Cho-Oyu has only recently become a popular mountain to climb. It is now known to be one of the most accessible of the world’s fourteen 8,000 metre/26,500 feet mountains. This is because the ascent to the summit is short and direct, with a few small technical sections, less than 6 metres/20 feet high, climbed using fixed lines. Additionally, the mountain can be easily reached by four-wheel-drive vehicle, and the trail to Camp 1 at 6,400 metres/21,100 feet, is basically a steep walk on talus slopes, often done in sturdy leather trekking boots with good ankle support. This expedition to Cho-Oyu maximizes our previous successful ascents on the peak itself, plus many years of accumulated wisdom of the high Himalaya, a strong record of reaching 8,000 metre/26,500 feet summits, along with an intimate knowledge of the Tibetan and Chinese officials who regulate the permit system. We must also give credit to our highly experienced and hard-working leaders, sherpas and staff. back to top
The proposed itinerary allows enough time for proper acclimatization, rest days, and several returns to base camp, where the kitchen and base camp staff can look after all of your needs, and quell your appetite. The weather at this time of year is normally quite good and stable. However, we all know the global weather is changing, and in case of storms, you will note the proposed itinerary includes extra days as well. In previous expeditions, half of those who reached the summit needed every single "extra" day.
At low elevation, the temperatures can vary from 27°c to -7°c ( 80°f to 20°f). At higher elevations, the temperature can vary from 16°c to -23°c (60°f to -10°f). The wind is the most chilling factor, and can be quite variable, with everything from a flat calm, to hurricane force on the summit. There may be deep snow, heavy rains, mosquitoes in wet areas, blowing dust, burning heat, bright sunshine.
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The route follows the left hand skyline, barely visible in this photo. (Photo: J. Otto). Route map, showing the three camps, and the normal route. The fixed rope pitches are just below Camp 2. (Web Collection). The ice step seen from below (Roland Debare). The ice step is considered to be the crux of the climb, although it is quite easy with no vertical climbing and perhaps 5 metres/17 feet of "steep" ice-snow, which is ascended and descended on fixed lines.
The trip begins in the ancient and colorful city of Kathmandu (you could also start in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Chengdu and drive in from exotic Lhasa, and more and more of our members are doing just that). You stay in a comfortable, simple, clean hotel, and sample some of the tasty Nepalese, Tibetan and Western-Style cuisine. During your free days in Kathmandu, you shall finalize arrangements, including your group visa, and take some time out for trinket hunting, with potential visits to explore the 17th century splendors of the Monkey Temple, the Durbar Square and old Kings Palace, as well as the ancient city of Patan. back to top
Some members wish to add an optional trip to Lhasa before reaching basecamp. If this includes you, most members will fly to Kathmandu first, then to Lhasa. Some people prefer to fly to Lhasa from another city in China and we can also assist you with these arrangements. For those flying from Kathmandu, you take a 1 hour and 45 minute flight in a jet over Mt. Everest and the spine of the Himalaya, arriving in Tibet's capital city. In the past, we have had some fabulous views out of the plane windows during this flight.
At 3650 metres/12,000 feet of elevation, Lhasa was established around 600 AD on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The heart of the city is centered around the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred building in all of Tibet. Our simple hotel is not too far from the famous Potale palace, Jokhang palace and the renowned Barkhor Market, where you can shop for exotic handicrafts and religious art from all across Tibet, China, and Buddhist India.
After flying to Lhasa, upon arrival you will rest for 2 nights and one day. It's important that you use the rest day to get acclimated to the high altitude.
Buddhist pilgrims from Amdo region circumambulating the Jokhang Temple in the Barkhor market. Photo: J. Otto.
It is a three day drive from Lhasa to basecamp. From Lhasa, you will set out in government cars across the Tibetan plateau to meet the rest of the team in Tingri, before reaching Cho Oyu basecamp.
The following morning after your day in Lhasa, you will drive to Shigatse at 3650 metres/12,000 feet, the second largest city in Tibet, with a famous Monastery. The road winds along the massive Brahmaputra River, past traditional warren-like Tibetan farm towns. In Shigatse, you can have a look around and try to visit the 15th century Tashilunpo Monastery, the largest active monastic institution in Tibet. Monks in maroon robes seem to be everywhere, going about their daily chores, praying, and practicing ceremonial music performances.
After Shigatse, you will make the scenic drive to the ancient city of Lhaze (Lhatse), at 4000 metres/13,100 feet . At the western end of town is the small Changmoche Monastery, which you may visit while there. You can see interesting views of the surrounding Tibetan plateaus and hills.
From Lhaze, it is another scenic drive to the town of Tingri at 4,342 meters/14,200 feet, where you will meet up with the rest of the team and continue towards Cho Oyu basecamp. back to top
The Tashilunpo Monastery in Shigatse, where more than 700 monks live and worship in the Buddhist religion. (Photo: J. Otto)
A Tibetan farmer brings his goods to market on the road near Lhaze. (Photo D.L. Mazur)
Early in the morning you set out in a bus for the last Nepal town of Kodari at 1,770 meters/5,800 feet. If you are concerned about the altitude and have purchased Diamox (acetylzolamide), which is inexpensively available with no doctor's prescription in Kathmandu, this might be the time to begin taking it. For more information about Diamox, please click here . You clear Nepalese customs and immigration, then hire local porters and vehicles to carry your bags across the Bota Kosi River on the Friendship Bridge, to Zhangmu, the gateway town in Tibet. Upon entering Tibet, the clocks immediately go forward by 2 ¼ hours. Your liaison officer will meet you in Zhangmu. After clearing Tibetan customs and immigration, a Chinese bus takes you up the windy road through the rolling hills to Nyalam town at 3,750 meters/12,400 feet, and a basic "hotel". The smaller towns in Tibet are generally simple and rustic places, and this one is no exception. The topography here is quite interesting in that you are perched in the transitional zone where the Tibetan plateau rams into the Himalaya, then drops into the forested valleys and jungles of Nepal, and finally out into the Gangetic plain of the Terai and India. You stay over one extra day and night in Nyalam, to help adjust to the altitude. During your rest day in Nyalam, you might wish to hang out in the Tashi Amdo teashop, and enjoy a variety of pleasant treks on the hillsides, as well as explore some interesting small Buddhist gompas (temples). back to top
Yaks taking us to ABC at 5600 metres/18,480 feet (Roland DeBare). Walter walking through the moraine to camp 1 at 6400 metres/21,120 feet. You can normally do this part of the climb in a good sturdy pair of trekking shoes (DL Mazur). Paul hanging out in front of his tent at camp 1 at 6400 metres/21,120 feet (we provide a personal basecamp-advanced basecamp tent for each member, so you don't have to share). Dan from Colorado and Ron from Washington enjoying the sun at advanced basecamp at 5600 metres/18,480 feet. (Roland DeBare).
In the morning you continue your bus-ascent into the Tibetan plateau, to the town of Tingri at 4,300 meters/14,300 feet. There are superb views of Shishapangma , Cho-Oyu , and Everest as you drive into Tingri. The town itself is a very basic one-street hamlet surrounded by the tents of nomadic Tibetans. About ½ of all ethnic Tibetans living in Tibet are nomadic or semi-nomadic. Your extremely rustic little hotel has an adequate restaurant, and it will be interesting to see if the high altitude has quelled your appetite for tasty fresh food. There are the ruins of an old fortress on a rise above town, and from here you can see the finest views of Everest , Cho-Oyu, and Shishapangma . You stay over one extra day and night in Tingri, to help adjust to the altitude. During your rest day in Tingri, you might wish to walk around, visiting little shops and taking in the magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.
The following morning, after what for many is a relatively sleep-free night, you drive the 44 kilometers to Cho Oyu base camp at around 4900 metres/16,000 feet. The drive follows a dirt road along the Ra Chu Valley and has spectacular views of the Himalaya. Chinese base camp is located just below the Jabula glacier, also known as the Kyetrag or Gyabrag glacier (romanisations of Tibetan have not been finalized). You will rest for a day in Chinese base, to allow for packing and acclimatizing. back to top
You then spend two days moving up to the "advanced basecamp" at 5,600 metres/18,500 feet, which is actually the true base camp for our climb. From here, you will complete your climb of Cho Oyu, not returning to Chinese base until your expedition is finished.
Cho Oyu is basically a 10 to 50 degree mostly snow slope, with a few tiny pitches of steep rock, snow, and ice. The highest technical section is an "ice/snow-step" just six metres/20 feet high. These sections are 100 percent climbed on fixed lines, with the highest degree of safety. Camp 1 is located in a saddle at 6,400 meters/21,100 feet, at the base of the north-west ridge. The trail to Camp 1 crosses a flattish glacier, than a hill with loose scree and stone sometimes with snow. It is often referred to as the: "horrible hill" and is nearly always accomplished in sturdy trekking shoes, with good ankle support. back to top
Camp 1 in a saddle on the ridge at 6400 metres/21,120 feet. You can usually walk to camp 1 in just a sturdy pair of leather trekking boots with good ankle support. (DL Mazur). Our team of Sherpas and climbers moving from Camp 1 up to Camp 2 at 7000 metres/23,100 feet (Arnold Coster). Andy Sloan, Matt Ward, and Nick Williams (Sussex, Birmingham, and London) at camp 2 (7000 metres/23,100 feet) on Cho Oyu, September, 2005 (Photo by Phil Crampton from Texas and Nottingham). Camp 3 (our highest camp) at 7450 metres/24,585 feet. The peaks in the distance include the nearly 8000 metre Gyachung Kang. (DL Mazur).
The Northwest ridge opens onto the northwest face, and there is one easy 6 metre high technical fixed ice/snow step, then Camp 2 is placed just above a sloped section at 7,000 meters/23,100 feet. Camp 3 is located on the northwest ridge-face at 7,450 meters/24,600 feet. You shall attempt the summit from Camp 3. back to top
The most difficult part is the 10 metre/ 33 foot ice step at 6600 metres/21,120 feet, between camp 1 and 2. Here Tim Boelter from St. Paul and Phil Crampton from Nottigham and Houston and John Arnold from Alberta approach it on strong nylon ropes we fixed (Photo: Dan Mazur). Ben from Colorado and Thierry from Switzerland are ascending on solid anchors (Tunc Findik). A climber from a Chinese team ascending the ice step (Andy Sloan).
On summit day, you climb through a few small-easy rock steps (4 metres high) and mixed snow to the wide summit plateau and make the long plateau traverse to the little bump that marks the summit, at 8,201 meters/27,000 feet. You know you are on the true summit when you see the inspiring views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu, and the entire Khumbu valley. back to top
Maya Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman to reach the summit of Cho Oyu is a member of the SummitClimb team (Roland Debare). Dan and another one of our sturdy sherpas, Durga Tamang, on the summit, Mt Everest and Makalu in the background. We were lucky that we had very good weather with sunshine and little wind (T. Boelter and DL Mazur).
After packing up all of your equipment, supplies, and rubbish, you will make a short return trek and drive to Tingri, have a feast at the restaurant and stay in the hotel. The following morning, you are up early, and drive all the way down to Zhangmu, hire porters to carry everything over the Friendship Bridge, then catch a bus into Kathmandu, where you can enjoy a hot shower and a grand Nepalese western-style feast. In Kathmandu, you can have a day to relax, celebrate, tour the valley, write postcards, and do a bit more shopping, before heading home. We hope you had a safe, enjoyable, and successful adventure. Thanks for joining in! back to top
At our celebration upon return to Kathmandu. We had quite a welcome home party for the members and staff, who placed these silk scarves, known as "Kattas" around our necks, to honour us and wish us good luck in our return journey to our homes. Arnold, Maya, and Ryan, our leadership team. Roland, Caroline, and Jacques (Caroline and Jacques were married shortly afterward), the Belge and two French. back to top
Thank You for joining our Cho Oyu Expedition.