Autumn 2003 Cho Oyu Expedition
Directed by Eric Simonson Led by Chris Booher & Mike Hamill
2003 Expedition Dispatches
Dispatches will be added in chronological order below as news comes in from the climbing team in Tibet.
October 1, 2003
Friday September 26, 2003 5:30pm Nepal Time
The team spent two nights at Camp 2 on the ascent to wait for better weather (it was after the first of these two nights at Camp 2 that Mark started getting cerebral edema, and had to go down with Chris...he is doing fine and is now on his way back to Kathmandu). The remaining summit team went on to Camp 3 on the 25th. All members of the summit team left Camp 3 on schedule in the early morning dark. Shortly above Camp 3 Jim decided to turn back and descended with Karma Rita back to Camp 3. Karma Rita went back up and rejoined the team at the Yellow Band, where Josef decided to turn back. Karma Rita again descended to Camp 3 with Joe, then the three of them descended to ABC safely, meeting Nancy (who had climbed up to sleep at Camp 2 for experience) and Panuru. They are all down safe at ABC, along with Tamara, Chris, and Ang Jangbu.
The remaining summit team members pushed on up, with excellent weather. Adam and Phu Nuru summitted first, at about 9:30am. Lanta, Peter, and Mike summitted about 11:00am with Ang Pasang and Danuru. Justin, Garrett, Mingma, and Lindon turned from the plateau, just below the summit, at about 12:30pm. They all descended safely and are back down at Camp 2, where they are spending the night, planning to descend to ABC tomorrow. Over the next couple days all the gear will be brought down and the team will finish packing up.
Yaks have been ordered to arrive ABC on the 29th, and the team plans to descend and travel to Tingri on the 30th. On October 1 the plan is for the team to cross the Friendship Bridge to Nepal, and to arrive Kathmandu that evening.
While the climb is far from over, it is certainly a big relief to know that everyone is safe and getting ready to head for home, and that we have succeeded with our twelfth Cho Oyu expedition with putting over 100 people on the summit of the world's sixth highest mountain.
Congrats to the team and thanks to everyone who has made the trip possible. Also, thanks to Alpine Ascents and Adventure Consultants for letting us use their satellite phones after our sat phone mysteriously stopped working.
Thursday September 25, 2003 7am PST
Monday September 22, 2003 8:30pm Nepal Time
Friday, September 19, 2003 7:00pm Nepal Time
There is currently a bandh in effect in Nepal (a strike called by the Maoists) which has shut down all vehicular traffic and closed all retail shops until Saturday, so thankfully our friends will arrive in Kathmandu after this business interruption is over!
September 18, 2003 8:30am Nepal Time
Mike reports a plan for the entire team to rest for the next couple of days before mounting a summit bid together in one group. If the weather forecast proves accurate, they will all climb to Camp 1 on Sunday the 21st, then to Camp 2 on Monday, to Camp 3 on Tuesday, with a possible attempt to the summit on Wednesday the 24th. Ang Jangbu will climb to Camp 1 or Camp 2 in support of any climbers who decide not to move up to Camp 3 for a summit bid.
Mike again acknowledges the super helpful spirit from the AAI and Himalayan Experience teams sharing their sat phones with our group. So far the team's health remains steady and spirits are high as they anticipate their next big push toward the top! Mike will check in with us on Friday or Saturday to confirm the group's ability to rest and prepare to leave ABC early on Sunday for the team's summit bid, weather permitting.
September 15, 2003 11:00am Nepal Time
After a lot of helpful research from our satellite service providers, it seems our phone unit has suffered technical/hardware malfunction of some sort and so word from the mountain will be limited. Other teams, including AAI and Himalayan Experience have graciously lent use of their phones to Chris to call in with brief updates, and we certainly appreciate the on-mountain help from other teams!
From here on in, the team will be up high on the mountain a lot. We'll post updates when they are able to call in between climbing rotations. So far, all are doing fine and the group is in good spirits and enjoying their time in the Himalaya!
Thursday, September 11, 2003 7:30am Nepal Time
Everyone is feeling great so far, the weather is OK, the Sherpas are making great progress up the mountain, everything except the sat phones seem to be clicking right along! We probably won't hear from the team until Friday, at which time we'll get an update on their progress and an idea about when they'll head uphill again.
Tuesday September 9, 2003 7:00pm Nepal Time
Chris reports that everyone on the IMG team is doing just fine, so the group will split into two for the initial acclimatization cycle up to Camp 1. Mike Hamill and Justin Merle will go up and sleep at Camp 1 with the first group tomorrow, and then Chris Booher and Garrett Madison will head up the following day with the second group for an overnight at C1. The team's health is holding up great so far and so everyone on the IMG roster plans a trip to Camp 1 either tomorrow or the next day.
We hope to get a longer and more detailed report from the IMG team when the satellite networks get back to work -- come on guys, fix the birds up there, this isn't rocket science! Or is it?
September 5, 2003 5:30pm Nepal Time
The Sherpas who had gone ahead did a nice job to get ABC camp set up for them. Mike and Jangbu report that they had snowfall this afternoon, and that the mountain looked pretty white (normal for this time of year).
Greetings from Tibet, After four lazy days of short walks and a whole lot of sitting around at 16,000 feet, we are finally ready to start our way up to our Advanced Base Camp. Four of our sherpa team (Danuru, Mingma, Phunuru, and Karma Rita) left Base Camp with 35 yak loads of expedition gear on the 2nd to move up the mountain and establish our IMG Advanced Base at 18,500 feet.
The rest of us (11 climbers, 1 trekker, 4 guides, 3 Sherpa, 3 cook staff, and 25 yaks) will start our walk up valley on the 4th. We plan to make an Interim Camp at a little over 17,000 feet for the night of the 4th, and move the rest of the way to ABC on the 5th. After moving all necessary gear up to ABC we will not return to Base Camp until the end of our expedition.
We are all currently feeling healthy and strong after recovering from the usual stomach problems we encounter while driving accross the Tibetan Plateau for five days. Once we get on the mountain and have the joy of Pemba's fantastic cooking everyone's stomach issues seem to go away, and we sit and eat as much of his food as we can possibly get down. It's great to have a gluttonous month and a half of vacation and still come back thinner that when you left! All this food, and we have entertainment to boot. After our tasty pizza dinner last night we all sat back with full stomachs and enjoyed our first movie night on Cho Oyu.
Thanks to the marvels of lap tops and DVD's we were able to relax and let Hollywood entertain our IMG expedition over here in Tibet. After we arrive at ABC we will check back in with everyone via e-mail and will also have the satellite phone up and running, as many people are looking forward to calling home during the next week.
That's all for now from Base Camp. It's time to start moving higher on the mountain.
September 2, 2003
On the 29th they traveled to Tingri, where they met with the Sherpas who had come overland from Nepal via Zhangmu. Their trip had been difficult, with the road washed out in several places by mudslides, which required that they hire porters to carry all the gear around the roadblocks and hire new trucks on the other side. After an acclimatization day in Tingri, the Sherpas went ahead and started setting up Base Camp at about 15,000 feet. The team followed a day later, arriving on the 31st, after several hours of jeep riding across the Plains of Tingri and along the moraines of the Gyabrag Glacier. The plan for the next few days is to organize, acclimatize, and get ready for the trek to Advanced Base Camp.
The team has all successfully made it to Kathmandu and is ready to leave tomorrow morning for Lhasa. Yesterday, the members joined their Sherpas in the puja (blessing) ceremony at the Boudnath monastery. Here is a photo of the team up on the roof with the Rimpoche (head monk).
The Sherpas will also leave tomorrow, overland via Zhangmu, but we have heard that the road is blocked in several places near the Nepal/Tibet border by mudslides. This will necessitate the hiring porters to ferry several hundred of loads past the mudslides. It will be a bit of a headache for the Sherpas to arrange, but is fairly normal for Nepal this time of year and we have had to do it a number of times over the years. This is especially true for the autumn expeditions which go in at the end of the monsoon, after it has been raining for several months and the roads are in bad shape. The monsoon should start to die down in the next couple weeks, and the climbers will be shooting for the lull that comes at the end of the monsoon for summit bids.
The Cho Oyu team has now departed the USA and is enroute to Kathmandu. They will procure their Tibet visas on the 25th and will fly to Lhasa on the 26th. After a couple days of acclimatizing as tourists in Lhasa, the climbers travel overland to Tingri, where they meet the Sherpas, before going on to Base Camp. All the equipment, oxygen, and food will go to Tibet by truck, accompanied by the Sherpas, via the border town of Zhangmu.
IMG takes Cho Oyu seriously, hoping to provide our clients with a great 8,000m experience which for many will become the stepping stone to a future attempt on Everest. We try to send strong and self-sufficient teams that have enough horsepower to be able to pull their own weight. We always try to cooperate with other teams to help with route fixing or rescues and we commit to removing all our garbage and oxygen bottles from the mountain. We always seek to maintain our wonderful long-term relationships with Chinese, Tibetan, and Nepalese partners.
I have organized a really interesting team this year. The group will be led by IMG guides Mike Hamill and Chris Booher, with assistance from IMG guides Garrett Madison and Justin Merle. Also on board in a leadership capacity is my longtime friend and Kathmandu agent Ang Jangbu Sherpa and our favorite Chinese Liaison Officer, Liu Feng. Our six climbing Sherpas, most veterans of multiple Cho Oyu expeditions, are led by Ang Passang. Our cook staff, led by Pemba (a veteran of 17 IMG expeditions) round out the team.
The team is en route to Kathmandu now, and we’ll look forward to getting to know them all better over the coming weeks of the trip. We will be posting dispatches regularly over the next 5-6 weeks as the team makes its way to Base Camp via Lhasa and the Tibetan Plateau, and then begins the long journey to prepare themselves and their route for a shot at the summit of the world's sixth highest mountain.
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