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Cho Oyu Expedition Spring 2017

Leader: Di Gilbert

Saturday 20th May

After a valiant attempt through deep snow, the effort was exhausting and our team has turned back from their summit attempt at camp 2. The team are now at ABC .

update through from Di

Unfortunately there are no summits for us this spring season on Cho Oyu.  It is very hard to write about no summits when everything had being going so well; the weather window opened up as expected, the sherpa’s were in position moving things around the mountain and the team had been going relatively strong.  As you are aware Ross departed ABC on the 16th so that he could have one rest day at camp 1 before Paul & Di joined him.   On the morning on the 17th, Paul and Di made the last journey up the fantastic scree slope to camp 1 where a not so great Ross was.  Ross has been suffering from this gastric reflux ever since arriving in base camp which seemed to be aggravated by the altitude and apart from causing severe gut problems affected his sleeping.   On the morning on the 18th, before Paul & Di had even sparked up the stove, a cry from Ross’s tent said that he was going down, not wanting to put himself or team members at unnecessary risk by pushing up.  Ross, who has suffered from this for the past 4 weeks has put on nothing but a brave face and hats off to him for putting up such a brave fight – many others would have thrown the hat in many weeks ago.

So, it now was down to just Paul and Di to fly the Adventure Peaks flag with Pur Temba and Phurba.  Phurba was already high on the mountain load carrying between camp 2 & 3, so the 3 of us started up to camp 2.  The journey up to camp is tough, it is tough on an good season but having to trail break from camp 1 makes things even tougher.  There are numerous fixed rope sections (just got to find the ropes under fresh snow) and crevasses that disappear during every snow flurry (thank goodness for bamboo and pokey sticks) and then after about 3 – 4 hours you reach the first headwall.  This is a section of steep ice (up to 90 degrees if you go direct) for a few metres before the angle kicks back to about 70 degrees for about 100m in total length.

There is no denying that this is tough, but surely if it was easy, everybody would just be able to sonter up.  You have to work for 8000m summits and it certainly felt as if we were working hard.  After the headwall the angle kicks back for a short plateau and then there is another 200m 70 degree slope.  At the bottom the fixed rope, Paul started to struggle but with some gentle coxing he managed to push on for another couple of hours before finally reaching the security of camp 2.

The following morning Paul & Di woke up and slowly started packing things up. Pur Temba and Phurba were waiting patiently getting ready but as soon as Paul headed outside and started moving around it became obvious that the previous day had taken it’s toll.  For Paul, an ultra distance runner who is no stranger to endurance events and mental and physical challenges, it was a hard decision to make knowing that he had to keep enough strength for another 3 days on the hill.  Instead of heading upwards, we slowly descended making sure that no mistakes were had and finally we returned to camp 1.

We have now ordered the yaks to arrive on the evening of the 21st which will take us in Lhasa for the evening of the 23rd.

This season, depending on Kilian Jornets summit success (since we weren’t there we can’t really comment but I’m sure that his gps watch will give the correct answer) there have been no summits on Cho Oyu.  Some you win and some you lose, but surely any time spent on a magnificent mountain with a great bunch of people is one of life’s cherished memories.

AP Cho Oyu Team

Thursday 18th May Update from Di

The team are all at Camp 1, Ross went 1 day early to give himself a rest day at camp 1. Phurba and Lakhpa went up with Ross and then on to stock camp 2.  Di, Paul and Pur Temba moved up to camp 1 yesterday.

Di said before she moved up that Ross had  reported a lot of snow high up which is slowing progress but undeterred the team are cracking on.  Di also said it was another glorious morning on Cho Oyu the winds were supposed to be fairly strong yesterday but now there is a downward trend.

Thursday 9th May Update from Di

The journey up to Camp 1 can only be described as memorable.  Since we don’t have any glaciers in the UK, just think about walking over rubble for 2 hours – ankle wrecking/pole breaking rubble at that (just ask Paul).  After the first enjoyable 2 hours, you are then met with the Great Stone Shoot.  After you have weaved yourself through that, the real fun starts.  Think of An Stac Screes but just quadrouple the size.  That’s the journey up to Camp 1.

We have done this journey 4 times and thankfully the next time will be on the summit rotation.

Yesterday we returned from somewhat of a battering on the wee hill.  We made the journey up to Camp 1 in good weather on Friday the 5th May.  The sherpa’s erected the prayer flags and the following day we started on the fixed ropes up to Camp 2.  It was supposed to be a nice weather day, but by about 11, the wind picked up, the cloud rolled in and the weather generally just socked in.  With limited vision we all returned to camp to seek shelter from the elements.

Sunday was supposed to be fine but the tents got a battering during the night with the wind and as a result we never got an early start to set off to camp 2.  Nonetheless, we set off for Camp 2 and got as far as the top of the first steep headwall before once again the cloud rolled in, the wind picked up and the snow started.  With another 4 hours ahead of us we decided to play save and return to Camp 1.  When I was here in 2004, I remember climbing one head wall and then just walking up to Camp 2.  Things looks very different this season with a complex crevasse field to negotiate.

On Monday it was time once again to return to ABC.  It was a sad day, for the big character that is Boris decided that despite being prescribed every pill and potion by resident expert self proclaimed Doc Ross, that he just isn’t acclimitising well.  For him it was the end of his expedition.

This morning with lots of man hugs in the tent, we said farewell to Boris as he started the trek/drive/flight back home.

We have just seen the weather forecast which isn’t great so are now settling down for numerous days walking from personal tents, toilet tent, cook tent and dining tent.  The joys of big mountain climbing.

AP Cho Oyu Team

Thursday 4th May Update from Di

All team members are relaxing at ABC waiting for the next good weather window.

Since the last update, Boris and Ross have managed their first rotation to Camp 1 with Phurba Sherpa.

On the same day, Di & Paul managed their first (non) sleep at Camp 1.  It was a beautiful evening with no wind and amazing views.  As soon as the sun drops behind the ridge, the temperatures plummet and the best place to be is deep inside the sleeping bags.

The Sherpas have been working hard trying to fix the mountain but this morning they too have returned to ABC due to high winds at Camp 1.  By all accounts the route to Camp 2 is more complicated than previous seasons with 2 steep sections unlike the normal one.

It snowed very heavily yesterday afternoon and cloud is lingering along the mountain tops.

Camp 1 is well stocked with oxygen, tents and food and all we need now is some good weather.

Monday 1st May

On Saturday the team managed to walk to the bottom of the scree slope for a leg stretch to drop off some equipment.  If was nice to be moving again, enjoying the panoramic views.

On Sunday Di & Paul did their first carry to Camp 1 whilst Ross & Boris decided to take an extra rest day at ABC.  For Paul & Di, this was the first opportunity to see the route that lay ahead, but unfortunately it was too cold and windy to savour the views for long.

The weather has been pretty fickle, normally the days start off sunny and then the cloud rolls in during the afternoon.  This morning it has been cloudy from the outset.

Normally on expeditions, teams keep themselves to themselves but this Spring season on Cho Oyu is different due to the lack of other teams, and our dining team is a cosmopolitan mix of individuals.  There are only 10 members still at ABC.

If the weather allows, there will be a mass AP team assault on Camp 1 tomorrow.  Fingers crossed …

Friday 28th April – Update from Di

Yesterday we drove to intermediate camp which looked equally appealing as chinese base camp.  By 0940 we were finally travelling on the things at the end of our legs.

We arrived at advanced base camp some 4/5 hours later to be greeted by Pur Temba, our second climbing sherpa.

Ross has a GPS which has all the waypoints marked into it.  This is slightly disheartening when he says that we only have 400m to walk but we are still walking after an hour.  Obviously Ross’s GPS didn’t take bends into account.

The spring season on Cho Oyu is quiet.  I mean really quiet.  In total there are 3 expeditions.  Seriously, there are only 11 members and 6 sherpas.  We got to know the majority of them over dinner.

Last night there was no wind and this morning we awoke to a cloud free day.  We haven’t ventured from the tents today .  Paul & Di spent the afternoon unpacking all the goodies that Stu back in the office had packed.  Food shortage is not on the agenda.

All our equipment has arrived in camp and we have our own little supply tent/comms tent set up now.  Pur Temba has already done one load carry to camp 1.

Tomorrow, we plan to stretch the legs again to do a mini drop at the bottom of the scree slope whilst the sherpas will continue up the hill to start working on the fixed rope.

Wednesday 26th April 2017

As anticipated the team departed New Tingri on the morning of the 24th.  It took about one hours drive to get to Tingri.  Di had been here last in 2005 and hardly recognised it due to the amount of buildings going up. It took them about another hour to arrive at Chinese Base Camp.  They were greeted by Phurba, one of our Sherpas for the expedition who had come down from ABC to meet them and help them get settled in.

Di went on to say “Chinese Base Camp can hardly be described as exciting – not much happening to be honest. Once we settled into our little tents, had some lunch (there seems to be a concern with some of the team members on the expanding waist lines!), we bimbled around camp.

What is very obvious is that we are the only team at Base Camp. Seriously, we are the only expedition here!  There are apparently a few folk up at ABC, but that is it – unlike the 39 expeditions that are operating on the south side of Everest at this exact moment in time.  This is super exciting since there will be no overcrowding, no jams, and no fighting for tent space, instead, hopefully just a very small group of climbers with one objective.

Chinese base camp is windy and it is dusty.  Which is some ways is good because the constant flapping of tents dulls out the sound of the construction trucks that constantly drive past, the police sirens we occasionally hear and the barking dogs.  We quite like the snorting yaks and the birdie tweetie sounds.  The initial impression is a barren place, but actually when you look around there is an amazing amount of wildlife.  The yaks are pottering around looking for morsels to graze on, the hares are bounding and running everywhere, the eagle soars overhead, the pigeons do what pigeons do and the amount of tweetie birds far exceeds my knowledge.  The amount of lichens and mosses also are far beyond my skill set too.”

The  team have spent both mornings now on acclimitisation walks and have been up to over 5600m now.  They are looking forward to moving tomorrow, with a 4 hour walk to ABC, their home for the next 3 weeks.

Sunday 23rd April

IMG_1455   IMG_1474  IMG_1466

The team left Shigatse and arrived in New Tingri yesterday afternoon. The tarmac road took them over 2 high passes, one at 4500m and the second over 5000m.

They are now staying at 4380m and are slowly acclimatising. Headaches are fairly common and more of a pain than a concern.

Today they went for a bimble up a hill nearby to gain some more height and the team are now just catching up with personal admin before they hit the road again tomorrow.

Tomorrow their destination will be Chinese Base Camp, literally the end of the road,  there they will spend a few days there before the trek into ABC starts.

Friday 21st April

IMG_1441   IMG_1444  IMG_1443

The team departed Lhasa and arrived in Shigatse some 7 hours later. Over 200km driven on immaculate tarmac and not one pot hole encountered.

Mountainous and barren scenery all around, with the odd settlement here and there.

Shigatse is at c.3900m and will be the last real civilisation until they return from the mountain.

After sitting all day it was good for the team to explore the afternoon delights.

Thursday 20th April

None of the team have been in Lhasa before so they have been shown around the city’s delights by our CTMA  (China Tibet Mountaineering Association) liaison officer, Tashi.

First up was the Potala Palace, which is on the World Heritage List, followed by the Sera Monastery, the second largest in Tibet.

The team are all noticing the altitude and have replaced shorts for trousers and flip flops for shoes.

Tomorrow they start their overland drive to Chinese Base Camp.

Lhasa 1      Lhasa 2   Lhasa 3

Wednesday 19th April

Di has sent us an update from Tibet.

Boris arrived in Kathmandu as scheduled and the Visa fairies have been hard at work the past few days. Our team is now complete until we meet the Sherpas and our cook team who are already waiting for us at base camp.

As much as it is nice to spend time enjoying Kathmandu and all her jewels, it is good to be on the move again.

This morning, we returned to the airport for our flight to Lhasa, our home for the next couple of days as we start the acclimatisation process. The team are all now in Tibet.


Sunday 16th April

Paul, Ross & Di have all safely arrived in Kathmandu with bags, which is always a bonus. Boris is due to arrive later this evening. All freight has already departed Kathmandu and is travelling overland to Chinese Base Camp. It will wait for us there until we arrive which will be another week or so.  We are now playing the waiting game as our Chinese visa’s are sorted out by the visa fairies.

We are all doing well and enjoying the smells and sounds that Kathmandu delivers in bucket loads.

cho oyu 2     cho oyu1

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  • Joan Gilbert-Stevens says:

    Good luck to the team on the summit bid once the weather permits

  • Michelle Mulligan says:

    Following you guys every step of the way….
    Good luck!
    Bad luck Boris……must have been the taxi ride we shared in Kathmandu – I had to bail out too.

  • Michelle Mulligan says:

    I feel your disappointment – but I’m very glad you are all alive and well. Safe travels home.

  • Joan Gilbert-stevens says:

    Hope all the team has a safe trip home.

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