Cho Oyu Team Retreats to Kathmandu; ‘May’ Return in Three Weeks

The last we heard from the Cho Oyu climbers, they were dancing in Kathmandu last weekend with Alex Txikon’s group and Seven Summit Trek’s staff. Adriana Brownlee’s 22nd birthday celebration also took place in town. Such uncertainty suggested that their attempt to open a new route on the south side of the 8,188m peak had fizzled out. Not quite, but they’re on hold until at least the end of the month.

Back to town or back home

“Winds are barely coming below 100kph every single day for the next week, so we are taking some days here in Kathmandu to see if there will be another window [at the end] of January or February,” Brownlee explained on Monday.

A chocolate and fruits cake.

Adriana Brownlee’s birthday cake. Photo: Instagram


Kristin Harila will not stay in Nepal’s capital. She is returning home to Norway.

“I haven’t decided yet if I will come back and try the next weather window, but right now I need to go back home and prepare everything that is going to happen in 2023, especially my visa and permit for climbing Cho Oyu and Shisapangma from Tibet,” she said. “Cho Oyu doesn’t seem to be my mountain…Of course, I am very disappointed.”

Close shot of harila inside a yellow tent.

Kristin Harila last year. Photo: Kristin Harila

Respite from altitude

Retreating to Kathmandu or even a village to recover in thicker air is not new. Clients on commercial expeditions, especially on Everest, often indulge in the comforts of hotels and restaurants during stormy spells or before a summit push. Some leaders say this helps their clients. The typical short break of one to three days does not affect acclimatization.

Simone Moro and Alex Txikon had short stays in Pohkara and Kathmandu during their previous winter climbs (Manaslu and Everest) over the last four years.

Yet the Cho Oyu team’s retreat is more than a break, it’s a whole holiday. The effects of such a long stay on the climbers remain to be seen. It is also unclear how motivated they will be to return to Cho Oyu in the dead of winter. Although the days start getting longer in February, it is still a harshly cold month on the mountain.

A tiny figure among big, vertical seracs, blue sky on top.

Adriana Brownlee among the huge seracs on the glacier at the base of Cho Oyu’s south face. Photo: Adriana Brownlee

A missed window

The time to climb was this past weekend, as Alex Txikon did on Manaslu. Winds lowered for a couple of days, permitting Txikon and his six Sherpas to summit quickly. The Cho Oyu team could have used the time to at least continue fixing the route.

“We missed a crucial window the last week for a few reasons, mainly because we didn’t have the equipment and also due to lack of funding,” Brownlee wrote.

Previously, the wind had blown away some of their down suits and sleeping bags from Camp 1. Although they have not found replacements, Brownlee says that a sponsor has given enough funding “to purchase two suits when they become available.”

In the end, only one team remains in place, ready to tackle a winter 8,000’er. David Goettler and Herve Barmasse are currently waiting out the wind at Dhaulagiri’s Base Camp.

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.