Rope Fixing Starts on Cho Oyu

The Seven Summit Treks team on Cho Oyu made their first rotation up the mountain today, suggesting a standard, commercial expedition-style strategy.

Kristin Harila and Adriana Brownlee reached 5,900m — the usual location for Camp 1. They then returned to Base Camp. According to Brownlee on her Instagram page, some Sherpas intended to continue fixing toward Camp 2.

Track on Google maps.

Today, Kristin Harila went from Cho Oyu’s south-side Base Camp to roughly 5,900m and back.

 

This lower part of the route needs no fixing but may take some orienteering skills since it proceeds across a broken glacier (see the lead image above, which was shot this fall). For Harila and Brownlee, it is their first acclimatization round on the mountain.

“Base Camp is super windy and pretty chilly at night, but we are keeping cozy in our communal tent playing uno, drinking hot drinks, and planning the expedition,” Brownlee wrote. “We know the route until Camp 4. However, what faces us [there] is a technical rocky face 1,000m high to the summit.”

Notes on the SSW Ridge

Indeed, the Nepali side of Cho Oyu is very different from the normal route up the western side of the mountain in Tibet. Their upcoming route proceeds up the SSW Ridge. Previously on ExWeb, Mingma Dorchi Sherpa, who first eyed the line, and Csaba Varga, who attempted it this past fall, described what to expect.

Mingma Dorchi assessed it as “harder than Manaslu, easier than K2”. For Varga, the line is hard, steep, and prone to avalanches in some places, but “very nice”. The avalanche risk could improve in winter when the mountain is drier. On the other hand, steep sections could be more difficult on hard snow or ice.

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

 

The descriptions from both climbers differ about where the camps are located, but they agree that the first sections are anything but easy. After passing the broken glacier, the route zigzags among seracs. It then proceeds directly up steep slopes to Camp 2 and then Camp 3.

At about 7,200m, climbers reach a huge plateau. At the end of it, they face the final part of the climb, the rocky face that Brownlee spoke of. Varga describes it as a “steep and difficult rocky/mixed face with several unopened lines”.

Lessen dependence on China

So far, the south side of Cho Oyu has been climbed by Austrian, Polish, Russian, and Russian-Kazakh expeditions. None of those previous summiters had Sherpa support at altitude, and no Nepali has stepped onto the 8,188m summit from his home country. In fact, the first all-Nepali teams attempted the south side only last winter.

At that time, a team led by Mingma Dorchi set off toward the SSW Ridge. Meanwhile, Gelje Sherpa (who is leading the current team outfitted by Seven Summit Treks) tried an alternative route leading to the East Ridge. Their goal was for local climbers to achieve a new route and to open an alternative line up Cho Oyu from Nepal, to lessen the commercial dependence on China.

Gelje Sherpa, leading Kristin Harila and Adriana Brownlee, tried again three months ago but bad weather foiled their attempt. Now, they will try again in drier but colder winter conditions.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specializing in high-altitude mountaineer 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.