NEWSLETTERS - Cho Oyo Expedition 2003

Newsletter 210 September 2003

Dispatch Two: Base Camp to Advanced Base Camp

Friday the 5 September was the last full day that we spent at base camp and it was a day of mixed emotions. Firstly it was the day of departure of Juhani and Merja the Finnish couple who had come with intent of reaching base camp and spending some time viewing the mountain. We were all very sad to see them go, they had been very good traveling companions. Some of us had also benefited from Juhani's skill as a doctor and Merja's as a nurse.

It was, however, not a simple departure for Juhani and Merja for the day started with an unexpected casualty. While having breakfast one of the Sherpas asked Russell to take a look at a Yakman from another expedition. The very unfortunate Yakman had sustained a nasty puncture wound just below and involving the right eye. The wound was weeping and had been bleeding, it appeared that he had recieved no medical attention of any kind. He explained that the accident had occurred at around midnight, a yak horn had caused the wound.

He was pretty keen to get back to work, herding up towards ABC. This was clearly not going to be possible. Russell and Richard provided first aid, cleaning and bandaging the wound. After discussion between, Russell, Julian and Juhani it was decided that the Yakman be given a strong painkiller (Tramadol), an anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen) and an antibiotic (Amoxil). Russell organised and paid for the Yakman to be transported to the nearest hospital, he also provided for one of the Yakman's friends to travel down later to see him. The whole incident was very unfortunate and it sent a shock through our party We were also very angry at the lack of attention and even basic aid provided by the expedition effectively employing the Yakman. There is often criticism of commercial expeditions in terms of their large infrastructure and associated costs. This incident clearly shows, that to operate in this environment, you need to be prepared and it is the prepared expeditions that absorb the lack of preparation from others. But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this incident was the apparent lack of compassion shown to a fellow human being.

Saturday dawned a glorious day for our move to ABC. There was an air of excitement at the prospect of moving to the mountain proper. We were also very aware that this was going to be a long day, 22km and approx 800m of ascent. We headed out of camp after breakfast and crossed the river via a foot bridge. We were then lucky to find a new road heading towards ABC and then a truck offering a ride to the construction head. So 22 of us hitched a ride, on the back of a truck carrying diesel drums, halfway to ABC. A gift from the gods. We walked another four hours and arrived at ABC in the snow with only a short wait for the yaks and Lachhu. He has left after us and ran from BC to ABC in less than 5 hours. He was a little suprised that he did not catch us up.

Monday, time for the puja, the gateway for everyone planning to approach the mountain. The sherpas set up the scene which was nothing less than fantastic. Prayers, prayerflags, presents, offerings for the mountain gods and many rituals all together gave everyone a very emotional moment to remember. Now we can procede further up Cho Oyo knowing that we have the blessing of the mountain gods. Which was exactly what was planned for us yesterday, as we all headed up towards camp 1 at 6400 meters.

Tuesday. First part of the trip consisted of a large amount of bouldering and scree. Then we approached what Russell describes as, 'a gentle scree slope'. I doubt any of the expedition members agree with that statement, since 40-50 degrees were dominant throughout. But then again, Russell has tried some rather taxing things in his time... Anyway most people felt up for the challenge and gave it their best shot. Which proved sufficient, the team looks fit and keen, promising well for the tasks ahead.. The descent of the scree slope actually turned out to cause more worried minds than the ascent since speed can quickly become too hairy.. Luckily everyone got down safely with only a few slips being the case..

Back home at ABC everybody felt just a "little" exhausted but also satisfied knowing that an important milestone had been reached...

Wednesday. Today & tomorrow are rest days after which we go to camp 1 again to sleep overnight.. Also meaning that we have to transport quite a heavier load than last time.. Ascent times are likely to be just a tad slower.

Signing off

Julian Haszard and Mogens Jensen