International Mountain Guides Climbing and Mountaineering Expeditions

2014 Cho Oyu Coverage

Tibet  •  26,906'  •  8201m

2014 Cho Oyu Expedition Coverage

Led by: Mike Hamill  •  Expedition directed by: Eric Simonson

September 15, 2014  •  Resting Up for the Ice Cliff with Bocce Ball

We got a good email from Mike this morning.

Mingma Tenzing II reported that the rope fixing went very well above Camp 1. Good snow conditions and a "smooth" route up the ice cliff.

What is this Ice Cliff we continue to talk about?

It is the next objective for our team as they head up the mountain. The team will climb up from Camp 1 for about 45 minutes and be at the base of the cliff. The route moves up a steeper slope from right to left and then it gets steep. It is about technique on this section and can be awkward with footwork. What are the keys to getting through the Ice cliff? Small steps, moving your ascender and breathing. Another key is to unclip and clip efficently while moving through the anchors — safety first!

So, what is the team doing at ABC on their rest day? Bocce Ball! Mike sent in a picture of a few of the gang posing. Hilarious! I am calling it an action shot of the Highest Bocce Ball game. Who won? From the looks of these guys, they are all winners. Smiles all around.

Tomorrow the Sherpa team will continue fixing up to Camp 2, and it'll be another rest day for our climbers. Another rest day will have the team ready to roll. "Bullet proof" we like to say.

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 15, 2014  •  Resting After C1; Trekkers Heading Home

Mike Hamill checked in from ABC today.

"We had a good C1 rotation and are back safe and sound at ABC. The team did well and other than minor headaches there were no issues spending the night at C1. We're planning a few rest days before heading up for the next rotation.

Six Sherpa, including IMG's Mingma Tenzing, are going up to fix through the ice cliff tomorrow, then another team of six Sherpa plan to finish the route to Camp 2 the following day."

Our trekkers are heading out as well. They said "so long" to Cho Oyu and moved downhill for Tingri where they will spend the night. Tomorrow, they will drive to the Rongbuk Hotel (North Side Everest Base Camp).

There we go! Sherpas moving up, Trekkers moving down and Cho Oyu climbers resting at ABC.

The weather is said to be improving over the next few days so we will be able to make progress up to Camp 2!

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 14, 2014  •  All Well at Camp 1

The team is doing well at Camp 1. Phunuru called in to say that there is a light snow tonight on Cho Oyu but not much accumulation.

The IMG team has Camp 1 to themselves tonight. After their first night's sleep above ABC, the team will eat breakfast and head back down.

There is no sign of anyone climbing above Camp 1 so far. The next objective on the mountain is to get the fixing team put together and work up to Camp 2. A rope-fixing meeting is scheduled, and it looks like the weather is in their favor.

Our Sherpa team worked hard today, carrying loads and setting up Camp 1 for the team. Nice job guys! They will take a rest day tomorrow and get ready to move higher as well.

Some tossing and turning and heavy breathing will keep the team busy tonight at Camp 1. It might be a little chilly, so when the sun goes down, be ready to jump in your tent. From there, it's time to catch up with your tent mate. One of my favorite things to do is laugh on a first night at a new altitude. Laughing is a great tool up high. It brings that O2 deep in the lungs and gets you through the night. Sip on water and snack on anything!

In the morning, the team will head back to ABC and some Kaji cooking!

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 13, 2014  •  Training in ABC and Planning for C1

Mike checked in this morning to tell everyone that they had a good day of training at ABC.

The team did some fixed line training at ABC and dialed-in their systems for moving up the mountain. Putting the harness on and getting the ascender set up and ready to roll is great. It allows the team to focus on what they have in front of them and double check their set up.

We have three tents already set up at Camp 1, and the Sherpa will take another load of gear up tomorrow as well.

Mike said, "We're ready to roll in the morning. We plan to spend one night at C1, climb above C1 the following day and descend to ABC."

Great plan. Get some more acclimatization in and check out the new views from Camp 1.

The team is moving up the mountain!

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 12, 2014  •  Team Puja in ABC

It was a busy day on Cho Oyu today.

Nima Karma and Mingma Tenzing II went to Camp 1 yesterday to claim our normal site just below the start of the fixed line. The sherpa team is feeling strong and working hard already.

The team had their puja (blessing ceremony) this morning with light snow coming down according to Phunuru. Another great Puja!

After the Puja, the team took a hike to Lake Camp. More acclimatization and a chance to check out the route. Mike and our Sherpa report that the route is in great shape all the way to Camp 1!

A rest day tomorrow is in order. Everyone has been working hard and acclimatizing well. Time to give their bodies a chance to catch up and continue to get strong.

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 11, 2014  •  IMG Team Acclimating and Exploring

Expedition Leader, Mike Hamill, called Jangbu from ABC on Cho Oyu:

All is well as we went for a walk around ABC today.

The team is psyched to have the Puja tomorrow morning! One of our Tibetan cook staff, Rinzing, has his brother in camp to perform the puja. Chuldin is a Tibetan monk, and we are excited to have him again.

After the Puja, the team is planning on taking a hike up to Lake Camp. This will take a few hours on their first time. Slow and steady and breath hard.

The team is in a great place right now with the residual effects of the monsoon still around: afternoon clouds and a little snow. This makes for some good training and great scenery. It also makes for some "championship" napping in the afternoons!

I wonder if there will be a bocce ball tournament in the future on a rest day?

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 10, 2014  •  IMG Team Settling in at ABC

Mike Hamill checked in to let us know that all is well at ABC.

The team is setting into ABC and finding the lay of the land. The Sherpa team is organizing food and gear and Kaji, our Head Chef, is keeping everyone hydrated and well fed.

More teams are trickling into ABC now and the team had some afternoon snow which usually evaporates early the following day.

What is the plan for the next couple of days?

Tomorrow, the team will take a short walk around ABC to stretch their legs and familiarize themselves with the terrain a bit more.

Friday is the Puja! The Puja will take place in the morning with the entire team. After that, the team will take a hike up to Lake Camp. The trail to Lake Camp is over rocky/glacial moraine. It is a gentle gain in elevation as the team weaves their way through tall ice pinnacles and over rock. It is a great hike to get a better look at conditions of the route on the lower mountain.

Lake Camp is a great stopping point for the team as they are now breaking out the climbing boots. Work out the kinks and let some of that excitement run. At Lake Camp, they will look up the steep hill which leads them to Camp 1. From now until they go up for the summit rotation, the team will get stronger and stronger.

Step by step!

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 9, 2014  •  IMG's Cho Oyu Team Reaches ABC!

This is one of many great feelings for the Cho Oyu Team. Mike called early this morning from ABC.

All is well and the team is feeling good. As predicted, the group had a few clouds as they hiked over the moraine on their way into camp.

The feeling of pulling into ABC is just awesome. You are now at the staging place for your climb of Cho Oyu. Take a few deep breathes and relax for a minute. The team will find all their gear and get familiar with camp.

This is another milestone for the climbers and trekkers. ABC is at 18,500 feet and the team will take some time to acclimatize and train.

Mike and Phunuru are looking ahead and hope to see the sun shine tomorrow. Some gear sorting, training and a lot of water and tea will be consumed.

I just love pulling into ABC. You get your own tent to sleep and arrange your gear! Spread out and look at the mountain. Nangpa La is off to the right. This pass is one of the oldest trade routes in the world. The people of Tibet use this pass at over 19,000 feet to visit Namche.

Way to go!

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 8, 2014  •  IMG Cho Oyu Team on the Move

The team had a good hike to Intermediate Camp (IC) today. Mike said they got a small amount of precipitation in the afternoon but nothing that slowed them down.

The plan is to spend one night at IC and get up early for their hike into ABC. The hike into ABC should take the team 4-6 hours, depending on the condition of the trail. The early start will give the team plenty of time to hike and get into Camp before any lingering afternoon precipitation.

Intermediate Camp is just exactly how it sounds. Get in feeling good and get out the next day. The team is excited to get to ABC. It is a great feeling to finally be at Advanced Base Camp. We get to find our tent (home for the next few weeks) and settle in with the dining tent.

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 7, 2014  •  BC Bocce Ball with Sights on ABC

So, what does the team do at Base Camp on a rest day?

How about a little Bocce Ball on the Tragmar Plain (Cho Oyu Base Camp)? The ground is perfect for Bocce Ball. Soft and level. The amount of physical exertion is right on the money... next to none.

Mike sums the day up perfectly:

"We're having a good rest day here at base camp. The team is enjoying playing Bocce Ball and watching TV shows. The Sherpa made it in to ABC yesterday and have set up the base station. We have good coms with them. They fixed the trail in to ABC yesterday which took them a few hours, but they said it should be fine for us. We have our usual spot at ABC. Teams are starting to move up to ABC and several should be heading up with us tomorrow to Gyaplung. We plan to get an early start in the morning."

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 6, 2014  •  Acclimating and Stocking ABC

The Cho Oyu team had another good day of hiking at Base Camp. Everyone is feeling great!

While the team was out for the hike, Phunuru and the sherpa loaded a truck with more gear for ABC. Mingma Tsering, Mingma Dorjee and Mingma Tenzing took the truck to Gyaplung, and then used 37 yaks to get the first load of supplies to Advanced Base Camp.

That is a lot of yaks! In the fall, one yak can carry about 50kg. They are stronger in the fall after grazing. In the spring, the Yaks can only carry 40kg.

Gyaplung is the last Chinese checkpoint below the Nangpa La pass. The yaks will return to Base Camp tomorrow for a little rest before heading back uphill with the expedition members in a couple days.

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 5, 2014  •  Acclimatizing and Yak Watching in BC

Mike checked in this morning from Base Camp on Cho Oyu.

The team took a hike today and is acclimatizing well. Short hikes and hard breathing are important for the next few days.

Their job is to stay healthy and build red blood cells. A few more teams have pulled into Base Camp, and the yak drivers are loading up and heading to ABC.

An important part of the expedition is getting gear where it needs to go. It is a lot of work for Phunuru and the Sherpa team. They will weigh gear and divide loads for the Yak drivers. The gear is then loaded onto the Yaks and moved uphill.

It is a great pastime for our climbers to watch all of this! At home, we sit around on a summer morning, drink coffee and do some people watching. Well, at Base Camp on Cho Oyu, the team can hang with some tea and do some Yak watching.

We are in good position with other teams arriving. Gear is on the move, and our team is acclimatizing well.

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 4, 2014  •  IMG Team Reaches Cho Oyu Base Camp

This is a great milestone for the team as they arrive at Cho Oyu Base Camp!

At 15,000 feet, the team has moved away from the towns and moved into their tents. Base Camp is another stop on the way to Cho Oyu that is incredibly valuable for acclimatization. The four days they have at Base Camp will be spent hiking, resting and eating. Mike said that there are a couple other teams already there and he expects a few more to come in over the next day or two.

There are some hills to hike that will give everyone a great view of Cho Oyu. The key is to take it slow and steady. Now is the time to set themselves up for success on the mountain. Everyone will want to acclimatize well at Base Camp because from there on up, they will be on foot. The route to Intermediate Camp is up a road, but we have found it better to hike this section for acclimatization purposes.

Phunuru and Mike are planning to send 26 yaks and 3 Sherpas directly to ABC the day after tomorrow (September 6th) which sounds great.

—Greg Vernovage, IMG Senior Guide

September 3, 2014  •  Cho Oyu Team Acclimatizing in Tingri

From: Michael Hamill
Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2014 4:01 AM
To: Eric Simonson
Subject: Tingri Update


We had a good hike outside of Tingri today. The Team is all healthy, happy and pretty fit. There's a new restaurant here at the Hoo Ha Hotel, and they've cleaned up the town a bit so things are improving.

I talked to Phunuru last night and the IMG Sherpas made it to Cho Oyu base camp with the gear truck without issue and were working on setting up camp. Phunuru checked the loads and said that everything was accounted for. He said there are only three teams of Sherpa at base camp now. We plan to head in to base camp tomorrow morning.

—Mike Hamill, Expedition Leader

September 2, 2014  •  Cho Oyu Climbers and Trekkers reach Tingri

Mike Hamill reports that the team finished up their acclimatization day in Nyalam with some fun with the local fashion. Today they were back on the road, for a spectacular drive from Nyalam up and over the Tsong La pass and down to the Tingri plains and the old town of Tingri (4,348m/ 14,268ft). From the pass they had nice views of Shishapangma, and from near Tingri they got their first views of Cho Oyu and Everest. When they see those big peaks everything starts to become very real!

The team will spend two nights here, with more acclimatization hiking tomorrow before moving to Base Camp. Tingri is an ancient village, linked to Namche Bazaar in the Khumbu (Nepal) by the trade route over the Nangpa La pass. The Cho Oyu team's route to Advanced Base Camp will take them quite close to this pass. After spending many nights in this town myself, over the years, my recollection is mainly about all the dogs!

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

September 1, 2014  •  Cho Oyu climbers Enjoy Nyalam

The Cho Oyu climbers and Tibet trekkers had a good drive yesterday from Zhangmu (2300m, 7500ft) up the deep canyon of the Bhote Kosi river gorge to Nyalam (3,750 m, 12,300 ft). This is a very steep and windy road, which has been improved a lot over the years. It is only 35km between the two towns, but there is a huge difference in the geography. Zhangmu is down in the sub-tropical forest zone, perched on a steep hillslope above the Friendship bridge. Nyalam is right on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, surrounded by mountain peaks, but the terrain is starting to open up. The team will spend two nights in Nyalam, for acclimatization.

Mike Hamill reports that today the team went for a nice hike up the valley towards Shishapangma south face BC and that everyone is healthy and acclimatizing well, and that the weather has been good. The plan for tomorrow is to continue on to Tingri, which will require them to cross the Tsong La (pass), at over 17,000 feet (this will give them their first big views of the Himalayas and the 8000m peak Shishapangma).

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

August 30, 2014  •  Cho Oyu Team Reaches Tibet

The IMG Cho Oyu climbers and sherpas crossed the Friendship Bridge, went through the Chinese immigration and customs, and are now in Tibet. It sounds like their 4am start paid off, as they were able to reach the landslide early enough to take the shortcut trail which crosses directly through the debris field where the road is being rebuilt (later in the day this route is closed by the Army to keep people away from the construction work).

Phunuru was able to send some photos, and Mike Hamill reports: "the landslide was HUGE, and there's a lake behind it now. All the Sherpa are here. Everything is going smoothly so far. We're moved in at Zhangmu planning to make the drive to Nyalam tomorrow".

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

August 29, 2014  •  Cho Oyu Team Hits the Roasd

Good news from Nepal on several fronts. In Kathmandu, the Cho Oyu climbers and Tibet trekkers and all their luggage have arrived safely, so that is a great way to start the trip. After completing gear checks, the team received their visas at the Chinese Embassy today. This evening they had a team meeting and dinner, and are all set to depart at 4am tomorrow. Expedition leader Mike Hamill reports that he visited and had a nice chat today with Elizabeth Hawley, the famous Himalayan historian.

Closer to the Tibet border, Ang Jangbu reports that the IMG Sherpas reported that they safely reached Kodari with all the luggage from both trucks. Sounds like it was a bit of a muddy epic, but with the help of porters they were able to get past the big landslide area.

Hopefully the team will reach Zhangmu tomorrow, or if they are delayed, then the next day. We are now in touch with our Chinese Liaison Officer who is in Zhangmu waiting for them to arrive. Once they get there and pass Chinese immigration and customs, they will move all the gear from the Nepal trucks to Chinese trucks, and then head to the local noodle restaurant for some good home cooking. So far so good!

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

August 27, 2014  •  IMG's 25th Cho Oyu Expedition Ready to Begin

We have been doing Cho Oyu since 1995, and since then have done 24 trips (22 of them with IMG summits) to the world’s 6th highest peak. This year marks our 25th expedition, and we are looking forward to getting started. IMG guides Mike Hamill and Josh McDowell are now in Kathmandu to receive the team and do gear checks. Every year the trip is a bit different, and for 2014, traveling to Base Camp in Tibet is complicated by a massive landslide that wiped out some of the road (and killed over 150 people) near the Nepal town of Barisbise on the way to Kodari (the Nepal town on the Tibet border). The road is not yet rebuilt, so the IMG team and all their gear will need to travel on foot through this area.

Ang Jangbu reports that the plan is to get all the gear to Kodari ahead of the members. The sherpa team loaded the truck this afternoon for an early morning departure to Lamosangu with Nima Karma, Ang Karma and Fura Gyalzen. They are being met by Raju from Kodari with porters and they will start portering to Barabise and on to Kodari on different truck from Barabise. The first truck will then return to Kathmandu tomorrow afternoon and we will load the remaining loads on the truck including member base camp duffels tomorrow evening and depart early next morning with 2 other sherpas, Mingma Chhiring and Mingma Tenzing.

The team will do their group dinner at Hotel Tibet on the night of the 29th, and will then depart at 4am Saturday morning for Lamosangu with Mingma Dorge, Kaji, and sirdar Phunuru. It will take them 3-4 hours to walk past the landslide area to Barabise and then get on another bus to Kodari. Hopefully they will reach the border by 2:30pm before Chinese immigration closes down. If they are delayed and don’t get to the border before Chinese immigration/customs shuts down, then they might end up spending the night at Kodari.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

Cho Oyu Guided Climbing Expedition with International Mountain Guides
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If this didn't hurt so much,
I'd be having fun!
~IMG climber on Cho Oyu
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The Summit Digits
International Mountain Guides has guided over 140 people to the summit of Cho Oyu

IMG is proud to have led 207 people from 17 countries on 22 successful expeditions to the summit of Cho Oyu: See the full list »

Not only did IMG seem to have the best guiding, but we were by far the best provisioned. I wouldn't climb with anybody else and will do my best to steer folks your way.
~Bruce D.
I also found that Eric Simonson's reputation and experience in the Himalaya has given IMG leaders greater ease in dealing with the Chinese government, in choosing more experienced climbing Sherpas, and in interacting with the leaders of the other expeditions. It was this kind of experience, or lack of it, that determined which expeditions were successful and which were not on Cho Oyu...
~Greg Y.
I honestly believe you have one of the best guiding outfits on Cho Oyu. After seeing some of the other groups, I would certainly recommend IMG to anyone interested in going there...
~Joe C.
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