NEWSLETTERS - Cho Oyo Expedition 2002

Newsletter 51 October 2002

Summit

The plan was to go up to Camp 1 on 28th September, for our final summit attempt, as time was running out. We were desperately hoping for the weather to be on our side for a change.

When we left ABC it was still quite windy and snowy and we climbed up the dreaded scree slope for one last time, still uncertain as to whether or not we would get above Camp 2.

We woke on the 29th to see windy lenticular clouds covering the summit above us, and we packed up and left for Camp 2 feeling pretty sure that this would just be a gear retrieval exercise. The climb up to 7100 metres was cold, windy and a fight with the elements and we were glad to crawl into our tents.

The plan for the next day was of course very much dependent on the weather. But at last our luck turned. We were woken at 2am to find a clear starry sky and no wind. It was all systems go! However at that altitude it is not quite so simple just to go, as snow has to be melted for drinks and food and this all takes time. But by 4am we were all dressed and ready in downsuits, boots, crampons, harnesses, headtorches and of course oxygen masks - which made it impossible to tell who was who.

For several hours a caravan of headtorches crawled slowly up the hill towards the summit of Cho Oyo. As dawn broke we could see were high over the Himalaya - high above most other mountains and the views were breathtaking.

Our first real challenge of the morning was the rockband. We had to climb this by means of jumaring, and at 7600 metres, even with supplementary oxygen this left us totally exhausted - and it brought home to us how high we really were.

Soon after this Paul realised his toes were becoming dangerously cold and made the sensible decision to turn back. From here on we split into two groups, with Stuart, Mark and Simon going on ahead and Chris, Sue and Ian following on behind.

By this time we were almost at 8000 metres and it really felt like it, as the whole world seemed to be dropping away below us. It was a truly amazing feeling and something we will never forget.

At 8150 metres Chris, Sue and Ian were on the summit plateau and met the other three returning from the summit. There was a quick group discussion regarding remaining time and oxygen and it was decided that it would be prudent for them to turn around and descend with Stuart, Mark and Simon. At that height everyone felt as though they were on top of the world and the stunning views across Nepal and Tibet proved that we nearly were. It was a very emotional moment.

Of course we still had to get down and this proved tortuous and exhausting as most of us had now run out of oxygen. It certainly made us realise what a big mountain Cho Oyo is. On arriving back at our safe haven of Camp 2 we just had enough energy to congratulate each other before falling comatose into our tents.

We are now back at ABC packing up ready to leave for Base Camp tomorrow. We will be back in the fleshpots of Kathmandu on Friday - and to say we are looking forward to a bit of good food and comfort is certainly not an understatement