NEWSLETTERS - Cho Oyo Expedition 2003

Newsletter 523 September 2003


On Sunday the 21st September 2003, the Himalayan Experience team extended its history of success on Cho Oyo 8201m the world's sixth highest mountain. Seven team members, seven Sherpas and expedition leader Russell Brice (8th ascent) summitted in good weather. The team also made a very quick and ordered descent down to camp 1, bypassing camps 3 and 2 to ensure a safe and comfortable night, the Sherpas and Russell even went to ABC.

Four members of the expedition were at ABC resting in preparation for a later summit bid with extra acclimitisation. Jo, Rob and Kevin have left today for their summit bid hopefully on the 26th. We wish them all the best.
Today over lunch we made radio contact with the Shishapangma team, they were very high on the mountain in their summit bid.
Unfortunately they were encountering heavy snow and the day was getting late. The decision to turn around was made. Success is not out of the question for them, as they have time for another attempt, next time with oxygen to increase power and endurance through the snow. The following are interpretations from those that headed for the summit of Cho Oyo on the 21st September 2003.
You travel around the world and you climb mountains here and there and you think you've conquered them or yourself... until you get to the Himalayas of course. With all due respect to other peaks and ranges, surely the Himalayas are what real mountains were meant to be. Head and shoulders above the rest, in every sense.
Cho Oyo was my pick for a first 8000m ascent, and Himex was my chosen carrier, and rightly so.
Like all the other peaks I have had the chance of climbing, I never dreamed of conquering Cho Oyo, but as I scaled it, I truly discovered -the hard way- what conquering oneself is. Every single step or the way, was one step beyond my potential... Or was it?
I thank the Good Lord for getting me to the summit and back safely, and I congratulate my sponsors: Banque Audi and its Insurance Company for believing in my project and planting the Lebanese National flag the highest it has ever been: 8201m at 11:24AM on Sunday September 21st 2003.

Maxime Edgard Chaya (Lebanon)

Hi everybody. Everything is wonderfull that has a good end. Even as I have been missing home all the time, I am now already missing the adventure that I had on reaching the summit of Cho Oyo. I was impressed to feel like a bird and a fish at the same time. Climbing higher than birds fly and taking almost no breath like a fish. On a summit day in 9 hours I used less than half of the bottle of highly compressed pure oxygen, that is surprisingly less than half of our lungs or a good bottle of Coca Cola :) Hard work, concentration, patience, team spirit and perfect organization makes it happen. I am extremely happy to look at the world from the peak, Cho Oyo, my first eight thousander.

Darius Vaiciulis (Lithuania)

Funnily enough, although summiting Cho Oyo was an inspirational experience, it was somewhat surprisingly, surpassed the next day.
Having descended to camp 1 on summit day, it transpired that I had slight snow blindness. The WHOLE summit team assisted in the somewhat interesting, partly sighted descent down the "gentle" snow covered scree slope, where two Sherpa's gave further invaluable assistance back to ABC. We all arrived together, as a team - quite remarkable. At ABC all remaining members and support team continued with remarkable assistance. As we all know, getting to the summit is only the half way mark, getting back safely is the only true measure of success - truly a team effort. Oh, and then there was the Sherpa dancing night, but that's another storey altogether.......

Ian Wiper (Great Britain)

Good experience! I could not know how oxygen is tasty, in fact I wanted to try without it. After trouble with my stomach at camp 1, my power was declining little by little... But now I'm very happy because I climbed with kind and powerful friends. Some day, I want to come back to the Himalayan again.

Makoto Otake (Japan)

Back at ABC after standing on top of the sixth highest peak in the world, just 48 hours before, is an indescribable experience. It was worth all of the oxygen deprived sleepless nights while lying in the tent. When looking at Cho Oyo from a hill top in Tingri, fifty miles away, three weeks ago the mountain appeared as an ominous and impossible task! But as we moved on to base camp, advanced base camp, camp 1, 2, and finally camp 3 the summit became realistic right before us. With the experience and professionalism of Russell and the Sherpa team, and the blessing of good weather, we went to the summit and all the way back down to camp 1. The complete experience is something that I learned a lot from and will always remember.

Tom Souders [USA]


The mountains? - such a joy. The cold? - not so bad. Accommodation? - palatial tents. Sherpas? - Aston Martins in the mountains. Apple Pie? - just amazing. Group friendship? - cheap psychotherapy. Music? - Cypress Hill underappreciated. Spanish Climber (female) on a hard day? - a vision of loveliness. Camp 2 to Camp 3? - deep snow, hot and tiring work. Summit morning? - cold breath covered by oxygen masks, headlights in the darkness and so surreal. Summit success? - exhaustion sets in but other rewards. Descent? - dreams of Coke (western capitalism?). Expedition reading? - "The Life of Pi", 'an endless blue expanse of story telling about adventure, survival, and, ultimately, faith.' The selective transforming of reality?

Something of a stream of conciousness about expedition life, but what was the one constant? Himex professionalism, organisation and support - remarkable and fantastic.

David Hoile (England)

A story of greatness undisputed. The term "STRONG" is often used in mountaineering regarding many people. However, in my mind only one kind of person should be labelled that !!!
The sherpas surpass any other human being regarding strength. They are simply amazing by a standard that is almost surreal.. It is not just their tireless work effort where they go twice as fast, carry twice as much, day after day after day..... What they overcome is absolutely astounding totally beyond my comprehension.
Even with the above, in the way they always smile, and you can see through their eyes that it is genuine. Always ready to help in any possible way, always being kind to anyone, it is surely hard not to loose your heart to these proud people who deserve all the praise in the world.. They have forever a place in my mind and my heart... Must the best of their past become the worst of their future
Be great

Mogens Jensen (Denmark)

In the tent at 0330 there was nothing to be worried about, just the time pressure in order to be ready for the 0430 start. 0415 and Russell shouts "Are we ready to do this?" no reply then another "Are we ready to do this?" We begin to emerge from our tents. I struggle with cold crampons and my fingers in their inner gloves begin to freeze; bugger I can't afford this kind of problem. The wind is blowing, it is dark, people are unrecognisable behind oxygen masks, with only an 8000+m mountain above, it is a scary situation. I think; just try to warm your hands and get going. We separate out as we head for the rock band, hands becoming painful as they warm inside large down-mits; a big relief.
Suddenly, after a big effort to climb the rock band, I am following the lead sherpas and we are heading for the shoulder, in good time; maybe success. The Japanese who had left at midnight were now just in front, we were making great progress. At 0815 I turned to the Sherpa below and pointed at what I thought was the summit plateau he nodded to confirm, I was suddenly elated with the idea that I was going to make it. At this stage, Nowa the lead sherpa, another Tibetan Sherpa and I were tailing the Japanese as we ascended onto the summit plateau which was a massive field of untouched snow, no tracks leading to a summit which was by no means obvious. The Japanese then faltered, they were very tired having broken trail for most of the way in deep snow. "ABC, this is summit plateau, please confirm direction to actual summit." The directions came through and Nowa and I were off in knee deep to thigh deep snow. Nawang in the lead, with no oxygen and myself behind on two litres/minute took another 90 minutes to reach the summit at 0946. Five minutes later, Everest and Annapurna disappeared in cloud. Soon after, the Japanese arrived, they like us, were jubilant in success.
It was an amazing experience to climb Cho Oyo but even more so to share it with three Tibetan Sherpas who it clearly meant so much to.
They will be my friends for life.

Julian Haszard (New Zealand)

23rd September 2003