Mt. Cho Oyu which stands astride the Nepal – Tibet border and to the west of Mt. Everest, has offered an excellent choice for all mountaineers alike wishing to climb their first 8,000 and over metre peak. It is technically straightforward climb with a minimal danger and accessibility easy, as such the logistic planning is much easier. Base camp can be planned fairly, making the living little bit more comfortable and tolerable.
Expedition begins in Kathmandu from where our visas for Tibet has to be processed. We then drive along the Friendship – Highway to Zhangmu at the Nepal-Tibet frontier. Our Chinese Liaison Officers and transport will be meeting us here. We travel by bus or jeep with all our equipment going by truck. Normally we would expect to spend two days in Nyalam for acclimatisation before driving over the Langnna La (Pass) to old village of Tingri. The Pass rises high above the Tibetan plains and Base Camp is reached in a couple of hours from Tingri.
Onward leaving, Tingri, our trucks pull off the metal road and bump up a grassy plain leading up to the Nangpa La (Pass). We have couple of options for the Base Camp but, will probably take it on the flat moraine along the foot of the Gyabrag glaciers. A good path leads on for about two days to the Advanced Base Camp. We will be staying here at the Base Camp throughout the expedition and plan not to descend until the expedition is finished. We will have large cook and mess tents and members will share 2 to a 3 man dome tent. A Land Cruiser jeep will be permanently on stand-by at the Base Camp for emergency evacuation. At approximately 5,700 metres there is the Advance Base Camp (ABC) that provides with stunning views of the surrounding snowy mountain peaks, the jewels of the Himalaya. And overlooking the Nangpa La (Pass), we see a major century old trading route between Nepal and Tibet.
After the Advance Base Camp, it is approximately three miles to the start of the mountain proper. A vague path leads through the easy moraine covered glaciers. At an elevation of 6,400 metres, Camp I will be fixed. If there is no snow, there is a steep path going up an interminable scree slope which improves the higher you climb. The camp will be located on a broad snow field at the foot of the ridge leading up to a serac barrier which is the only real technical section on the route.
At about 6,900 metres the ridge is blocked by a line of ice cliffs. Close inspection reveals many fixed ropes. We will fix a new rope in co-operation with any other trips that may be on the mountain with us. Normally we have one rope for ascent and another for descent on this pitch, which is about 40 metres high. This is the hardest part of the mountain but is not a difficult jumar. Above the serac we climb out onto a plateau cut by huge crevasses. Wending our way between them we place Camp II at about 7,100 metres elevation.
Leaving Camp II we climb more easily through broad snow slopes to Camp III, at an elevation of 7,500 metres. This will be the highest camp. We make the attempts for the SUMMIT from here. On the Summit day it involves with an early start. Depending on weather / snow conditions we may or may not encounter some easy scrambling as we make our way up and across the low angled West Face.
We find summit plateau is very large and unfortunately the highest point is a long way back. However, if the weather favours the surrounding close-up views are breathtakingly magnificent, including … Mt. Everest 8,848 metre, Lhotse 8,516m, Nuptse 7,855m, Chamlang 7,319 m, Ama Dablam 6,812 m and other peaks of the Khumbu region are spread out before us. It could also be possible to see the Mt. Melungtse and Mt. Gauri Shanker (7,134 m) massifs. It is normally possible to descend from the summit all the way to Advance Base Camp on the same day, but it depends on snow conditions and the members’ good health fitness.