Cho Oyu Camp I Rotation

We had a great rotation to Camp I, acclimatized further by climbing up to the base of the serac wall at ~21,500′ and then descended back to base camp. We had a rest day yesterday and today, where we packed our gear for the upper mountain, practiced using our oxygen apparati and rested for the next push.

We’ll depart tomorrow AM for our Camp II acclimatization rotation, where we’ll climb to Camp I tomorrow, climb to Camp II at ~23,500′ the following day but return to sleep at Camp I again, climb back to Camp II the next day to sleep up there and then retreat all the way back to base camp the following morning. This rotation will complete our acclimatization process. After that, we’ll await a good weather window to summit and depart for the upper mountain accordingly. Recently, we have been experiencing a lot of afternoon snow showers so ideally we’d like to see that pattern change a bit before our summit attempt.

Thus far we’re feeling strong and looking forward to getting higher on the mountain and getting ready for a summit push around May 8th or so (weather depending). Here is one of the spectacular views we enjoy from Cho Oyu Advanced Base Camp.

Yak Horn peak overseeing Nangpa La Pass

Yak Horn peak overseeing Nangpa La Pass

Camp I Cho Oyu (20,500′)

We are settled into Camp I on Cho Oyu (20,500′) on schedule. Camp I is nestled 1/2 way up this picture (at the top of the rock and the base of the ice/seracs). The weather is fair/stable. One night here, climb higher tomorrow and then back to ABC for the conclusion of our first acclimatization rotation on the mountain. One bite at a time…


Cho Oyu Puja Ceremony

P1010382Upon our arrival at Cho Oyu Advanced Base Camp a few days ago, we discussed the tragedy on Everest with our Sherpa team and offered to provide any of them with transportation home.  The Sherpa community is extremely tight-knit and our small team of Sherpas lost a brother-in-law, a cousin, and several friends in the tragic events in the Khumbu Icefall, so the effects reverberate far beyond Everest base camp.  Despite their loss and need to mourn, our exceptional team of Sherpas decided to remain on Cho Oyu with us and continue our climb.

With our strong, small team of Sherpas dedicated to our climb, we held a reflective, heartfelt puja ceremony (pictured above), where we asked the mountain gods for permission to climb, for safe passage, and for forgiveness for using our sharp ice axes and crampons on their flanks.  With such a small team and small group of Sherpas it gave us a real opportunity to bond further.  We have a very strong team overall, so with some good weather in early May, we hope to find ourselves atop Cho Oyu.

Himalayan Trilogy Team - Jim Walkley, Willie Benegas, Mike Moniz and Matt Moniz

Himalayan Trilogy Team – Jim Walkley, Willie Benegas, Mike Moniz and Matt Moniz

In the meantime, there is much work to be done.  This began yesterday with a carry to 19,000′ at the base of Camp I, where we cached gear that we won’t need until later in the climb.  We will complete the carry to the actual Camp I at 20,500′ tomorrow.  At that point, we’ll start doing our rotations where we’ll establish higher camps and sleep there to acclimatize to the higher altitudes as much as possible in anticipation of our summit attempt around May 6th (depending upon weather, etc.), but much needs to happen before we are in position for our attempt.

Finally, there is much in the press about the Everest tragedy and the decisions being made there that will determine if there is a 2014 south side climbing season and that will reshape climbing on that side of Everest for years to come.  It was our plan to head to the south side of Everest to climb upon our completion of Cho Oyu, but with all of the uncertainty there we will simply wait and see.  We have a formidable challenge in front of us already in attempting the world’s 6th tallest peak, so we’ll stay focused on that for the time-being, assess our options (if any) as they are made clear to us, and take it one bite at a time.

Cho Oyu Advanced Base Camp (18,100′)

P1010368-001We arrived at Cho Oyu’s Advanced Base Camp (18,100′) a couple of days ago with heavy hearts.  Our thoughts very much remain with our fellow climbers and the Sherpa community in particular that was so devastated by the tragedy on Everest’s south side. Anyone interested in donating to help support the families of the fallen Sherpas, please use the Juniper Fund, led by David Morton and Melissa Arnot, as they have little-to-no overhead so all of the proceeds will go directly to the families affected by this tragic event.

Acclimatization Hike (18,000′) – 4.17.2014

P1010346Great acclimatization hike today to 18,000′.  That’s Cho Oyu (26,906′) in the background (with extremely high winds).  We’ll move to interim camp and then Advanced Base Camp (ABC) over the next 2 days.  Feeling great thus far.  Other than some interruptions from the base camp dogs partying under the full moon and some midnight snacking by the yaks next to our tents, sleep has been plentiful.  Pretty soon the real work (and real fun) begins!

Cho Oyu Base Camp – 4.16.2014

Cho Oyu from Chinese Base Camp (15,700')

Cho Oyu from Chinese Base Camp (15,700′)

After a lot of hurry-up and wait logistics, an interesting and stressful crossing of the border into Tibet/China and an impromptu game of “bocce” along Tingri’s uneven riverbed using semi-round rocks, we finally arrived at Cho Oyu base camp at 15,700′ yesterday.  Today and tomorrow are active rest days, where we’ll do short day hikes to aid the acclimatization process, and then we’ll take two days to push to Cho Oyu’s Advanced Base Camp and start our climb in earnest.  As you can tell from the picture above, the winds up high are significant (which is typical this early in the climbing season), so we’ll hope and wait for better conditions for a summit attempt as we move higher over the next couple of weeks.  If all goes according to plan, we will summit around May 6th.  Fingers crossed.

Tingri, Tibet

IMG_1936 Last town before basecamp, Tingri is a simple town at 14,000′ with a strip of simple buildings on either side of the highway, which itself is actually very well constructed. You can see the Chinese influence from an infrastructure standpoint – great road in particular. Apparently these teahouses were much worse in the past but are quite decent today. Imagine a Motel 6 with no heat and only sporadic hot water, but we have our own rooms with two beds each that we share and a private toilet, which is big step-up even from most teahouses in the Khumbu Valley in Nepal where shared toilets at the end of the hall are the norm. We are having a rest day today to acclimate to 14,000′ and then we head to Cho Oyu base camp tomorrow.

We passed the border at Zangmu and proceeded to Nyalam (12,000′) where we did a rest day and a hike to 14,000′ (picture above), so we’re on target and doing well.  The prayer flags in the picture above can be seen all over the Buddhist portions of Nepal and Tibet and therefore all throughout the Himalaya.  Each color represents a different element (earth, water, sky, fire, etc.) with a unique prayer and as the wind blows through them it carries the prayer to the gods.