Cho Oyu Sherpa Team

IMG_0343Here is our amazing Sherpa team on Cho Oyu who are making our imminent summit push possible. An incredible and strong group. Left to right: Karchen Dawa Sherpa, Phurita Sherpa, Jim Walkley, Kami Tshering Sherpa, Nima Kanchha Sherpa (our phenomenal Sirdar – Sherpa climbing team leader), Willie Benegas (our exceptional expedition leader), Ang Furba Sherpa, and Pemba Tshering Sherpa.

Cho Oyu Summit Rotation

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

We were forced to cut our Camp II rotation short by one day due to weather and retreated back to Advanced Base Camp yesterday.  We climbed through the steeper than normal serac wall at ~22,000′ between Camp I and Camp II (pictured above:  mine is the next behind/butt – what’s left of it anyway – up the fixed line above our Matt Moniz in the foreground) and got a good feel for the most technical part of the route.

Despite not spending the night at Camp II (23,500′) as planned, our team is sufficiently acclimatized for our summit push.  The weather of late has been unstable with lots of afternoon snow showers and a stronger system pushed through today with a lot of snow, as forecasted.  The good news is that there appears to be a short but solid summit window opening up through May 8th.  Therefore, we are pulling together our resources to fix the upper mountain, get in position and go for it.


Mike & Matt Moniz descending to Camp I

We will depart the day after tomorrow (May 6th) for Camp I, move to Camp II on the 7th and depart for the summit (26,906′) at ~2am on the 8th.  This should put us on the summit, if all goes well, at ~7am on the 8th, so we can descend as far as possible (maybe even all the way back to Advanced Base Camp if we’re feeling strong enough) to get us off the upper mountain by the time the winds pick-up dramatically on the 9th of May.  Should the weather not cooperate or we cannot summit on May 8th as planned for any reason, the next weather window does not appear to open until the 20th of May due to jet stream winds on the summit.  So, let’s hope the forecast holds and we are able to briefly visit the summit of the world’s 6th highest peak – Cho Oyu (i.e. “Turquoise Goddess”).

Obviously, we are intently focused on the next several days, but many are wondering (as are we) what will be next now that the climbing season on the south side of Everest has come to an unfortunate conclusion.  We are looking at all options, but the Everest-to-Lhotse link-up is no longer possible due to us being unable to climb from the south side as we had originally planned.  Our preferred Option B has been thwarted thus far due to an inability to obtain the climbing permit we need, but we are pulling out all the stops and will not give up until time runs out on us.  We have Options C & D in our sights as well, but we will not pivot to those until we absolutely must.  Sorry to be so cryptic, but I will share our plans once we’ve completed our adventure on Cho Oyu and know with certainty what our next objective will be.  Stay tuned.

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!