Elsewhere in the Himalayas: IMG on Cho Oyu Kurt Wedberg - Cho Oyu Basecamp Wed, May 16, 2001 9:10PM
On May 14, 2001 at approximately 10:30 AM (Nepal time) five of us reached the top of Cho Oyu. The team consisted of Lynn Prebble, Tom Romary, Ang Tashi Sherpa, Ben Marshall, and Kurt Wedberg. It was the high point of a trip that had started on April 6 from the United States, and for many over a year of training and dreaming.
In a season that has seen inclement weather for the majority of the time it gave the team extra satisfaction to be able to reach the summit. In the end we were just plain lucky. I don't believe luck just happens though. You create your own "luck" through hard work, determination, sticking to your goals, and never giving up on your dreams.
We had left our Advanced Base Camp on May 12 with a schedule that had us ready to make our summit attempt on May 15. We planned on sleeping at Camp 1 (6430M, 21,095') on May 12, Camp 2 (7159M, 23,487') on May 13, Camp 3 (7522M, 24,678') on May 14, and going to the summit on May 15.
We left ABC with a clearing storm that left some lingering high winds and chilly temperatures. Reaching Camp 1 that evening the winds died some as we melted snow for water to rehydrate and ate some dinner. May 13 dawned a picture perfect day with no wind and clear skies. Claudia informed us she had a bad night and was experiencing flu like symptoms. This would be the end of her climb and she would descend back to ABC. She had been a great team player the whole climb and we were sorry to see her climb end so suddenly. Her moral support from below would help keep us going higher though.
Climbing that day we found the temperatures warming to the point where we needed to only wear long underwear tops and bottoms, light gloves, and baseball caps. At altitudes of over 21,000 feet this was a real treat. Lingering in the backs of our minds though were our past trips to this altitude and how the weather had changed so rapidly.
We arrived at Camp 2 feeling great. Our previous trips to these heights had helped us acclimatize well. We discussed our health and the weather as we melted snow to refill our water bottles and ate some salami and crackers. After much discussion we decided that this good weather might not last. With everybody feeling strong we decided to move to Camp 3 immediately and try for the summit that evening.
We put on our one piece down filled suits we had cached here on a previous trip, packed one nights worth of food, and began the final 3 1/2 hour climb to Camp 3. Arriving there just after 6 PM we made our dinner, tested our oxygen systems, and went to sleep. We would plan on waking at midnight for an approximate 2 AM departure for the summit.
The night remained completely calm. We woke at our preplanned time and melted snow for our water bottles. At these elevations the human body requires up to 6 liters of water each day to survive. Donning our headlamps and oxygen equipment on our backs we began walking at 2:30 AM. Picking our way through snow, ice, and rocks we had a beautiful star show above us. The moon was waning with about half of it left but it didn't rise until shortly before daylight.
As daylight approached the wind started to pick up and we noticed some high clouds begin to appear. We watched the weather closely as we continued to climb knowing how fast things can change. We were ready in case we needed to retreat keeping our route marked for a safe and certain return. The wind made us colder but if we kept moving we generated enough body heat to stay warm. As we approached 26,000 feet we had to take 6 deep breaths for each step we made up hill; and this is while breathing supplemental oxygen. There is so little oxygen in the air up here it is not possible to move any faster. The weather, although showing signs of changing, remained at bay and it appeared would not be a deterrent to letting us reach the summit.
The summit of Cho Oyu is a big open snow field. After scaling snow fields that reached over 30 degrees in steepness, loose bands of shale, and icy slopes, the last part of our climb crossed a plateau inching higher to its 26,905' summit. Eight hours after leaving camp there was no higher point to attain. We congratulated each other for a job well done, took some summit photos, then took some time to reflect on everything that brought us to this point.
We thought about our other teammates who were not with us now but whose efforts had helped us reach this goal. We also thought about our friends and families who have been following our progress and kept us in their prayers. It is through the support of all these people we found the strength and determination to persevere to this point.
Reaching the summit is only the half way point of a climb though so after some time spent resting it was time to head down. We carefully picked our way back down and eventually slept at Camp 2 that evening. During the night a storm moved in and by morning we had a foot of new snow around our tents. The window of good weather to reach the summit had closed in dramatic fashion. With blowing snow we loaded our packs and a tired but satisfied climbing team carefully descended the rest of the way back to ABC.
As we start getting packed up, team member's thoughts start drifting towards home. We think about reconnected with friends and loved ones, and getting a taste of some good ol' American food!!!
Our schedule from here on out is as follows:
May 16: At ABC, start packing up our equipment May 17: At ABC, continue preparing our equipment to load on to the yaks May 18: Yaks arrive in ABC May 19: Load up yaks, descend to Base Camp May 20: Drive to Zangmu at the border of China and Nepal May 21: Cross the border and drive to Katmandu May 22: Spend the day in Katmandu May 23: Fly home May 24: Arrive home!!!
Thanks everyone for your support. We definitely felt it from here. We look forward to seeing you all again and relating the stories of our adventures!!