Surprise! Sherpa Teams Unite for a Final Attempt on Cho Oyu

The winter climbing season has ended and Gelje Sherpa is leaving Base Camp, but five members of his team have agreed to join the eight-man Pioneer group. Together, this strong team will attempt the summit one last time from the Thame (Pioneer) side of Cho Oyu.

“We are doing this for our country and to open a safe and accessible commercial route for all the mountaineering community,” said Gelje.

Last week, both groups attempted the summit via different routes, despite harsh conditions. In the end, both had to turn back from between 7,600 and 7,900m.

On February 28, Gelje Sherpa’s summit bid stalled at 7,900m. Not only was the wind up to 100kph but some climbers had fallen sick.

“There were also some issues with an oxygen mask,” Gelje reported.

These problems, plus the technical difficulty near and on the ridge, prompted them to retreat to Base Camp.

Gelje Sherpa on Cho Oyu. Photo: Gelje Sherpa

 

The Pioneer climbers are currently recovering from their own attempt. Mingma Dorchi’s team managed to reach 7,650m, but the winds were likewise too strong to continue, especially with a pessimistic weather forecast. So they too decided to go down and wait till next time.

Spring permit needed

It now seems that next time could come soon. First, the climbers need to obtain a spring climbing permit for Cho Oyu. As locals, they will not need to pay the same fee as foreigners.
“Progress is going on with the government, but the weather is not so favorable,” Pioneer Adventure co-founder Ngaa Tenji Sherpa told ExplorersWeb. “Really high winds for at least the next five to six days.”
Within a day or two, we should know whether they have time to proceed with their fresh attempt. “It’s all about the weather,” said Ngaa Tenji. Many of the Sherpas will soon have to return home to prepare for the commercial season, where they earn most of their income.

Pioneer Adventure climbers during a previous rotation. Photo: Pioneer Adventure

 

Still in astronomical winter

“No matter what the outcome of this project is, we are certain that our ‘Pioneer route’ can open the chances of climbing Cho Oyu commercially from the Nepal side,” Pioneer Adventure wrote on social media.

Clearly, summiting Cho Oyu in winter is less a priority than the potential new commercial route. It is also apparent that, despite the difficulties of Cho Oyu’s south side, they still hope to bring clients there in the future.

Yet while meteorological winter and the usual winter climbing season ended yesterday, the Sherpas still have 20 days left to complete the climb during astronomical winter.

Photos suggest that they are carving a new route up the previously unclimbed SSW Ridge. It is unclear how difficult that route becomes on the mid and upper sections. But no question, it is a very long way to the top.

A higher camp on Cho Oyu’s potential new route. Photo: Pioneer Adventure

 

Everest: Until next time

About 20 km east of Cho Oyu, on Everest, Jost Kobusch is trekking back to Kathmandu, with his gear on yak-back. “Everything fit into eight bags,” Kobusch wrote. “It’s really amazing how you can tackle such a project with so little equipment.”

Jost Kobusch silhouetted against Pumori. Photo: @terragraphy

 

Since the bad weather has not permitted him long stays on Everest, Kobusch has plenty of fuel and supplies remaining. He will store these in Kathmandu until he returns.

Angela Benavides is a journalist specialised on high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news working with ExplorersWeb.com.

Angela Benavides 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 national and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporates, press manager and communication executive, radio reporter and anchorwoman, etc. Experience in Education: Researcher at Spain’s National University for Distance Learning on the European Commission-funded ECO Learning Project; experience in teaching ELE (Spanish as a Second Language) and transcultural training for expats living in Spain.

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J h
J h
3 months ago

Good luck to these machines!

Ron
Ron
3 months ago

Fantastic, rare to see Sherpas doing new or rarely visited routes.

Jack
Jack
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Give them sponsorship to do so, and they’ll certainly be able to do so in the best style. Money makes these things possible, gravity on the other hand makes the world go round.