Mingma Dorchi Sherpa on the Route Up Cho Oyu

It’s clear that the Nepali adventure on the south side of Cho Oyu hasn’t ended. First, Seven Summit Treks announced that they would support Gelje Sherpa on a new attempt this November. Then Mingma G of Imagine Nepal claimed that he will try to complete the route started by Pioneer Adventure up the SSW Ridge, on a commercial expedition with 10 Sherpa guides and clients.

We asked Pioneer Adventure leader Mingma Dorchi Sherpa for some details about the route and its potential later this year.


Route description

The Nepali team pitched three higher camps but eventually turned around some 550m below the summit.

From BC to [what we called] Crampon Point, it was mostly glacier. From Crampon Point, the first 800m are on flattish ice with crevasses, similar to Everest between Camp I and Camp II. Then we started fixing ropes up a broken icefall. Again, the route was very similar to the Khumbu Icefall. Once on top, we set up our Camp II. From Camp II to almost Camp III, the route is flat snow terrain, similar to Manaslu. From 7,000m until the summit, the route seems to follow rocky ridges.

Upper sections of Pioneer Adventure’s route on Cho Oyu’s south side. Photo: Pioneer Adventure

Harder than Manaslu, easier than K2

Before their attempt this winter, the team only had a few photos and reports from climbers who had been in the area. None of the Sherpas had ever tried to climb Cho Oyu from Nepal. They were uncertain how hard it would be. In the end, the route surpassed their expectations, according to Mingma Dorchi.

“It wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined,” he said. “The route was of medium difficulty: not as simple as Manaslu, not as challenging as K2.”

One of Pioneer Adventure’s high-altitude camps on the south side of Cho Oyu. Photo: Ngaa Tenji Sherpa


Mingma Dorchi also noted that even in winter, the Sherpa team didn’t need supplementary oxygen, even at the highest point. “We did have oxygen bottles with us, but our team didn’t find it necessary to use them,” he explained.

The Pioneer Adventure team at Cho Oyu’s south side Base Camp. Photo: Mingma Dorchi Sherpa

‘We relied on each other’

The expedition leader was also happy with the Nepalis’ performance.

“Our team did their best considering the harsh weather,” he said. “We didn’t have any clients to look after, but we were looking out for each other…One [team member] fulfilled what the other lacked, and we relied on each other.”

He confirmed that they are planning to go back in autumn to finish the route. “Now we know the route and the challenges we might face better, so we will be more prepared,” Mingma Dorchi said.

Cupped by the Himalaya, Pioneer Adventure’s Base Camp lies in a scenic bowl on the south side of Cho Oyu. Photo: Pioneer Adventure


Mingma G also plans to climb that line on Cho Oyu later this year with clients. Asked whether Pioneer Adventure has a similar plan or any interest in joining forces, Mingma Dorchi was noncommittal. “If any of our clients are interested, we can take them with us,” he said.

The Cho Oyu route shown on Google Maps, courtesy of Pioneer Adventure.