IMG 2018 Cho Oyu Expedition Trip Report
by IMG Senior Guide Dallas Glass
The Turquoise Goddess stood sentinel above our camp, cast in the alpenglow of another perfect sunset. Sometimes, I just had to pinch myself as a reminder that this place was real and that the experience at hand was true.
Climbing any 8000m peak is an undertaking and Cho Oyu is no different. One teammate said, "It's like wrestling a tiger, even when everything is perfect, it's still a tiger." I think that sentiment really sums up this past year's Cho Oyu expedition.
We experienced near perfect weather, a route made for efficient climbing, and a crew that was ready to climb, but that doesn't mean it's easy. After all it's still an 8000m peak; it's still wrestling a tiger.
This year's Cho Oyu trip started and ended with a new journey. One few westerns have ever undertaken. After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and the destruction of the Friendship Highway, China constructed a new road, and with it, a new border crossing from Nepal to China. We would be among the first westerns allowed to travel this direction.
Adventure may be an overly simplistic term for exploring this new overland route from Kathmandu to Cho Oyu. Villages undisturbed by western commerce, winding mountain roads, breath-taking mountain passes, and collisions of Tibetan and Nepalese culture made for day after day of exploration and life-changing experiences.
Of all the reasons to attempt Cho Oyu, I find traveling in and experiencing Tibet to be the most compelling. Nomadic herders, centuries old monasteries, and the enormous smiles of our Tibetan friends highlight my memories.
For many on our team, Cho Oyu was a unique objective. No one makes their way onto a climb like this without cutting their teeth on several of the world's great mountains. However, even with those other experiences, the resounding sentiment was 8000m peaks are just different.
I'd add, I think it's that difference that makes them so special. The time, commitment, exertion, skill, pain, and joy of climbing an 8000m peak is unmatched. That's why the climbing of Cho Oyu is so special.
Over the course of our six-week expedition, we generally experienced picture-perfect weather. With such great luck, we were able to set about climbing, acclimatizing, and enjoying the mountain at our own schedule, well away from other teams.
Summit day was no exception. I popped my head out of the tent into the bitterly cold night air. Thousands and thousands of stars sparkled above my head, illuminating the night sky. With each breath, bits of ice formed in my beard and on my down suit. This was the perfect night for climbing.
The mountains around us began to turn shades of purple and orange just as we crested the infamous yellow-band. The tip for 7000m peaks around us caught the first rays of sun. Cho Oyu's shadow exploded to the west, eclipsing Shishapangma (8027m).
As the climbing eased, we knew we were closing in on the summit. Then there they were: Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Nuptse, lined up across the horizon. Each landmark standing tall into the thin high-altitude air.
Our team gathered on top, all alone, not another expedition in sight. We exchanged high-five, drank tea, and took pictures in celebration.
While today the mountain had been kind, it was still a tiger.
Dallas Glass, IMG Senior Guide