One-Woman Summit Push on Cho Oyu

As she prepares to leave for the summit of Cho Oyu, Viridiana Alvarez is living a rare experience, as the only client on a formerly crowded 8,000m peak.

“Nights are incredible, we are surrounded by glaciers and mountains,” Alvarez noted.

Peaks and broken glaciers, all covered in snow, perfectly visible under the moonlight and a starred sky.

Cho Oyu glaciers in the moonlight. Photo: Viridiana Alvarez/Facebook

The mountain to themselves

“There are 11 of us in Base Camp,” she wrote yesterday. “Four Sherpa climbers, two Tibetan mountaineers, a cook, three cook helpers, and I.”

tents in a snowy mountain scene

Base Camp on Cho Oyu. Photo: VIridiana Alvarez/Facebook


The Mexican woman reached Cho Oyu Base Camp with Kristin Harila, Matias Myklebust, and a strong support team of Nepalis. Harila, aiming to summit all 14 8,000’ers in six months, pushed for the summit almost immediately. They had only been on the mountain for two days and set the route up to Camp 1, at 6,400m.

Alvarez had a badly twisted ankle from her previous climb on Shishapangma. She knew knew that she would not be able to keep up with the summit team so she retreated from Camp 1 to rest her ankle in Base Camp (5,700m) for a later try. Meanwhile, Harila and Myklebust left for Kathmandu.

A showlen ankle and foot, with bluish toes, on a white sheet.

Viridiana Alvarez’s ankle is not exactly looking great to climb a 8,108m peak. Photo: Viridiana Alvarez/Facebook


In the last four days, she has treated her ankle, checked the forecast, and cooked Mexican tacos for the Nepali-Tibetan staff. In exchange, they prepared momos for dinner.

A Tibetan climber with the characteristic long hair blinks an eye with a taco in his hand and a plate of rise on the other.

One of the Tibetan team, enjoying tacos at 5,700m. Photo: Viridiana Alvarez/Facebook


Ready for the final push

Finally, the same good weather window currently in the Himalaya has prompted them into action. Although Cho Oyu is 28km away from Everest, both mountains share the same weather patterns.

Alvarez and her guides will set off toward the higher camps at any moment. The summit window is expected to open between Thursday and Saturday. You can follow Alvarez’s location live on her tracker.

The team will be able to use the ropes fixed by Harila’s group. Traditionally, Cho Oyu is a straightforward peak, and the main fixed ropes are on a 150m ice wall above Camp 1, some steep sections right below Camp 2, and depending on the variation, on the so-called Yellow Band between Camp 3 and the huge summit plateau.

Cho Oyu route map on a black and white drawing of the mountain.

Cho Oyu route map, by Seven Summit Treks


Harila’s Cho Oyu climb

Harila, currently in Kathmandu before flying to the next mountain on her list, posted some pictures and details from Cho Oyu. She noted on Instagram that it was the longest and hardest route she has ever done.

“We had a plan to go to C2 from BC but saw that it would be too long, so we rested in C1 for 5 hours before starting the 1,800m-long summit push at 1 am,” she explained.

Luckily, the good conditions allowed Tenjen Sherpa “Lama” to climb at a remarkable speed, fixing ropes along the way, Harila wrote. She also reported that Myklebust eventually turned around and that she started using oxygen at 6,900m.

Harila in the whiteout, on a flat surface, in full high altitude gear and with an ice-axe in her hand.

Kristin Harila’s summit picture. Photo: Instagram


Tenjen Sherpa Lama, Ngima Rita Sherpa, and Harila summited in 14 hours.

“It’s a very very big plateau on Cho Oyu,” Harila said. “There were high winds up there and we also saw the Nepal mountains.”

In fact, the plateau of Cho Oyu makes the summit a tricky one. Climbers usually say you have to see Everest clearly to ensure you’ve reached the true summit.

After topping out, the three climbers rejoined the others in Camp 1 and continued together to Base Camp. “The whole journey from C1 to the summit and down again took about 23 hours,” Harila wrote.

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.