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Cho Oyu Expedition 8201m
Tibet -- standard route
Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain on the planet, has the best success rate and safety record of any 8000m mountain. It is a technically straightforward climb and you don't have to trek weeks merely to get to base camp, so logistically it is easy.
Experience and fitness
Despite the relatively non-technical nature you MUST have some mountaineering experience and MUST have been to 6000m before (Denali/Aconcagua/Island Peak etc). You will need to climb on steep, near vertical ice for 25 metres and on a similar steep rock section, both with fixed ropes, traverse hard ice on a fixed rope and abseil down these sections several times. Don't underestimate the difficulty and strength of will required to climb at over 7000m.
Although the itinerary is 45 days below, for a possibel 2012 expedition, we would run in 44 days.
Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1350m
Flying into Kathmandu on a clear day is in itself an unforgettable experience, with the entire Nepalese Himalaya sprawling out below you. Welcome to Nepal! Take a deep breath though, and be ready to confront the confusion of Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport. After passing through immigration downstairs you collect your baggage, load up your trolley and pass through customs inspection. Outside the airport building look for our representative with a Project Himalaya signboard among the throng.
2-3 - Kathmandu
Two free days in Kathmandu for relaxing, packing and preparing. You can leave any gear which you don't need during the expedition at the hotel. We keep your international air ticket at the office in case any changes need to be made while you are climbing. We can arrange a sightseeing tour, if you wish.
4 - drive Zhangmu 2400m
Leaving smartly, we take a private bus along the Friendship Highway to Kodari where we pass through Nepalese customs then cross the Friendship Bridge and climb to Zhangmu, the Chinese border town. the hotel is a curious throwback to the communist era, and the food distinctly ordinary.
5 - drive Nyalam
Our Land Cruisers and truck climb their way up the precipitous "road to hell", as the Chinese literally call it. Although it is rough and menaced by landslides and one hell of a climb, it is also starkly beautiful in the deep gorge.
6 - rest day Nyalam 3750m
We relax for one day to aid acclimatization. You are welcome to explore the village and to climb west towards Shishapangma South Face Base Camp, a tough but rewarding day trip.
7 - drive Tingri 4350m
A spectacular day as we cross the main Himalayan range, driving over the 5150m Lalung La eventually to the plain that Tingri sits on. Arriving in Tingri we get our first views of massive Cho Oyu across the grassy plains. Be EXTREMELY careful of the Tingri dogs, always carry a rock in your hand and it is better to be in a group of people.
8 - rest day Tingri 4350m
If you feel good then you can climb the hill to the west of the town, but stop at a sensible point, beyond each top is another. Don't push it!
9 - drive Cho Oyu Base Camp 4910m
Chinese Base Camp is around an hours drive and after establishing our camp we can relax and enjoy the views. The camp is pleasantly situated on grassy patch alongside the river but is often windy.
10-12 - Cho Oyu Base Camp 4910m
We spend 3 days acclimatizing and preparing our equipment for the yaks to carry to Advance Base Camp. All our equipment is transported in blue plastic drums or kit bags and it is usual to have in the region of 50 yaks to transport all our supplies and equipment.
13 - trek Interim Camp 5360m
Once the road ended a little past BC but now continues to Interim Camp, where there are now temporary tea houses. We still plan to walk up there for fitness. The gear may go by yak or may go by truck, that is up to the liaison officer. We camp in a simple style to save packing the next morning.
14 - trek Cho Oyu Advance Base Camp 5720m
It is another tough days walk, made tougher by the altitude. We trek beyond the grass line into the rough and rocky moraine area, with a jumble of mountain, rock and ice surrounding us.
15-18 acclimatizing Cho Oyu ABC 5720m
ABC is in the heart of the Himalaya, surrounded by fantastic peaks and close by is the Nangpa La, an old but still used yak train trading route between Nepal and Tibet. ABC also boasts a superb view of the route on Cho Oyu. This is our main base camp and we plan to stay here and higher for the duration of the expedition. Every person gets a tent to their own.
ABC is high, we need time to acclimatize to the altitude properly. We will have a puja to show respect to the mountain, and take some day trips, perhaps to 6000m.
19-45 (27 days) Climbing Cho Oyu
The expedition leader in discussion with the team members and sherpas manages the day to day running of the expedition. The sherpas and guide carry the majority of the equipment to establish the camps leaving you to familiarize yourself with the mountain and get more acclimatized, a long process. There are several different methods to ready for yourself for the summit bid, we discuss in detail.
Generally we take a real week for a real acclimatization trip to Camp 0.5, Camp 1 at 6430m, Camp 1.5 and eventually up to Camp 2 at 7130m. After that we return to ABC to recover and should be in great shape for our summit attempt. Once the weather is good we will go for the summit, using a Camp 3 (7560m).
From ABC it is several hours of tough walking on a vague path over moraine-covered glacier to the start of the mountain proper. After a short, steep climb is Lake Camp (Camp 0.5 6065m) where we have a tent to store gear. Camp 1 is an hour or two up the steep scree slope, which improves the higher you climb.
Camp 1 is perched more or less on the ridge at 6430m and the real snow mountaineering begins from here. The ridge is soft, so easy enough climbing, then it broadens out and we climb successive huge steps, several of which probably require fixing a rope up. We will fix a new rope in co-operation with other expeditions on the mountain. Normally one rope is used for ascent and another for descent. Although the route is crevassed, normally these pose no problems.
Camp 2 is on the edge of a large plateau at 7130m. For our summit attempt we will establish a light Camp 3 across the plateau and up on a minor ridge at 7560m. Above Camp 3 are two rock steps where we fix another set of ropes prior to our summit bid.
Summit day means a very early start. Above the rock bands the slopes are still reasonably steep and we may take a line to fix there, depending on conditions. However once on the crest of this ridge the terrain is straightforward although it is a long haul to the summit plateau. The panorama is breathtakingly magnificent, including Everest 8848m, Lhotse 8501m, Nuptse 7855m, Chamlang 7319m, Ama Dablam 6856m and other peaks of the Khumbu region to the east and south. To the west are the Melungtse and Gauri Sankar massifs and to the north is pure Tibet.
Logistically, it takes some sound preparation and organization to ensure all the camps are set up with the appropriate supplies. Then we need a window of good weather for the summit attempt. Often this is a waiting game.
Once we summit then we start packing and return to Kathmandu, this could be well before the maximum end date for the expedition.
46 - packing ABC
The sherpas are efficient at clearing the mountain and packing, but don't underestimate the time or effort to pack everything.
47 -trek Chinese Base Camp, drive Tingri/Nyalam/Zhangmu
The climbers leave early for the tough trek down. The liaison officer will meet you at Interim (or perhaps BC) and then you drive to where he suggests. Basically wherever you reach, you should be able to reach Kathmandu the next day, if everything goes smoothly. The sherpas have a tougher job, getting everything onto the yaks and then packing everything on the truck.
48 - drive Kathmandu
Lush! We should arrive in Kathmandu in the late afternoon or evening ready to enjoy the good restaurants!
49 - Kathmandu
A free day, washing and eating!
Day 50 - depart
Transfer to Kathmandu's TIA airport for your flight home.
We will have a limited amount of Poisk bottled oxygen and regulators, so that if you decide that you want oxygen for the summit push, it is available, and a tank plus regulator for you at Camp 3 costs $700. Additionally the leader and/or sherpa will carry a bottle plus regulator all the way to the summit just in case.
This is your choice. It is sometimes possible to get insurance for 8000m peaks thru your national alpine club - the British Mountaineering council (BMC) has a great policy. We don't normally have a doctor with us however in the past we have arranged the services of a doctor at base camp. You pay the doctor directly. There is no helicopter rescue possible in Tibet so evacuation is by Landcruiser to Kathmandu, and should cost less than US$1000. The cost of emergency evacuation and associated care is not included in the cost of the expedition. There is one particularly good clinic in Kathmandu otherwise the nearest high standard hospital is Singapore or Bangkok, although generally it is better to return to your home country. Our Nepali staff are insured.
We try our best and we are very responsible, caring people HOWEVER we are not liable for anything, full stop.
We hope you had a fantastic, safe and successful expedition!!