Climbs 8K Peaks
Friday, October 8, 1999
"Here I sit, reunited in the warmth of my home and my friends and loved ones, having made a very difficult decision only a week ago to pull my team out of the Himalaya early..."
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Join MountainZone.com as we travel to Tibet for the 1999 Cho Oyu Expedition.
[Climbing Itinerary] [Expedition Guides] [Team Bios]
Cho Oyu sits astride the border of Nepal and Tibet, about 20 miles west of Mount Everest. It is the sixth highest mountain in the world (8201 meters or about 26,900 feet). Cho Oyu is translated in Tibetan as "the goddess of the turquoise." A famous trade route crossed Nangpa La pass, just west of Cho Oyu, and very close to the Advanced Base Camp. From Tibet, salt was brought over this pass to Namche Bazaar (Khumbu's commerce center) in exchange for grain from the south.
Before I went to Cho Oyu in 1995, only nine Americans had reached the summit. That year, our team put 13 more Americans and two Sherpas on the top. We at International Mountain Guides have conducted six expeditions (three spring and three autumn trips) since '95, putting over 40 people on the summit of this increasingly popular peak.
The spring season starts during cold, windy March and April, but the weather becomes warmer and calmer by mid-May. Autumn is the opposite. Starting in September, the weather is warmer than March (with more snow, leftover from the monsoon) but becomes colder and windier by mid-October. Spring is icier; autumn has more avalanche hazard.
The Climbing Scene
Guiding in the Himalaya
I know it is a subject of big debate these days, but for the record, I want to say that I think it's terrific that "normal" people can go climb these great mountains. When I was a kid, growing up in the '60s and '70s, the only way you could get on a Himalayan expedition was to be a part of some elite national team, or play the political game and meet the right people to get yourself invited on a big trip. Nowadays, if you have the skills, the money, and the desire, you can give it a shot. There's no guarantee that you'll make the top...and that is the way it should be!
There are a lot of companies offering mountaineering programs in the Himalaya. I encourage prospective climbers to shop around, and thoroughly understand the differences between the programs. Generally, you get what you pay for, and you can get any level of support that you require: guides, Sherpas, oxygen, fixed rope, use of high altitude camps, emergency jeep, etc.
Eric Simonson, MountainZone.com Correspondent