest and wait out the weather.

A climber rappels down a slightly overhanging rock section.

An overhanging section of the ridge. Photo: Vitaly Shilipov/RAF


Recent previous attempts

In the last two years, Cho Oyu’s SSW ridge was previously attempted twice by a Nepalese team led by Mingma Dorchi Sherpa. On their first attempt, in winter, they reached 7,700m. On their second attempt, with some clients, Csaba Varga of Hungary told Explorersweb that he reached as far as Camp 3 at 7,200m. Note that Varga’s estimate of 7,200m for the altitude of the plateau is somewhat at variance with the Russian estimate, which pegs it between 6,600m and 7,100m.

Last week, news of the death of Nadya Oleneva in a lethal fall on Dhaulagiri shattered the Cho Oyu team. There was talk of airlifting the Cho Oyu team to Dhaulagiri to try to recover her body, but ultimately it was too risky. A helicopter flew over the site of the accident, but her body is now buried under fresh snow. Team leaders Roman Abildaev and Rasim Kashapov are now in Kathmandu, dealing with the formalities around the fatality.

snowy ridge scene with climbing rope

Proceeding across the glacier, lower down on Cho Oyu. Photo: Vitaly Shipilov/RMF

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering 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.