NEWSLETTERS - Cho Oyo Autumn 2000

Newsletter 311 September 2000

Base Camp to Advanced Base Camp

Again we have a partly sunny morning with brief views of Cho Oyo. After packing most of our remaining gear it is decided that we will not go to interim BC today. Instead, tomorrow we will go directly from BC to ABC in one day. Given the yaks that are available today, the bulk of our equipment is loaded onto the yaks and sent up to ABC. Loading 50 yaks each with two 30 kilo barrels is a very entertaining ordeal which consumes most of the morning. The Sherpas go with the yaks and our equipment and will set up ABC for our arrival tomorrow. Most of us take casual hikes around BC and are treated to hot showers in the afternoon. We are also treated to a spectacular sunset at dinner time. (MS)

6 September

Today we are up early and on the trail before 8 am for what is clearly the most ambitious day of the trip so far. From BC to ABC we will travel 22 kilometers and climb approximately 2,500 feet to arrive at 18,000 feet. The entire group immediately gets spread out across the glacial valley as everyone decides they have a better way to cross the multitude of streams. Depending on your choice of route you may cross as many as 7 or 8 times with water depth varying from ankle deep to mid thigh. At least one person on another expedition was knocked over by the force of the water and went for a very cold swim, pack and all. One of our team members (Chung) experiences some tightness in his chest and he must slow his pace accordingly. Fortunately the condition is not serious, however, this causes a very long delay in our progress to ABC. After some discussion we decide to continue on to ABC. We quickly separate into two groups moving at different speeds. As early afternoon approaches the weather deteriorates rapidly. A cold wind picks up and we are pelted by rain and snow. The visibility also deteriorates as we all struggle in vain to stay warm and dry. Russell stays back with the trailing group to keep an eye on Chung while the lead group moves ahead without any of its members having been on this trail before. We make one route mistake which takes us through a nasty mudslide. At 4 pm in miserable weather conditions the first members of the lead group arrive at ABC to be greeted by our Sherpa staff with warm tea, food, and dry tents. The rest of the team trickles in over the next few hours. When Chung finally arrives after dark with Russell he is greeted by applause from all the other team members. (MS)

7 September

Our first morning at ABC dawns with our first view or our route on Cho Oyu. With our camp covered in snow and Cho Oyu shrouded in clouds, the view is both breathtaking and a bit daunting. After a few brief minutes the clouds envelope us and it snows and rains for the duration of the day. Most of us are very glad to have a day of rest after yesterdays long haul. Yesterdays cold wet conditions did not help those of us trying to recover from colds and respiratory illness. (MS)

8 September

Wind and snow persist all night long and we wake to snow covered tents. It continues to snow through the early morning and the cloud cover makes for very limited visibility. After breakfast the Sherpas hold the Pujha ceremony for our expedition. This is a solemn and joyous event of prayer and offerings asking for safe passage for all the expedition members. The weather graciously improves for the Pujha ceremony giving us spectacular views of Cho Oyu's Northwest face. The remainder of the day consists of post Pujha festivities filled with laughter and partying. This also serves as second day of rest and acclimatization at ABC. (MS)

9 September

Yet another cold and snowy night as we wake to mostly cloudy skies and limited visibility. This being our 3rd day at ABC most of the team decides to take a hike along the glacier towards camp 1. The route along the glacier consists of loose rocks, boulders, and scree on top of glacier ice. Spectacular ice sculptures and glacial streams and lakes highlight the trail. We hike to about 19,000 feet which puts us right at the base of the Northwest face of Cho Oyu. A couple of our more ambitious members continue on up a steep scree slope to camp 1 at around 21,000 feet. As we return to ABC via the glacier the weather deteriorates again to what has been a persistent pattern of low clouds, wind and snow. Ellen Miller arrives at ABC to join or team after having completed the Eco Challenge in Borneo. (MS)

10 September

Another morning of low clouds, snow, wind and cold. Brad has returned to BC after receiving medical treatment in Kathmandu. We are looking forward to having him rejoin us at ABC tomorrow. Russell and the Sherpas leave in the early morning to carry loads up to camp 1 to begin the process of establishing our camps higher on the mountain. They report 60+ MPH winds at camp 1. This is actually good news as the high winds help to clear the upper mountain of snow and reduces the avalanche risk. Another expedition looses a tent at camp 1 due to the high winds. After suffering food poisoning from a restaurant in Nepal, and a severe persistent respiratory illness Larry has decided to head down to BC and lower ground in order to improve his chances of recovering from his illness. It is a very difficult and slow process to recover from illnesses at 18,000 feet (if not impossible). (MS)

11 September

Day 5 at ABC dawns with beautiful clear skies! This is our first day of nice sunny weather at ABC and for the first time we can see the spectacular panorama of mountains and glaciers which surround us at ABC. We can clearly see our route on Cho Oyu and can see some of the earlier expeditions making their way up the ice cliff on to camp 2. The sunshine does wonders for every ones mood. Another day of acclimatization and light hiking for those feeling up to it. Bertrand and Lou hike over to the Nangpa La at the boarder of Nepal and Tibet to do some recognizance on the snow conditions for possible snow boarding. Brad arrives from BC today healthy and ready to go. Tomorrow the whole team will be taking light loads to camp 1. (MS)