Cho Oyu: Two Teams, One Route

Pragmatism has triumphed over individual plans, and the two Nepali teams will now climb Cho Oyu by the same south side route. Weather delays and the need to give clients as many summit chances as possible forced this alliance.

“[The] Seven Summit Treks team is going to join us on our route,” Nivesh Karki of Pioneer Adventure told ExplorersWeb. “We will be just one team. Only the climbing permits are separate.”

“Yeah, that’s the idea [climbing together],” Kristin Harila confirmed.

This differs from previous conversations when Pioneer Adventure said that they did not know the other team’s climbing plans.

A plan takes shape

Neither Seven Summit Treks nor their sister company, 14 Peaks Expeditions, have detailed the overall climbing strategy. Team leader Gelje Sherpa says he will decide on the route after checking the conditions from Base Camp. This was also the original plan…but no one expected that many people, including Gelje, would be stranded in Lukla for an entire week because of the weather.

The weather-bound party finally managed to fly to Namche Bazaar today, Harila told ExplorersWeb. They hope to fly on to Base Camp tomorrow.

“So far, there’s just Gelje Sherpa, Adriana Brownlee, Sandro Gromen-Hayes, Tonya, and I,” Harila said. “Hopefully, the rest of the team will arrive here tomorrow.”

Adriana Brownlee is also preparing herself for a climb that she knows will be far from easy.

“I believe we are prepared in terms of Sherpa power and the mental desire to summit, but this is going to come with huge obstacles,” she told ExplorersWeb. “The route is quite good. The only challenging part will be the last section, which seems quite technical.

“We just have to wait and see what the mountain tells us. We learned a big lesson on Manaslu and we will use it here.”

Adriana and Kristin smile to the camera in a Lukla's lodge living room.

Adriana Brownlee and Kristin Harila in Lukla earlier this week. Photo: Kristin Harila

Rushing for the record

The weather remains problematic, and Brownlee admits that they are worried about the unstable conditions, especially since they have no time to waste. “I don’t have a time constraint but Kristin does, and we wanted to do this together,” Brownlee said.

Indeed, Kristin Harila needs to summit Cho Oyu as quickly as possible, then find a way to enter Tibet and climb Shishapangma before November 3, in order to break Nirmal Purja’s record for the fastest climb of all the 14 8,000’ers.

The ongoing route

Pioneer Adventure will follow the same line that they attempted last year, a long route up the south-southwest ridge. In winter 2022, they set up three camps and stopped 550 vertical metres below the summit. Leader Mingma Dorchi described the route to ExplorersWeb before they headed for the mountain this season.

Close shot of Mingma D with personalized downsuit, sunglasses, helmet and a heavy backpack including ice anchors and route-marking bamboo sticks

Mingma Dorchi Sherpa, director of Pioneer Adventure and Cho Oyu expedition leader. Photo: Instagram


This year, Mingma Dorchi, Sanu Sherpa, Lakpa G, and the rest of the Pioneer Adventure team progressed fast up to Camp 3. They had hoped to have set up Camp 4 by now, but bad weather and an avalanche two nights ago that swept away the fixed ropes between Camp 2 and Camp 1 have delayed them.

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.