Cho Oyu Frequently Asked Questions
What does the climbing route on Cho Oyu look like?
Click below to see larger maps of the Cho Oyu camp positions and climbing route:
Why should I climb Cho Oyu with IMG?
We know we're not the cheapest deal around, and we don't want to be. We spend more providing the best personnel, equipment, logistics and safety measures things that many lower-cost programs cannot afford and do not have. We don't cut corners. As you shop around, consider the following:
- IMG guides are professionals and are great teachers as well as strong climbers. All have done numerous high-altitude expeditions, including the Himalaya. Our clients enjoy the immense benefit of a core group that has climbed together extensively, producing a team that knows how to work well together. We do not think you will find any other Cho Oyu climbing or trekking programs that will be led or staffed by persons of the caliber we field. We challenge you to try!
- IMG always complies with all local, state, federal, and international regulations for the countries in which we climb. This includes proper visas and climbing permits, full insurance and equipment for our guides and Sherpa support teams, and complete adherence to all environmental regulations. Our clean business record allows us to operate with full liability insurance. All client funds are deposited in a regulated trust account. We take our business seriously!
- IMG Sherpas are top-notch. We hire the same great Sherpas every year, we treat them with respect, we pay them well and they like working with our teams. Most of them have been on many climbs with us over the years and many of them have multiple Cho Oyu and Everest summits. Our enthusiastic cooks do a great job, and our menus are well considered. It makes a difference!
- IMG trek and climb itineraries are longer than most others offered on the market. We know how to acclimatize properly and we don't rush. If you would like to Trek to Cho Oyu with the climbers, and stay there for several days as members of an expedition team, we can arrange that.
- IMG brings advanced technology to the mountain. Solar power at Base Camp quietly supports our satellite communications, allowing us to maintain excellent emergency contact capabilities and keep friends and family informed of our progress during the long weeks away from home.
What kind of guide support can I expect?
The IMG Cho Oyu expedition will be staffed at an approximate ratio of 1:1 between team members and IMG staff climbers/climbing Sherpas. In other words, IMG western leader(s) plus Sherpas is approximately equal to the number of customers. The Sherpas will be deployed differently at different times during the climb for the best advantage of the team. When the climbers are down low, most of the Sherpas will be working on fixing rope, building camps, and carrying loads. As the climbing team moves up for summit bid, most of the Sherpas will be deployed to climb in support the climbers during the attempt. The IMG western leader may or may not climb with the team, depending on the circumstances.
What if I would like extra support?
We also offer a Personal Sherpa and Extra Oxygen Option for an additional cost. We will assign exclusively to you one of our very best Sherpas, who has summitted Cho Oyu and Everest many times, been through the Khumbu Sherpa climbing school, and who speaks English well. As a small, two-person team, you will be able to take advantage of the "best of both worlds" with all the "horsepower" of the main IMG team at your disposal in case of emergency, but also having the additional flexibility afforded by a climbing partner who is committed to climbing exclusively on your own schedule, when you want to. Your personal sherpa will also be available to help carry your personal gear and extra oxygen starting at Camp 2 (normally climbers start oxygen at Camp 3).
How difficult is the climb?
You need to have solid cramponing skills and be able to rappel with a pack on. You'll be jumaring on fixed ropes. There is a short, steep section of near vertical ice on the spectacular ridge between Camp 1 and Camp 2 that requires front-pointing skills. Most importantly, you need good common sense and the ability to learn and adapt. Cho Oyu is usually climbed un-roped, so it is common for climbers to move together but at the same time be semi-independent on the mountain between camps. We will provide a VHF walkie-talkie to all climbers so they can stay in contact. The IMG staff will be available for consultation in all aspects of the expedition, and will be climbing with you, but this is not a guided climb in the classic sense where everyone is roped together. Prospective climbers must be competent and capable of climbing without direct supervision.
Is the better climbing season in Spring or Autumn?
IMG is no longer doing Spring expeditions to Tibet, due to the ongoing problems obtaining the Chinese/Tibet visas in the spring season. We have not have these problems with the visas in the autumn season.
But in general, Spring vs. Autumn... it's a crap shoot. Spring has less snow and avalanche danger, but has more ice and is more technical. The autumn can be good, but if you get a big snow dump (more likely in the autumn than spring,) you could be out of luck.
Spring starts out cold and windy, and gets better. Autumn starts out warm and wet, hopefully has a good stretch, then gets cold and windy later in the season. We try to climb in the spring during mid-May, when the weather starts to improve, and in the autumn during late September/early October before it gets too cold, and there are big snow storms.
Generally speaking, Everest is good in the Spring, less reliable in the Autumn. Cho Oyu is good both Spring and Autumn. There are probably more expeditions on Cho Oyu in the Autumn, since many companies are on Everest in the Spring.
How do I get there?
Travel to Tibet requires a special permit. We will procure the Chinese visa and Tibet Travel Permit authorization on behalf of the team (we will collect the Chinese visa fee from you in Kathmandu).
What kind of insurance do I need?
We invest in insurance coverage for commercial liability and medical and disability insurance for our employees and Sherpas while participating on our programs. We cannot insure you for your personal needs, but we do expect you to be as fiscally responsible as we are. We require that you insure yourself against potentially expensive difficulties that may arise. First, Trip Cancellation Insurance may provide financial relief should you be forced to withdraw from the program before it even happens. Next, make sure you have adequate Travel Insurance for coverage should you have a problem during the trip. Medical care and evacuation in remote locations can be expensive. For more information, please see our page on Trip Cancellation and Travel Insurance.
What kind of visas do I need?
Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the trip and have empty pages. Advanced visas are not required for entry into Nepal, we will simply get our visa on arrival at the airport in Kathmandu, where you will need to purchase a short term Nepal tourist visa ($25 plus a 2" x 2" passport photo). You will need to do this again (need another $25 plus another passport photo) when you return to Nepal after visiting Tibet). The visa for Tibet we will get from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, and we will take care of this for you. You MUST arrive in Kathmandu on the specified day on the itinerary, because your passport must go in with the group documents for the visa on the Embassy visa day).
What's included in the expedition fee?
Costs Included in Trip Fee:
The team will meet in Kathmandu, per the itinerary (if you arrive or depart on a different schedule, you must cover the additional costs). All ground transportation will be covered. All hotels are covered from the time the team arrives in Kathmandu until returning to the hotel in Kathmandu at the end of the trip. Breakfast is included in Kathmandu, as is a "welcome dinner" for the group. Also included are Park fees and climbing permit fees, approximate 1:1 ratio between Western Leader(s) and Sherpa climbers vs. participants, Sherpa climbers and cook staff, camp equipment including sleeping tents, dining facilities, cooking gear and fuel, VHF radio and satellite communications systems, climbing route equipment, 1800 liters climbing oxygen delivered to Camp 3 for ascent and descent with extra available for sleeping at C3, oxygen regulators and masks, first aid kit, Gamow Bag.
Costs not included in trip fee:
Hotels and meals upon arrival in Kathmandu AFTER the trip are not covered (we will make a hotel reservation for you in Kathmandu and will assist with reconfirming tickets and will cover the cost of your transfer to the Kathmandu airport). Other items not covered include international flights, personal gear, excess baggage charges, airport taxes and entry visas (your Tibet visa is $200 we will assist to procure the Tibet visa for the team members), Sherpa tip pool (we suggest $400 per person), satellite telephone air charges, personal sundries and beverages, costs incurred as a result of delays or events beyond the control of IMG, required travel insurance policy (medical, evacuation, trip cancellation, etc.), and customary but optional tips for IMG staff.
What immunizations will I need?
- Tetanus-Diphtheria - You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- Polio - You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- MMR - You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- Meningitis - Recommended. Consult your physician.
- Hepatitis A - Recommended. Consult your physician.
- Hepatitis B - Not a bad idea. Ask your physician.
- Cholera - Ask your physician. Not usually recommended any more.
- Typhoid - Not a bad idea to be safe. The tablet form, Vivotif Berna, is good for five years.
- Rabies - The new vaccine is easy. Rabid animals are occasionally encountered in China.
- Malaria - Not necessary unless you plan on traveling, for example, to certain parts of Thailand before/after the trip... then malaria chemoprophylaxis is recommended.
We recommend that you visit the travel clinic at a major University Hospital or your local Public Health Department for the most up to date info on travel requirements, or check the Center for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov.
How does IMG treat their local staff?
We take great pride in the long term relationships we have built with our local staff. They do a great job, we pay and tip them well, and they enjoy working for IMG. We make sure that the IMG porters have adequate clothing, equipment, shelter, sleeping arrangements, food, cooking equipment and water. Sick or injured porters are properly cared for. All loads are weighed to ensure that porters are carrying loads that don't exceed their physical ability or legal limits. Porters are paid a fair wage for their work and are paid tip money directly from the tip pool at the end of the expedition (no middleman taking a cut).
What is the policy on Leave No Trace?
IMG is committed to Leave No Trace. All human waste is properly disposed of and garbage is sorted into burnable and recyclables (taken back to Kathmandu). All gas cylinders are taken back to Nepal and recycled, and all oxygen cylinders are returned to the USA.
What gear will I need?
The equipment list is meant to help you compile your personal gear for a high altitude climbing and trekking trip. Most items are required, while a few are optional. Please consider each item carefully and be sure you understand the function of each piece of equipment before you substitute or delete items from your duffle. Keep in mind that this list has been carefully compiled by Eric Simonson, the expedition organizer. Don't cut corners on the quality of your gear.
What food do I need to bring?
All meals on the climb and treks are included. You will be responsible for your bottled drinks and alcoholic beverages. You may want to bring powdered drink mixes for flavor in your water bottles. We recommend you bring a modest personal stash of your favorite trail and snack foods. There is a grocery store in Kathmandu near the hotel which has many snack items available (candy, crackers, nuts, etc). Not available in Kathmandu are things like Power Bars, Gu, or electrolyte replacement drink mix.
What's the best way to pack for the trip?
We usually carry a daypack/rucksack as carry-on luggage and check two lockable bags. One of those bags can stay at the hotel while climbing for storage of your travel clothes (it is OK to leave a bag with wheels at the hotel). The other bag will be used by the porters to carry your gear on the climb, and it should NOT have wheels. It does not have to be 100% waterproof, just stout nylon fabric is fine. You will want to put everything in plastic bags anyway, inside the duffel.
We suggest that you use a travel wallet that you can hang around your neck and place inside your shirt. This is a safer way to carry your money and travel documents. Leave expensive jewelry and watches at home. Experienced travelers will also carry a couple of extra passport photos with them as well as a photocopy of the first pages of your passport. These should be carried in a place separate from your passport. Having these available will greatly facilitate the replacement of your passport if you lose it. Carry a pen with you for completing travel forms. Get to the airport early and make sure your luggage gets checked through to the correct destination.
How much money should I bring?
EXTRA MONEY TO BRING: As soon as you get to Kathmandu you will need your Nepal visa fee ($25 for single entry 15 day visa) and then at the hotel we will collect your Sherpa tip pool contribution (climbers=$400, trekkers=$200) and the Tibet Visa Fee ($200).
In addition to the tip pool and visa, we suggest $1500 more, plus a credit card. Better to have extra cash money and not need it than to need it and not have it! For your cash, bring new style bills (with the big faces) including some $10's and $20's. You can get a limited number of rupees each day in Kathmandu at a cash machine with your credit card, but you won't get dollars. You can change cash money into rupees at the hotel, and there are numerous money changer shops nearby.
NOTE: everybody checks your money for counterfeit and no one takes old bills (bring NEW style US$ bills, not old style). Merchants will often try to give you ripped bills (rupees) for change. Tell them you want an un-ripped one, otherwise you'll never be able to spend it. You will probably want to change $100 into rupees (get small bills) for spending in Kathmandu for food and gifts. It is difficult or impossible to get more money once the trip starts. Bring the rest of the money with you in case of emergency. If you have extra left over rupees at the end of the trip that are unspent, change them back before you leave Nepal, otherwise you will not be able to change them once you leave the country.
You will probably also want to bring a credit card too, but remember that you will likely get hit by your bank with 3% fees on foreign credit card purchases. If you plan to use your credit card, you should call your bank and let them know you will be traveling abroad, otherwise using it might trigger a fraud alert on your account which results in your card getting turned off.
How does the tip pool work?
Ang Jangbu will split up the tip pool among all the different people who work for us: the porters, trek staff, cooks, hotel staff, Kathmandu staff, Base Camp staff, climbing Sherpas, drivers, Chinese and Tibet staff, and others that help the team. If you want to give some more to the IMG leaders or the personal Sherpas that climbed with you, that is always appreciated.
How much of my gear will the Sherpas carry?
The Sherpas will carry a reasonable amount of your personal gear for you up to the camps. For example your sleeping bag, down suit, extra high altitude gear, some food and snacks, etc. You should not have to carry a big load at any time on the trip we want you to be able to move at a reasonable speed. You will need to carry with you the things you require during the day: clothes, snacks, water, camera, etc.
Is there a way to simulate what an oxygen mask will feel like?
Many climbers have asked about practicing at home with a mask. The TopOut mask (which we use on Everest) is built on the 3M R-6311 Respirator body and doing workouts at home with the 3M mask will simulate some of the issues using oxygen. For climbers familiar with scuba diving, you will be reminded of the necessity to breathe easy and steady, don't pant, just focus on moving the air efficiently. Check how the 3M mask fits with your goggles. We have found that many climbers will use a Small or Medium size and people with big faces can use a Large size.
What if a rescue is necessary?
Our first priority is always going to be supporting our fellow IMG climbers. We are also willing to assist with other teams that need help with rescue, but this will take second priority to our IMG climbers. For climbers unable to walk, rescue above Advanced Base Camp may require a litter evacuation. Below ABC it may be possible to ride on a yak. NOTE, there is NO helicopter is available in Tibet! Helicopter may be available from Zhangmu (Friendship Bridge). The cost of a helicopter evacuation depends on the type of helicopter involved, the amount of flight time, and the number of landings. We REQUIRE that everyone carry a rescue insurance policy that will as a minimum cover $10,000. You will need either cash or a Visa/Mastercard with sufficient credit available (not American Express) since you may need to guarantee the charge on your credit card and then seek reimbursement from your insurance company.
What do I do with my passport and plane ticket while I am climbing?
We suggest that you leave these items with our staff in Kathmandu, so it is easy for them to change your tickets or extend your visa for you while you are climbing.
What other medical info should I consider?
While it's always nice to have a doctor as a participant on our trips, we cannot guarantee a doctor's presence. We ask that you carefully complete the Medical Information form included in the registration materials. We need to be informed of any allergies you may have, medicines you are currently taking and any medical conditions that could possibly effect your ability to safely participate on a climbing expedition.
In addition to the first aid items listed on the equipment list, there are a few additional medications that you should consider. These should be discussed with your personal physician and some will require a prescription. We want everyone to bring some of the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin and some Immodium in case of bad traveler's diarrhea. There is the possibility of Cipro resistant diarrhea in Nepal and Tibet so you should also bring some azithromycin ("Z-pack") which will work for this and also bronchial infection. A sleeping medication can be useful for napping on the international flights and for the first few days in Nepal (due to the big time change). We do not recommend the automatic use of Diamox while climbing but you might find a small dose (125mg) useful if altitude sickness symptoms appear. Discuss this and your other medication requirements with your physician. Any medication should be used only if necessary and use should be discussed thoroughly with your physician and with your guide before you take the medication.
Water purification is also very important. An effective and inexpensive method is the use of iodine crystals or tablets. These are available commercially at mountaineering stores as a product called 'Polar Pure' or 'Potable Agua'. Filters, such as the ones made by MSR, are also good. Either can be used or both can be used in combination. On the trek our recommendation is to plan on treating your water bottle water with an iodine tablet (Potable Aqua) or other purification method. You can buy bottled water in Kathmandu, but we do not encourage you to buy bottled water on the trek since the bottles are garbage and constitute an environmental issue. If you want to buy boiled water at the lodges for your water bottles, you should bring some extra money. We also recommend that each participant bring a small bottle of a hand disinfectant such as Purell. Anything that we can do to stay healthy is worthwhile. Health issues will be discussed during the expedition and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions before or during the trip.
Do I really need to bring the high altitude medications Nifedipine and Dexamethasome?
Our IMG guides are very experienced with dealing with altitude illness, but we are not allowed to provide prescription drugs to our customers. For this reason we ask each climber to consult with their own physician and to bring their own emergency medications to use (while descending!) in case of onset of high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema symptoms. These include Nifedipine and Dexamethasome, which will help to "buy some time" to get down to a lower altitude. The Nifedipine is useful for pulmonary edema (take one 30mg sustained release tablet every twelve hours) and the Dexamethasome is useful for cerebral edema (take one 4mg tablet every 6 hours). Our suggestion is that climbers each bring a few tablets of each medication (2 tabs of Nifedipine and 4 tabs of Dex is plenty) and that should be sufficient to provide one day of treatment so the patient can get down, if they start to get sick. For more information see this recent article in WILDERNESS & ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE, 21, 146-155 (2010).