Mountain Climbing

Cho Oyu Climb

Cho Oyu’s  view from Gokyo

Location:Nepal (Province No. 1)–China (Tibet)

Elevation:8,188 meters (above sea level)

About Cho Oyu

Among the world’s peak with more or less 8, 000-meter elevation, Cho Oyumountain is the sixth-highest, with 8,188 meters above sea level.

Cho Oyu in Tibetan translation is “the Turquoise Goddess,” from chomo=godess and yu=turquoise. However, other translations include “Mighty Head” (Tichy) and “God’s Head” (Harrer). “Bald god” is another alternative translation of the name. In the Khumbu sub-section of the Mahalangur Himalaya, Cho Oyu is the westernmost major peak. It is 20 kilometers west of Mount Everest. The mountain is situated on the border of China and Nepal.

There is Nangpa La just a few kilometers west of Cho Oyu. It is 5, 716 meters glaciated pass that serves as the main trading route between the Tibetans and the Khumbu’sSherpas, and divides the Khumbu and Rolwaling Himalayas.

The mountain becomes the most popular with mountaineers because of its proximity and having moderate slopes of the standard northwest ridge route, making it the easiest among peaks with 8, 000 or more meters elevation.

Initially, the mountain was measured 8, 150 meters high, and considered the seventh highest peak during the first ascent. It was changed to sixth place when it was estimated 8, 201 meters in 1984. Still, in 1996, the Government of Nepal Survey Department and the Finnish Meteorological Institute made a new measurement in preparation for the Nepal Topographic Maps and put the height at 8,188 meters, one remarkably similar to the 26,867 feet (8,189 m) used by Edmund Hillary in his 1955 book High Adventure.

aerial view of Cho Oyu

In 1952, the Joint Himalayan Committee of Great Britain financed the first expedition to Cho Oyu. It was led by Eric Shipton and included Edmund Hillary, Tom Bourdillon, and George Lowe. Hillary and Lowe’s journey was stopped by the avalanche danger and some technical difficulties at an ice cliff above 6,650 meters. Meanwhile, Shipton decided to retreat from conquering the summit due to reports from Chinese troops coming from a short distance across the border.

Another group attempted and succeeded in climbing Cho Oyu on October 19, 1954, via the northwest ridge. The Australian expedition was teamed by Herbert Tichy, Joseph Jöchler and Sherpa PasangDawa Lama.

When is the Best Time to Climb

Summiting, one of the world’s highest mountains, brings many challenges and a rewarding experience. It would be humbling to be one of the luckiest climbers to stand on its peak as you will be granted the most impressive view of Mt. Everest and the surrounding Himalayas.

Cho Oyu is good to climb in both autumn and spring. But note that although it has lesser snow and avalanche danger in spring, there is more ice causing the climb to be more technical. Autumn can be good, but if you happen to get a big snow dump, you could be out of luck.

The beginning of spring is cold and windy but eventually gets better. Spring is best for most Himalayan peaks as it gets warmer every day with less threat of snow. But winter can still be around, and the snow slopes and the ice wall can be tricky with frozen precipitation. Autumn starts warm and wet but will become cold and windy later.

Climbing in spring season is best during mid-May when the weather starts to improve, and in the autumn, during late September or early October, before it gets too cold, big snowstorms come.

How hard is Cho Oyu Climb?

No 8 000 meter-high mountain can be climbed quickly and easily. Due to a seriously high altitude, some climbers lost their lives. Although the climb does not require crampon and specialized equipment, the altitude itself is taxing.

thick clouds surrounding Cho Oyu, a view of the mountain from Tingri

How does Cho Oyu compare with Denali or Aconcagua?

Cho Oyu is significantly higher than Denali; therefore, it is a long climb. Similarly, there is steep snow most of the time, and from Camp 1 on, fixed ropes are continually needed. On Denali, a sled pulls personal and group gear while in Cho OyuSherpas, you need to carry yourself all your packs, tents, and equipment, including clothing, sleeping bags, and pads. Due to its snow, weather, and length of the expedition, it is more complicated than Aconcagua.

Fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa, Tibet

Airports nearest to the mountain are in Lhasa or Kathmandu. More people prefer to fly into Kathmandu and take about a week by jeep to reach the base camp in Tibet. A climbed from Nepal is also an option, but it is rarely done.

If you fly to Lhasa, you will pass Everest and some other 8 000-meter peaks, and it is a spectacular sight during a day flight. After acclimatization in Lhasa, you need an overland drive through Shigatse to Tingri for two days. It is a two-hour trip via a jeepney from Tingri to the Base Camp but is a beautiful route to see Lhasa and other parts of Tibet. It is really worth spending several days in Lhasa. You will see the Potala and other local monasteries, and get a feel for what Tibet is like.

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