Welcome to wild, wild Cho Oyu

Posted: Sep 06, 2006 02:18 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) As another season rolls around, climbers from all over the world are flocking to Cho Oyu - about 300 people are expected in BC this fall according to Jamie McGuinness. Many of them have chosen to attempt the peak now, hoping this will be their first 8000er. For some of these mountaineers, the climb will also serve as preparation for an Everest expedition next year.

A smaller Everest in the wild, wild East

Every fall, Cho Oyu transforms into a smaller version of Everests north side: A huge canvas town for BC, dozens of teams climbing only one route, massive use of O2 and Sherpa high altitude porters, commercial expeditions, a handful of 8000er collectors among a larger percentage of Himalayan newbiesand a feeling of the wild, wild West in the Eastern Himalayas.

Newcomers in Tibet who hoped to find a spiritual country are often disappointed by the inhospitable villages, rat-infested hotels, growing Chinese influence and chaotic BCs.

For Briton Polar explorer Tom Avery nothing could be further from spirituality. Avery is now facing a very different reality than the one he saw during his latest expedition when he dog-sledged to the barren North Pole following the tracks of Peary. Only few years ago, pictures of the Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people) would have been found in most homes, now you only see images of Mao Tse Tung and the current Chinese president, reported Tom last week from Nyalam, describing it as an unpleasant place. The sooner we leave, the better, he said.

Traffic jam at Turquoise Goddess

Avery is teaming up with British guide Kenton Cool and Australian Nick Farr. Together they hope to ski down from the summit of Cho Oyu. They will use supplementary O2 for the climb. The three men have already reached BC, but hairy situations are far from over. On Monday evening, the team witnessed an accident which could have ended tragically. However, it had nothing to do with an avalanche, a falling serac or a sudden storm but a truck out of control. Here is Toms report:

We were sitting down to a game of cards when the most appalling screaming erupted outside the mess tent. This was accompanied by a crashing noise, which just got louder and louder. We had no idea what was going on so, joining the general sense of panic, we dropped everything and dashed outside.

We were confronted by a scene of complete carnage. A truck which had recently arrived from Tingri had parked on a grassy meadow just above camp. The only problem was that the driver had forgotten to put the handbrake on.

Avalanching night truck

The gradient at base camp is only gentle but the 4-tonne truck managed to build up quite a head of steam by the time it reached the tents. Missing our little home by no more than 2 feet, the truck ploughed through 3 tents belonging to an Italian party before coming to an abrupt halt.

The tents were completely flattened. Two Italian women were asleep in the second tent (the one under the wheel in the image) and wouldn't have stood a chance had their quick-thinking team mates not raised the alarm and pulled them out at the moment the truck hit. The women were clearly shaken by their near miss but it was a miracle that nobody was hurt or even worse.

The mood in camp was very somber last night with everyone counting their lucky stars that it wasn't more serious. That mood then turned to anger when 2 Chinese traffic police vehicles rolled into camp at 1am to carry out their investigation of the incident. With their engines left running and headlights on full beam, the entire camp was kept awake for more than 2 hours. The upshot of the police investigation is that the unfortunate driver is currently on his way to Lhasa prison to spend 3 months behind bars.

Anyone for Free Tibet?

We're now safely installed at intermediate camp, 5 miles up the valley. Another 5 hours trekking tomorrow and we'll be at advance base camp, our home for the next 4 weeks. The good news is the nearest truck will be quite some way away.

Meanwhile, further teams keep on coming.

Commercial teams by Alpine Ascents, Adventure Consultants, IMG, Mountain Madness, Amical, Kari Kobler, etc are arriving on a near daily basis, along with a number of large teams and independent climbers. Up to now, only one single climber has reported his intention to attempt a different route than the normal: Colombian Camilo Lopez hopes to attempt a route opened back in 1996 by Spanish Oscar Cadiach and Austrian Sebastian Rucksteiner. Ironically, the lonely, demanding route is called "Free Tibet".

Cho Oyu, at 8188 m. is the sixth highest mountain in the world and was first climbed in October of 1954 by the Austrians Sepp Jöchler, Herbert Tichy, and Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama, without oxygen - an amazing feat in that time.

Cho Oyu means The Turquoise Goddess in the Tibetan language. Because of the relatively non-technical climb on the normal route, the mountain is used by many climbers to get their first experience with 8000+ peaks.

Cho Oyu in fall shows a similar BC ambience as Everest, with big guided teams mixing with smaller independent teams in a crowded BC. Among them, the use of high altitude Sherpas and supplementary O2 has also spread. Fixed ropes dont cover virtually all the mountain as on Everest, but they will secure the seracs between C1 and C2, and some sections near the summit plateau.

The difference here, compared to Everest, is the historic development of climbing styles. Everest (8848m) was first summited on O2: Hillary switched on the gas from a relatively low altitude. Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler would accomplish the first No O2 summit in 1978 and, since then, other climbers have followed, achieving the top in the same way.

On the contrary, Austrians Sepp Jöchler, Herbert Tichy and Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama used no bottled O2 when they reached the summit of Cho Oyu (8188m) for the first time, back in 1954. The use of O2 came later, generally associated with big teams. O2 use has been increasing on Cho Oyu and other higher 8000ers, such as Makalu and Lhotse.

British Tom Avery and his team hope to ski down from the summit of Cho Oyu. They will use supplementary O2 for the climb. Avery retraced the footsteps of Peary to the North Pole last year, as a member in a dog-sledging team led by Matty McNair - the expedition was awarded by ExplorersWeb among the best of 2005. Kenton Cool guided successful expeditions to the summit of Mount Everest in 2004, 2005, and 2006. Australian Nick Farr summited Everest in May 2005.


#Mountaineering #Polar







We were confronted by a scene of complete carnage. A truck which had recently arrived from Tingri had parked on a grassy meadow just above camp. The only problem was that the driver had forgotten to put the handbrake on... Two Italian women were asleep in the second tent (the one under the wheel in the image), reported Tom Avery.
Cho Oyu becomes some a smaller versison of Everests north side each autumn: A huge canvas town for BC, dozens of teams climbing only one route, massive use of O2 and Sherpa high altitude porters, commercial expeditions, a handful of 8000er collectors among a larger percentage of Himalayan newbies and a feeling of wild, wild West in the Eastern Himalayas.
In the image Tom Avery (left), Kenton Cool (center) and Nick Farr (right) during an acclimatization walk out of "unpleasant" Nyalam, during the approach to Cho Oyu (click to enlarge).
British Tom Avery and his team hope to ski down from the summit of Cho Oyu. They will use supplementary O2 for the climb. Avery retraced the footsteps of Peary to the North Pole last year, as a member in a dog-sledging team led by Matty McNair - the expedition was awarded by ExplorersWeb among the best of 2005. All images sent live over Contact 3.0 courtesy of Tom Avery (click to enlarge).

Visit our new website