Sherpas Return to Nepal Side of Cho Oyu

For the second year, Sherpas are going to Cho Oyu to try to open a new commercial route from the Nepal side. They are even bringing clients along for this attempt.

Mingma Dorchi of Pioneer Adventure is off toward the mountain today, leading a group of Sherpas that will set up Base Camp and start fixing the route before the international clients come on September 20.

Pioneer Adventure answered some of ExplorersWeb’s questions before leaving, but we still don’t know which other teams, if any, might join them.

Mingma Dorchi, his downsuit covered in frost, poses by a tent on a winter night.

Mingma Dorchi on Cho Oyu last winter. Photo: Mingma Dorchi

 

Mingma Dorchi’s team will again go for the route that they partly opened last winter, up the south-southwest ridge.

“Last time, we reached 7,770m. We will continue from that point,” a Pioneer Adventure spokesperson said.

The Nepalis are confident that they can complete the route since autumn conditions will be much better than those in mid-winter. The Nepalis attempted the route in the coldest, darkest season not to deliberately make life harder for themselves but to use what little spare time they had between the commercial expeditions that pay the bills.

Pioneer Adventure's route up the SSW ridge of Cho Oyu

Pioneer Adventure’s route up the SSW ridge of Cho Oyu. Map courtesy of Mingma Dorchi

Which route?

The main question now is who else is going to Cho Oyu and which route they intend to follow. Last winter, Mingma Dorchi progressed up the long SSW ridge, while Gelje Sherpa led a team up toward the highly difficult East Ridge. Both Gelje and member Gesman Tamang told ExplorersWeb that their own proposed line, although difficult, is doable.

Most climbers from Gelje’s Cho Oyu winter team are currently guiding on Manaslu. Gelje himself is again leading Adriana Brownlee, but he plans to go to Cho Oyu soon to lead a Seven Summit Treks team. It is not yet clear who else will be on the team and whether they’ll resume their own winter route or join Pioneer Adventure’s.

A sharp snowy ridge with a dented, rocky section in the middle, leading to Cho Oyu summit.

The difficult ridge on the final section of Gelje Sherpa’s proposed Cho Oyu route. Photo: Gelje Sherpa/Instagram

 

Pioneer Adventure does expect other Sherpa teams to come with them. They believe that their chosen line has the best potential to become a commercial route.

Would-be Cho Oyu clients with Pioneer Adventure must have previous 8,000m experience on more than one peak and advanced skills training. They have confirmed no names yet, but there are still places left on the team.

Business or nothing

Opening a commercial route on Cho Oyu from its southern, Nepali side has tantalized local climbers since China closed the Tibetan border to foreign expeditions during COVID. It eliminated two peaks, Shishapangma (which lies completely within Chinese territory) and Cho Oyu (which lies on the border with Nepal) from the 8,000m expedition market.

Even before last winter, Mingma G of Imagine Nepal had proposed to Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism the idea of opening a route on Cho Oyu.

“We were given very positive expectations,” Mingma G told ExplorersWeb from Manaslu Base Camp today. “In the end, it didn’t happen. Very sad.” Imagine Nepal is not planning to go to Cho Oyu this season.

Without government support, it is not surprising that the current project is using clients to finance the project.

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.