Cho Oyu Hopes End: What Will The Record Seekers Do?

Too much snow, too cold, and too many obstacles along the route. Like Pioneer Adventure last week, Seven Summit Treks has now given up this year’s attempt to summit Cho Oyu from the Nepal side.

This is a major setback for those pursuing 14×8,000m speed records, especially Kristin Harila. China has shown no signs of willingness to open the Tibetan border to foreign climbers until next spring.

Back in Kathmandu, Harila is trying hard to keep a glimmer of hope alive. But in a conversation with ExplorersWeb, she seems ready to accept that she will not be able to summit all 14 of the highest peaks in the world within six months.

“We are running out of time,” she said. “If there’s no good news from China, I will leave for home in a couple of days.”

Even if she receives a permit from China today, it would be virtually impossible for her to summit both Cho Oyu and Shishapangma by her November 3 deadline.

Finish in 2023?

Throughout 2022, Harila has been trying to beat Nirmal Purja’s 2019 record. Pasdawa Sherpa and Dawa Ongchu have supported her throughout, and she has followed a prepared route, like Purja, who also relied on a strong Sherpa team and fixed ropes. However, she has not failed on a single peak. If she stops now, it will be due to bureaucracy rather than any lack of tenacity.

Harila, very thin, in a tent with a tank top and a scarf around her neck in a tent.

Kristin Harila shows the effects of non-stop high-altitude climbing. Photo: Kristin Harila


If, as seems inevitable, she will not get into China this year, Harila will try again next spring. She would still have a strong argument to claim the record anyway. According to Eberhard Jurgalski of 8,, Nirmal Purja did not reach the true summits of either Dhaulagiri or Manaslu in 2019. He went back and did those properly in 2021. So his actual record stands at 2 years 5 months and 15 days.

Harila might use that argument to claim the record if she summits the two Tibetan 8,000’ers next year. For now, she has declined to comment on the matter of true summits.

Gelje Sherpa, Adriana Brownlee, Grace Tseng

Gelje Sherpa needed to climb Cho Oyu in order to snatch the record for the youngest 14×8,000’er summiter from fellow Nepali Mingma David Sherpa. Mingma David finished when he was 30 years and five months old. Cho Oyu was Gelje’s last 8,000m peak.

Even if he does succeed, he likely won’t remain the youngest for long. Gelje climbs with Adriana Brownlee. At 21, she is poised to complete the round of 14 at a much younger age than both Sherpas. She does not even have to hurry. She has previously mentioned that she plans to finish by age 23.

Gelje Sherpa prays at a bhouddist temple some weeks ago.

Gelje Sherpa. Photo: Instagram


Grace Tseng of Taiwan is also after 8,000m acclaim, once she clears up details about her latest Manaslu ascent. Tseng said on social media that her InReach tracker had broken. Instead, she showed EXIF times on her cellphone corresponding to the videos she shot as she left BC and on the summit. Yet those are not as definitive as GPS tracking, because EXIF information can be edited.

While China does not seem prepared to accommodate Kristin Harila or Gelje Sherpa with a special climbing permit this fall, the country may finally open its borders in a limited fashion next spring. Imagine Nepal is booking now for a Shishapangma expedition in spring 2023. And Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions suggests that he might return to the north side of Everest around the same time.

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.