Gelye Confirms: Cho Oyu From Nepal is a Go

After weeks of uncertainty, Gelje Sherpa has confirmed that Nepal’s Cho Oyu expedition is going ahead. “We are starting on January 20, even if we are miles away from our targeted amount in fundraising,” he said.

Gelje will have a team of 14. “Nine will climb the route and the rest are Base Camp and kitchen staff,” he told ExplorersWeb.

He added that he is determined to go ahead despite the doubts of some that he could raise enough money or find a suitable new route. “This will be also a challenge against doubters.”

A strong team

His team includes a group of strong Nepali climbers, not all of them Sherpas.

“Tenging Gyaljen Sherpa, who was with me during the attempt on winter Everest in 2018-19 [led by Alex Txikon] is coming,” he said. “There are also members of the recent winter K2 expedition, although none [except for Gelje] from the summit team.”

Among them are Lakpa Dendi, who climbed with Atanas Skatov, who died in a fall while descending from Camp 3, and Gesman Tamang, the Seven Summit Treks Sherpa who was one of the few to use no supplementary oxygen while leading climbers to the summit of Annapurna. He then starred in a long-line helicopter rescue of three stranded climbers.

Interestingly, Gesman Tamang has already summited Cho Oyu. Like Gelje, he was part of the team supporting Nirmal Purja on his “Project Possible” speed climb of the 14×8,000’ers. Tamang prepared everything on Cho Oyu from the Chinese side while Purja was on Manaslu so that the two could then launch a fast push right before the mountain closed to foreigners. Gelje was not there on that occasion.

Gesman Tamang and Nirmal Purja at the northern Cho Oyu Base Camp in 2019. Photo: Project Possible


Other members of Gelje’s team include Pasang Tendi Sherpa, Tashi Sherpa, Chandra Tamang, Phuri Kitar Sherpa, Ashot Wenjha Rai, and Karma Sherpa.

IFMGA guide Vinayak Maya, who attempted winter Manaslu last year, has also shown interest but is not yet confirmed, Gelje said.

Two goals

“Our aim is to find the safest route to the summit of Cho Oyu from Nepal,” Gelje said. The long-term idea is to turn that line into a future commercial route. This will let outfitters launch expeditions up Cho Oyu without the bureaucratic problems and frequent closures on the Tibet side.

At the same time, Cho Oyu is one of the last hurdles in the way of Gelje’s quest to become the youngest 14 8000’er summiter ever. His deadline is November 2022. He has just Broad Peak (which he plans to climb in summer) and Cho Oyu to go.

With Tibet still closed to foreigners, a route from Nepal is his only chance to succeed. The summit would be also crucial for Lakpa Dendi as well. He is well on the way to completing his own “14” quest.

Although the expedition is starting late, the Sherpas already have their strength and natural acclimatization to altitude on their side. Now it’s all about the weather and the challenges of that new, more technical route up Cho Oyu.