Time’s Up on Cho Oyu: The Russians Call Off Their SSW Ridge Attempt

Everything went well, just not fast enough. The Russian team has called off their expedition to the south side of Cho Oyu. They have simply run out of time, and the weather is not due to improve anytime soon.

The climbers have tickets to fly back to Moscow on Nov. 5. “They did consider changing their tickets to a later date, but the weather showed no signs of improving,” Irina Morozova of the Russian Alpine Federation told ExplorersWeb. “On the contrary, winds are expected to increase even more.”

As soon as possible, they will climb up to retrieve their equipment and ropes from the route.

Slow progress on difficult terrain


Andrey Vasiliev, Vitaly Shipilov, and Sergey Kondrashkin reached 7,350m on their latest foray up the SSW ridge on Oct. 25. They gained only 250 meters of altitude from their previous push, but the progress was significant given the difficulties. They faced a technical ridge with several gendarmes leading to the summit headwall at 7,700m.

a climber and his tiny footprints on a huge, sharp snow ridge.

Looking back at the ridge from about 7,000m on Cho Oyu. Photo: Andrey Vasiliev/RAF

That same day, they retreated to 7,200m, where they dug a snow cave for the night. It proved to be a great idea. On the following morning, high winds prevented them from moving. They spent the entire day in the cave waiting for better conditions, which didn’t come.

On Oct. 27, summit winds were about 100kph, so the climbers retreated to their camp at 6,600m. The following day, they returned to Gokyo village to ponder difficult decisions. (Videos: Alexander Pyatnitsin/RAF)

High point so far on the SSW Ridge

Vasiliev’s team has done a great job finding and fixing the route up the SSW Ridge. Previous parties made it even higher before having to retreat as well. The Nepalese team in winter 2021-22 reportedly reached 7,600m, but they weren’t on a new route.

A 1990 expedition, also from Russia, managed to get just 100 meters from the summit. That nine-person team set up four camps, and two members, Sergey Arsentiev and Valery Karpenko, continued up to 7,800m. Here, they spent the night inside a tent, without sleeping bags. The next morning, they tried to continue but high winds eventually forced them back. Expedition documents report that the climbers reached 8,050-8,100m, Irina Morozova told ExplorersWeb.

Some pictures to compare

The difficult and extremely long SSW Ridge of Cho Oyu is doable in the proper conditions, according to those who attempted it. It lingers as a tantalizing challenge to future teams. Below, some pictures shot by different expeditions.

The tiny figure of a climber up a nearly vertical section of the heavily loaded with snow at this time of the year.

One of the latest pictures shot by Andrey Vasiliev on the SSW Ridge of Cho Oyu. Photo: RAF


A Nepalese climber at sunset, on a ridge, drier than this fall.

The highest section at 7,600m reached by the Nepalese in 2021. Frame from a video by Pioneer Adventure.


A photo of a rock and ice ridge, marked by a red line.

The continuation of the route planned by the Nepalese from near their high point. Photo: Pioneer Adventure


A wind swept plateau and a rock and ice piramid in background, also with a huge wind plume rising from the summit area.

Photo by Csaba Varga from fall 2022, showing the high plateau and the summit section behind it.

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.