NEWSLETTERS - Cho Oyo Autumn 1998

Newsletter 417 October 1998

‘Recovery’ or ‘Bad Day to have a Birthday’

For some reason the events of the 7th and 8th are a bit fuzzy although I do remember the hotel gate being more difficult to climb over than expected. Big Boss was still up for work at 8.30am, sleep, aspirin, meal with the Sherpas, Sherpas playing pool in Tom & Jerry’s. More sleep, never drinking again, back to Tom & Jerry’s, just one more drink in the The Underground night-club, oh no, I have to be at the airport at 6am tomorrow!!!

Newsletter 406 October 1998

 ‘Mindless shopping in Kathmandu’

Usual Kathmandu stuff - buying things that you don’t really need. Some team members congregate in the Maya bar as a warm up to Le Pen’s birthday the following day. Birthday celebrations begin at 12.01am on the 7th. Alan Burgess turns up from somewhere, off to somewhere else.

Newsletter 396 October 1998

‘Mindless shopping in Kathmandu’

Usual Kathmandu stuff - buying things that you don’t really need. Some team members congregate in the Maya bar as a warm up to Le Pen’s birthday the following day. Birthday celebrations begin at 12.01am on the 7th. Alan Burgess turns up from somewhere, off to somewhere else.

Newsletter 385 October 1998

BC - Kathmandu

The coldest day is left until the last. Up at 4.30am to wait for the Land Cruisers to take us back to Nyalam. At 6.30am it was #@~}&£$ freezing. Our Chinese driver was a Spice Girls fan (Ginger’s replacement), but our jeep won the rally back to Tingri. I’m sure he was aiming for all those potholes. Great views of Cho Oyu and Everest followed by Shisapangma and Gaurishanker from the Cho La. So many mountains, so little time! Another landslide above

Newsletter 374 October 1998

‘Match of the Day’

The world’s highest football game is held at BC. ‘Gringo United’ vs. ‘Sherpa Athletic’. DC and Le Pen snatch a dramatic victory against the Sherpas. When the ball goes out of play all the players sit down to try to recuperate. Any form of tackling is limited to 10 second bursts of energy followed by 2 minutes of hyperventilating. The rest of the day is spent unconscious. Mental note to enter Sherpa team in next World Cup. Brazil watch out!

Newsletter 363 October 1998

Rest at BC

BC turned out to be colder than C3. There was not much to do apart from eat, drink and play cards. Yak men’s Xi stones were exchanged for socks, sewing kits, foot powder and other surplus items. The yak men are extremely fascinating people. We decided that a beer would be a good idea. So, we went over to the local superstore (the Chinese LO tents) to buy some beer. 24 cans for $48!!!!!! Well we were in the middle of nowhere. If he lived in the West, little Tensing, the son of the main yak man, would have more money than Bill Gates.

Newsletter 352 October 1998


It snowed throughout the night and for most of the morning. I awoke to find the Sherpas trying to pack my tent whilst I was still in it. We all retreated to the mess tent for breakfast and played yet more card games while we waited for the yaks to get loaded and head off. This was so we could follow their ‘dung trail’. In a way it was sad to leave, but it was the only thing to do. The route back seemed much longer than on the way up, but of course we did take two days on the way up. The river crossing near to BC was exciting.


Newsletter 341 October 1998

’The Road to Hell!’

In order to leave ABC early we had to dismantle C1. So, DC, DG, DW & Le Pen went back to C1 for the last time. Even after a days rest we were still exhausted. Meanwhile Big Boss and the Sherpas transferred most of ABC into barrels ready to go to BC. The team motto became ‘I was half a Sherpa for half a day… and it sucked.’ That day was probably one of the hardest we had spent on the mountain.

Newsletter 3330 September 1998

Recuperation - ABC

It was a time for reflection on how we had been denied the summit, but c’est la vie. The main thing was that nobody on our team had been injured. We did not have enough time for another attempt, and quite frankly no-one had enough energy left. We were therefore going to leave ABC early. To take our minds off events some of us played cards. I had never played cards for 8 hours straight through a day. I now have nightmares about the two of clubs. Doug ‘Radar’ Ward was finally defeated, so the day was not a dead loss.

Newsletter 3229 September 1998

C3 - ABC

By early morning it was still snowing and the avalanche risk was high so we had to decide to abandon our summit bid as conditions were too dangerous. We headed back down to C2 in near waist deep snow. All other teams were bailing out as well. At C2 we packed as much gear as possible into our rucsacs and continued on down to C1 and finally ABC. By the time we reached ABC in the late afternoon we were all exhausted.

Newsletter 3128 September 1998

 C2 - C3 (7400m)

Although C3 is nearly in sight from C2, the little trip from 7000 - 7400m in a snow shower was still hard work. We were certainly tired on arrival and everyone was keyed up to go for the summit the next day. We all felt in good health and ready, but unfortunately the snow did not seem to want to let up. We all checked the conditions during the night, but it had not stopped. It was therefore quite a fitful night as it seemed our summit aspirations may be fading away. However we continued to brew drinks and eat in the hope that it would stop snowing…

Newsletter 3027 September 1998

C1 - C2

The trip from C1 to C2 was the same as always. Full of great views and hard work. A lot of us did manage to take some photos as it would be unlikely that we would have the energy to do so on the way down. At C2 Le Pen finally lost his resolve and made DC a cup of tea - anything for a quite life. The usual story, drink, eat, drink and rest as much as possible.

Newsletter 2926 September 1998

ABC - C1

RH returned from C1 looking tired, but happy. Well done RH! It was now time for our summit attempt to begin. DC, LM, DW and PBS head off to C1. Our rucsacs were pretty light, so we made good time to C1. Once there the same routine kicked in, drink, food, drink, sleep.

Newsletter 2825 September 1998

Rest Day ABC

What can only be described as a non-event type of day. Cleaning, washing, etc. The returning summiteers produce some excitement, and look completely wasted. One of them was heard to say ‘I thought that was supposed to be an easy 8000er.’ Maybe no 8000m peaks are easy?

At ABC it is a strange thing to be doing tasks and still feel tired implying that you are not acclimatised; you are in fact acclimatised, you are just doing things faster.

Newsletter 2724 September 1998

Rest Day ABC / (Summit Attempt)

Whilst most of the team are luxuriating at ABC, RH and DG are busy making their summit attempt along with some other teams. The entire inhabitants of ABC spend all day looking through binoculars and telescopes at the trail of dots heading towards the summit. The trail is visible through the naked eye. DC spends the entire day walking around with two walkie talkies. Phurba, Sonam and RH (on O2) get to the summit first. DG (Crusty) makes it to 8100m without O2 . On the way Crusty’s ascender manages to fly into his mouth, resulting in minor tongue loss. (sorry mate I had to mention it.) A superb effort by both.

Newsletter 2623 September 1998

C2 - ABC / (C2 - C3)

Managed to sleep on a snow ridge all night which was not very comfortable. There were no plans to move until the sun hit the tents as it was just too cold to get up, so a leisurely brew and breakfast were called for. It was very cold waiting for everyone to get ready and wishing RH, DG and the Sherpas good luck for their summit attempt. Back at ABC it was into relaxation mode combined with thinking about our own summit plans.. RH and DG move to C3, ready to make their summit attempt the next day.

Newsletter 2522 September 1998

C1 - C2 (7000m)

It was very cold so we did not get up until 5am. The trip to C2 was much easier than the first time, but again, still very hard. The top of the icefall was a good place to stop to take in the breathtaking views. However fast you are going, it’s still sometimes annoying to be passed by so many Sherpas, carrying so much and moving so quickly. The final stretch to C2 seemed to go on forever. Big Boss made a fast move from BC - C2 in the early evening, only stopping midway to be dive-bombed by a high-altitude chuff. ‘Just like climbing Mont Blanc in the dark’ apparently.

Newsletter 2421 September 1998

ABC - C1

We had a briefing in the morning from Big Boss on the oxygen sets. Although the summit attempts were all planned to be without O2, it was vital that it was available at C3 on coming back from the summit in case of an emergency. The tanks were much lighter than you would have thought. So once more through the moraine, this time with a much faster pace. A Wayfarer chilli goes down very well for supper. More drinks and idle conversation, followed by sleep as soon as possible.

Newsletter 2320 September 1998

Dinner Party - ABC

Yet another rest day. The Sherpas idea of how I could get a skin colour as good as theirs did not seem too practical i.e. stop wearing sunscreen. The main talk of the day was the forthcoming dinner party. Fancy being caught at ABC without my dinner jacket! On a serious note we had a meeting to discuss summit plans. It was also the first day that it was not very sunny in the morning. At the dinner party we had to make do with ties made out of slings. Unfortunately our guests were not dressed accordingly, but we let them in any way. Much food, wine and beer was consumed, it seemed that most of ABC had turned up. Crusty acted as DJ. A late night in Himalayan terms.

Newsletter 2219 September 1998

BC - Rest Day

Apparently there are some comedians in the team. Just because some people do not feel the need to get up too early, a DO NOT DISTURB sign is put on their tent, namely that of Le Pen and The Spoon’s - much to the amusement of the Sherpas. Jon Tinker popped in for a cup of tea. He left after a bottle of Glenfiddich muttering something about a TV project he wanted to make. The discussion had been the same as always. Climbing, mutual friends and the health benefits of drinking whisky. Pretty much a normal rest day, really.

Newsletter 2119 September 1998

C1 - ABC

A good nights sleep was had by all. Big Boss and the Sherpas arrived at 7.30am en route to C2 and C3. After sorting out our equipment we headed off down the mountain. A trifle after lunch went down very well. The rest of the day was spent relaxing. My success rate at cards was not improving. Everyone is starting to look a little leaner, even though the crisp barrel is being constantly raided.

Newsletter 2017 September 1998

Load Carry C1 - C2

Most of the team had a restless first night at C1. We woke at 4.00am to start brewing drinks and set off at 6.30am up the snow slopes to C2. The steeper sections of the slope were fixed with ropes for safety. The snow conditions were good and progress was slow, but steady. It was not particularly cold until we reached the bottom of the steep ice-cliff. The ice-cliff was technically easy, but lead to everyone having frozen hands, regardless of the number of pairs of gloves they were wearing. On top of the ice-cliff we were in the sun and it became very hot.

The final traverse to C2 at 7000m was exhausting. What had taken all day to climb we descended in 1 hour 15 mins.

Newsletter 1916 September 1998

Load Carry ABC - C1

The second trip to C1 was no easier, although we were all moving a bit faster. The trick is to carry as much vital gear as possible so as to minimise the number of trips required, but not to carry so much that you are completely exhausted on reaching camp. The weather closed in just as we reached the prayer flags that indicated we were on the ridge. The view of the route is just as good second time around. After collecting some snow to melt, it was into the tents and time to brew up and eat. We all fell asleep, probably in the middle of another aimless conversation.

Newsletter 1714 September 1998

Load Carry ABC - C1

Everyone was up early to get ready for the first trip to C1 and more than a little anxious. The moraine to the bottom of the scree slope was much easier for everyone, but still hard work. We would have liked to say something nice about the scree slope to C1, but anyone who has been on Cho Oyu from the North will agree that it is a @#£%&+* However on arrival at C1 - what a view! Nearly all of the route to the summit was visible and it was all on snow. Quite a few people made new height records on reaching C1. (6400m)

Newsletter 1613 September 1998

ABC - The Pujah

The pujah is extremely important to the Sherpas as they will not go onto the mountain until it has been performed. The lama was from the Japanese team and he also lived in the same village as one of our Sherpas. It was a very fascinating ceremony and as we were going to need all the help we could get, everyone joined in as best they could. It seemed that the main aim was to try to throw your handful of rice at the same time as everyone else, so as not to look like an idiot, although no-one would have cared. Our ice-axes were blessed and everything was covered in smoke from the burning juniper. Drinks and food were passed around to anyone and everyone in the vicinity. Marvellous!

It was interesting to find out what the colour of each prayer flag represents e.g. Red = Sun, Blue = Sky, White = Cloud, Green = Grass and Yellow = Fire.

Newsletter 1512 September 1998

Acclimatisation trek

First really good views of Cho Oyu from close up. There seems to be an awful lot of snow on the upper slopes, but a blast of wind will take care of that. Time to start behaving like mountaineers so it was off for an acclimatisation trek up the moraine. Everyone felt great, for the first 20 seconds, and then wished they were back in their tents. Interesting route finding and eye straining looking for marker flags. Moraine is dominated by huge penitentes as it dog-legs right, towards the final scree slope to C1. It would have been good to have some technical axes (and some energy!) It was now a lottery as to who felt good or bad, but that evening at ABC everyone was tired.

Newsletter 1411 September 1998

ABC - Construction (5605m)

If you’re going to live somewhere for 3 weeks you might as well make it as comfortable as possible. It also helps to have a safe route between tents, so the day was spent path building, tent levelling and indulging in other household tasks. Just like building a large patio at home, really. In-between flattening the entire moraine we all stared at the Nangpa La, the main route to Namche Bazar, which looked fantastic. Most people crashed out in the afternoon to nurse headaches, write diaries and ponder on how there can be snow and blazing sunshine at the same time. The satellite phone seems to have blown up - so much for technology.

Newsletter 1310 September 1998

Interim Camp - ABC

A cold early morning start. Everyone was quite tired, but eager to get to ABC. It was moraine all the way again which was pretty soul destroying. It was interesting to note that other groups did not stay together as we did. Spectacular views of the Gyabrag glacier on our right-hand-side, with it’s huge penitentes (don’t think you spell it this way - need to check it in a mountaineering book!). DC remarked that this was very similar to the East Rongbuk glacier on the N. side of Everest. Good yak photos. The pace was as slow as possible. On arrival at ABC we went straight to the OTT tent where we were given hot drinks which was much appreciated. It was then time to move to our own camp to start putting up tents which was hard work.

Newsletter 129 September 1998

BC - Interim Camp (5350m)

Everyone was up early for final preparations before the yaks arrived. As DC noted, we were ‘rushing around to go nowhere’ as everything now depended on the yaks. As usual I got hammered again at cards. It was a very hot day, but as expected the river crossing led to some very cold, (if clean), feet. We watched with amusement as Big Boss punched out an out of control yak - that’ll teach it. All day walking on a lunar landscape. Everyone went at their own pace and it was quite a hard day. It started snowing on arrival at interim camp which was quite a bleak place. We all slept in one tent which was cosy(?) Most people felt pretty rough - that’s altitude for you!


Newsletter 118 September 1998

BC - The Yaks are coming!

The Yaks are coming on the 9th , so the day is spent packing equipment into blue barrels. More time to practice abseiling and jumaring. Big Boss advises Crusty not to put karabiners into his mouth high on the mountain as this could result in unnecessary lip removal (see 24th Sept!) A game of football with some Sherpas and some Spanish members of another team is hard work. Most people are quite tired after a hectic day.

Newsletter 107 September 1998

Base Camp (4865m)

Snowed in the night. Most people spent the morning sorting out equipment. A trip to the local crag was arranged for abseiling and jumaring practice, but this had to be cut short when it started to ‘chuck it down.’ It snowed again after lunch, so relaxing, eating and washing are the order of the day. The evening revolves around playing cards and listening to the world service.

Newsletter 96 September 1998

Tingri - BC

Set off at 8 am in an open truck for the 2 hr trip to BC. Rain threatens but we arrive dry. BC is on a flat green meadow next to a river. Other teams have already set-off for ABC, perhaps too quickly. The Sherpa staff cook an excellent meal for us and it is good to finally meet them. Without their help, hard work and friendship we will have no chance. A snow shower passes quickly revealing Cho Oyo, which looks HUGE. Chill out for rest of day.

Newsletter 85 September 1998

Tingri (4342m)

While the team climbs a local peak for acclimatisation, Big Boss heads off with the Sherpas to set-up BC. From our high point at 4660m we can see rain clouds heading towards BC. The rest of the day is spent washing, playing cards and exploring Tingri. At this stage rest is vital. ANOTHER Chinese meal for supper.

Newsletter 74 September 1998

Nyalam - Tingri

Back into 4x4's for the drive to Tingri. Cross Lo Lung La at 5050m. Unfortunately clouds obscure our views of the big peaks. Plenty of photo opportunities as we travel through the countryside. The scale of the scenery is nearly too large to take in. Doug was 'surprised to see the hills on the Tibetan plateau that provided a contrast to the wide flat valleys.'

The team spends the rest of the day relaxing. First views of Cho Oyo and Everest in the late evening. It is very cold when the sun goes down!

Newsletter 63 September 1998

Nyalam Acclimatisation

Ascent of a nearby local peak (4370m). All team members acclimatising well although there are a few 'dodgy stomachs' - this can always be expected. Glimpses of nearby peaks are possible through breaks in the cloud. Possible site for high altitude golf course/ski centre mapped out by 'Crusty', one of the entrepreneurs in the team. The evening passes with cards & discussion. All hope that the rats in the lodge where we are staying don't break through the ceiling. The karaoke bar does not fail to entertain to the extent that only Big Boss notices the earthquake in the middle of the night.

Newsletter 52 September 1998

Cross Friendship Bridge into Tibet - Nyalam (3750m)

Standing in the back of the truck en route to Zangmu is similar to skiing moguls for an hour. The border formalities are reasonably painless and our first meal in Tibet is excellent. Transfer to 4x4's for the steep drive to Nyalam. Massive drops on roadside are not visible due to the cloud base - thankfully. Terrain changes from lush greenery to something resembling the Cairngorm plateau. The local karaoke bar in Nyalam is… interesting(?)

Newsletter 41 September 1998

Kathmandu - Kodari via bus

Weather is good and spirits are high. Landslips on the road due to heavy rainfall are successfully negotiated and give the team an opportunity to stretch their legs on a 4 km walk and the chance to meet the local inhabitants. The landscape is dominated by deep gorges and the powerful Bhote Kosi river. The hot springs of Tatopani are very refreshing and according to Peter, 'not to be missed.'

Newsletter 230 August 1998


The team assembles in Kathmandu.Straight away the ritual known as 'the packing of the blue barrel' begins. A quiet team meeting in the hotel bar is interrupted by Victor Saunders, Jim Curran and Chris Bonnington. Much theorising and discussion on a range of topics follow. Messrs. Bonnington, Curran and Saunders are given a good run for their money. 34 bottles of strong beer are reported missing in action - presumed dead.

Newsletter 184 March 1998

15 September 1998 Rest Day - ABC

Everyone needed it! Diary, washing, eating, preparation and sleeping. Welcome to Himalayan climbing! Not much else to say apart from that it snowed in the afternoon and we were gradually getting used to the cold. The Sherpas cooked an ‘interesting’ meal for supper and it should not be possible for one man to lose so many games of cards.

Newsletter 33 March 1998


The effects of the previous nights 'acclimatisation' are evident throughout the team. Big Boss says that the characteristics of a hangover are an excellent representation of the effects of climbing at high altitude. Team members spend the day shopping and site-seeing (or piecing in the memory blanks of the previous night.) Everyone is keen to get the expedition underway. 34 bottles of beer 'mysteriously' replaced by a rather large bar bill.

Newsletter 13 March 1998

Russell has just been to London where the special mountain food and cooking gas has been purchased. This will depart London for Kathmandu on Saturday 22 August. He will be arriving in Kathmandu on 26 August where he will meet with my Sherpas who are already waiting. Dave Cumming, another guide from Chamonix, and the second guide for this year's Cho Oyo expedition will be arriving in Kathmandu on the 29th August.

The Team: