Cho Oyu Frequently Asked Questions
This information should answer many of your initial questions and also guide you through the next stages of preparing for the expedition. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cho Oyu with IMG
Why should I climb Cho Oyu with IMG?
Climbing 8,000m peaks in the Himalaya is serious business. IMG is proud of the way we conduct ourselves, and we think we provide the best package available. We encourage you to contact the IMG Team to discuss in person all the details of our programs. 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 leaders 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 will field for Cho Oyu.
- IMG 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 employees and Sherpa support teams, and complete adherence to all environmental regulations. Our great safety 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 Base Camp is top-notch, our enthusiastic cooks do a great job, and our menus are well considered. It makes a difference! Some of the amenities we offer include: a gas-powered hot shower, a shower tent, individual tents at base camp, excellent base camp food which often includes fresh baked goods, sushi, and tempura by our trained cooks, western snack food, thick foam pads for sleeping, etc. We feel these small comforts go a long way in making our clients more at home at base camp and allow them to relax and focus on their climb.
- IMG itineraries are longer than most others offered on the market, and we allow enough time for a second attempt, if necessary. We know how to acclimatize properly, and we don't rush.
- IMG brings advanced technology to the mountain. All Sherpa will be issued a VHF walkie-talkie radio and will be climbing with the team. Solar power at Base Camp quietly supports your Kindle and Music player as well as 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. IMG will post regular internet dispatches and/or send regular e mail updates to keep friends and families appraised of the climbers' progress.
- IMG provides its state-of-the-art proprietary oxygen system to every summit climber. 1800 liters of oxygen will be placed at Camp 3 for use during the summit bid. Additional oxygen will be available for sleeping at C3 as well as emergency and backup.
- IMG maintains a full team medical kit at base camp and bring appropriately sized kit up with us to higher camps so we can properly deal with medical situations should they arise. We supply a gamow bag, pulse oximeter, and extra medical oxygen for emergencies.
What kind of guide support can I expect?
The IMG Cho Oyu expedition will be staffed per the new "New Regulations for Foreign Expeditions 2019" in Tibet, requiring that each foreign climber be assigned a 1:1 sherpa climber for the summit bid. 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, more of the Sherpas will be working on fixing rope, building camps, and carrying loads. As the climbing team moves up for summit bid, more of the Sherpas will be deployed to climb in support of climbers during the summit attempt.
What if I would like extra support?
We also offer a Personal Sherpa and Extra Oxygen Option for $7,500. In addition to the all the benefits and Sherpa support that goes with our Classic Cho Oyu program, we will also assign exclusively to you one of our very best Sherpas, who has summitted Cho Oyu and Everest, been through the Khumbu Sherpa climbing school, and who speaks English. 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 their disposal, but also having the additional flexibility of your own dedicated climbing partner. Your personal Sherpa will also be available to help carry your personal gear to the higher camps. In addition, we will provide extra oxygen so you can start using oxygen above the ice cliff during your summit rotation.
The Climb and Route
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.
- What does the climbing route on Cho Oyu look like?
Is the better climbing season in Spring or Autumn?
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.
Travel and Insurance
How do I get there?
International Mountain Guides has worked for many years with Ms. Pirjo Dehart and her staff at CTT Destinations to provide professional travel service for participants in our programs. We urge you to contact CTT Destinations (www.CTTDestinations.com) at 800-909-6647 or email@example.com for help with your plans. 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 require that you be able to pay for your evacuation, in case you get sick or injured. For this reason, Travel Insurance is required for your program and recommendations are listed on our website.
For some rescue charges in Tibet, you may be required to pay for this upfront, and then file a claim for reimbursement. Some insurance companies may require that you be hospitalized or evaluated by a doctor before they will agree to pay. For example, if you require evacuation from Base Camp, and your insurance company does not agree to pay upfront for your evacuation, you must have cash (for a jeep ride to the Nepal border) and available credit on your Visa or MasterCard (for a charter helicopter flight from the Nepal border to Kathmandu).
When purchasing a Travel Insurance policy, Cho Oyu Climbers and Tibet Trekkers should extend your coverage to include your return flight back to your home to allow for contingency days.
Credit cards are charged an additional 4% service fee by helicopter companies in Nepal (if you fly from the Nepal border to Kathmandu). In addition to the required Travel Insurance (evacuation/repatriation/medical expense coverage) we strongly recommend that you add Trip Cancellation coverage to your policy to cover cancellation (before the trip starts) or interruption (after trip starts). Note, the "Cancel for any Reason" policies commonly require that you insure ALL your expenses. Climbers: please double check that your policy includes coverage for mountaineering (commonly defined by insurance companies as using ropes and crampons).
If you need assistance with the various insurance options, contact Becky Kjorvestad in the IMG Office: 360 569 2609 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What kind of visa do I need?
Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the trip and have a minimum of two blank pages. Advanced visas are not required for entry into Nepal, you will simply get your visa on arrival at the airport in Kathmandu, where you will need to purchase a short-term Nepal tourist visa ($50 plus a 2" x 2" color passport photo). You will need to do this again (need another $50 plus another color passport photo) when you return to Nepal after visiting Tibet). For the Tibet visa ($200 plus another color photo), we will assist you with the visa form in Kathmandu. An example of what your photos should look like can be found here: https://in.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/passports/photos/
You MUST arrive in Kathmandu on the specified day on the itinerary, or before, because your passport must go in with the group documents for the visa on the Chinese Embassy visa day. Some people may have multiple passports for different countries. IMPORTANT: You must enter Nepal and Tibet on the same passport that we use to obtain your climbing permit. The Tibetan Visa process takes approximately 3 days to complete, and we will tour KTM and have meetings to go over the itinerary and plan for our trek to Cho Oyu ABC.
Gear and Packing
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, don't cut corners on the quality of your gear.
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?
We use both the Summit and the TopOut masks. Many climbers have asked about practicing at home with a mask. The TopOut mask 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 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.
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.
Money and Tips
How much money should I bring?
EXTRA MONEY TO BRING: As soon as you get to Kathmandu you will need your Nepal visa fee ($50 for single entry 15 day visa) and then at the hotel we will collect your Sherpa tip pool contribution (climbers=$500, trekkers=$300) and the Tibet Visa Fee ($200).
In addition to the tip pool and visa, we suggest $2,500 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 with 4% 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.
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
- Park Fees and climbing permit fees
- International Flights to Lhasa for climbers and trekkers and airport transfers in Kathmandu
- 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 radios
- Climbing route equipment
- 1800 liters climbing oxygen delivered to Camp 2 for the summit day
- 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, will assist with reconfirming tickets and will cover the cost of your transfer to the Kathmandu airport)
- International flights
- Helicopter flights from the Kyirong border to KTM if you choose to depart this way (Estimated cost from Kyirong to KTM is $1,500 per helicopter (Heli can carry up to 4 people with luggage)
- Personal gear
- Excess baggage charges
- Airport taxes and entry visas for Nepal ($50 X 2) and Tibet ($200)
- Sherpa tip pool (we suggest $500 per person for climbers and $300 per person for trekkers)
- Satellite telephone 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.)
- Customary but optional tips for IMG staff
Medical and Rescue
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 cdc.gov.
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 to the "Interim Camp" where jeeps are available. Remember, there is no helicopter evacuation option in Tibet, so if you need a hospital you have the choice of driving a full day to Shigatse (3800 m) OR a full day of driving to the Nepal border at Lower Kyirong (2700 m). For higher care, you can fly by helicopter to Kathmandu from Syrabrubensi (1550 m) on the Nepal side of the border, OR if you are in Shigatse it's another 5 hours driving to Lhasa. For helicopter from the border to Kathmandu, the cost will depend 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 $5,000. You will need either cash or a Visa/Mastercard with enough 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 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 affect 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 are required. These should be discussed with your personal physician and some will require a prescription. We want everyone to bring two regimens of the antibiotic azithromycin ("Z-Pak") and some Imodium in case of bad traveler's diarrhea. 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 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 towns, but we do not encourage you to buy bottled water on the trek since the bottles are garbage and constitute an environmental issue. 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?
These medications are REQUIRED. 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, bring 2 tablets) and the Dexamethasome is useful for cerebral edema (20mg = 1 day's worth = 8mg for first dose and one 4mg tablet every 6 hours thereafter). This will be enough 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).