Autumn 2002 Cho Oyu Expedition 
Directed by Eric Simonson • Lead by Ben Marshall 

Expedition Dispatches
Dispatches will be added in chronological order below as news comes in from the climbing team in Tibet.

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002

Ben Marshall
Expedition Leader Ben Marshall
Update #1
August 27, 2002

The IMG Cho Oyu team, led by Assistant Guide Mike Hamill, left the USA on August 23 and arrived in Kathmandu on the 25th, where they were met by Expedition Leader Ben Marshall, who had arrived a couple days earlier to finish the food and equipment packing with the Sherpas. The team spent one free day in Kathmandu getting the Chinese visas, doing last minute preparations, and taking part in a special Puja with the Sherpas at the monastery near Boudhanath Stupa. All total the team is comprised of 2 guides, 10 climbers (3 guided and 7 non guided), 2 trekkers, 5 high altitude Sherpas, and 2 Sherpa cooks. Here's the team roster as it appears on the
official permit:

    Mr. Benjamin Joseph Marshall, Leader
    Mr. Michael Aaron Hamill, Asst. Leader
    Mr.Thomas Paul Dougherty Jr
    Mr. Robert Neil Mackay
    Mr. David John Pierce Jones
    Mr. Rodney Kenneth Nelson
    Mr. James Stoddard Waldron
    Mr. Jeffrey Scott Miller
    Mr. John Knox Carnahan
    Mr. Kristoffer Jon Erickson
    Mr. John Peter Griber
    Mr. Douglas Chandler Stoup

    Mr. Peter Cola
    Mr. Kurt James Weidmann

    Mr. Ang Pasang Sherpa
    Mr. Ang Chhiring Sherpa
    Mr. Mingma Ongel Sherpa
    Mr. Phu Nuru Sherpa
    Mr. Da Nuru Sherpa
    Mr. Pemba Tshiri Sherpa
    Mr. Kaji Sherpa

On the 27th the team split into two groups, with all the Sherpas along with most of the equipment heading by truck to the border. Their plan was to cross the Friendship Bridge at Kodari on the 28th, then proceed to Zhangmu, Nyalam, and Tingri, where they are scheduled to meet the members. The Sherpas' trip was expected to be complicated by the numerous landslides that have occurred recently, which have blocked the road in places. It is likely that they will have to hire porters in several different spots to carry all the food, fuel, equipment, and other gear past the landslides, and then hire different trucks to take them to the next landslide!

Meanwhile, the rest of the team members left on the morning of the 27th to fly to Lhasa, where they will spend several days as tourists, as they start to acclimatize to the high altitude of the Tibet Plateau. Their goal is to travel from Lhasa by jeep, via Xegatse, and meet the Sherpas in Tingri. Leader Ben Marshall reported this morning from Lhasa that all is well there and that the team is in good shape.

We'll keep you posted as we hear from them!

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update # 2
August 31, 2002

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Leader Ben Marshall called by satellite phone at 10pm on August 31 (Washington State time) to say that the team had just arrived at Chinese Base Camp for Cho Oyu. In Tibet the time was about 10:30am on September 1. They had left Tingri that morning for the two hour drive to Base Camp, and were welcomed by the Sherpas who had gone ahead the day before to get it set up. This is about 15,000 feet, and will be the jumping off point for the expedition.

Ben said everyone on the team was doing fine, that they had a good trip across Tibet in the jeeps, and that everything was going like clockwork. After two days in Lhasa, during which time they had toured the famous Potala Palace and Johkang Temple, the group traveled by jeep to Xegatse, the second largest city in Tibet. Here they visited the Tashilumpo Monastery, home of the Panchen Lama. The next day they headed for Tingri, the last town before Base Camp. They spent an acclimatization day in Tingri, exploring this old trading village (the trail to Namche Bazaar and the Khumbu, via Nangpa La Pass starts from here) and getting ready. Apparently the weather in Tibet has been reasonably good with just a little rain. This time of year Tibet is very green and verdant, compared to the spring when it is dry and dusty from the winter. The road conditions to Base Camp were not too bad, with some mud, but nothing ridiculous (some years we have seen it pretty bad!).

The plan is for the team to spend three nights at Base Camp for acclimatization and packing, before heading up with the yaks to the "Interim Camp" on September 4th. The next day, September 5, the team will occupy Advanced Base Camp.

So far so good!

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update # 3
September 3, 2002

Ben Marshall reports that all is well at Chinese Base Camp with the team and that they were working on getting packed up, sorting yak loads, and getting the solar panels out so they could charge the batteries for the satellite phone, video cameras, and various music devices belonging to team members! The team is expecting the arrival of the yak drivers and yaks later today. These guys and their animals are crucial to getting the team moved into place at ABC, but since the rates they charge have gone up dramatically the last year, it is more important than ever to pack carefully. Now, if you need any more than your allotment of yaks, you have to pay 9 days wages for both the yak and the yak driver, just to get them to go up to ABC and back, a trip they can do in one day if they start early in the morning. It has really become quite the little yak cartel, with the local yak drivers making a lot of money off the climbing expeditions!

Tomorrow the team will leave Base Camp en route to the intermediate camp (which will only be occupied one night) and then on up to Advanced Base Camp the next day. The route to ABC starts out following the river from the Gyabrag Glacier in a pretty valley. Soon it becomes a barren glacial outwash plain with lots of rocks, which continues up to the terminal moraine. The route then continues along the lateral moraine on the east side of the glacier, until a nice grassy meadow at a side valley is reached, about 16,500 feet. After a night here, the team will continue to follow the Gyabrag Glacier lateral moraine, on increasingly rough terrain. Finally, at nearly 18,000 feet, a glacier coming from the east blocks the way, forcing the team to turn left and follow the moraine of this side glacier. Eventually ABC is reached, tucked onto the moraine at about 18,500 feet. From ABC, the view to the south is across the glacier to the famous Nangpa La pass. Occasionally yak herders can be seen crossing the pass, often with long lines of yaks carrying Chinese merchandise to sell in Namche Bazaar. Looking east from ABC provides a great view of the west side of Cho Oyu and the climbing route.

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #4
September 6, 2002

Ben Marshall reports that most of the Cho Oyu team has moved into ABC at 18,500 feet, and is doing well. Three of the members, Kurt Weidmann, Mike Hamill, and Kaji Sherpa are staying down at BC for a couple days to shake off a chest cold. Otherwise, the trip to ABC went smoothly (with 40 plus yaks!) and everyone is safe and sound. The IMG campsite at ABC is a little below the main ABC site, which gets quite crowded with other expeditions. Our IMG teams have been using this alternative site for several years now. Several expeditions got to the mountain ahead of our group, including Japanese and Chinese groups. They have now established Camp 1. The IMG team plans to take a rest day tomorrow at ABC, then do an acclimatization hike to Camp 1 on the 8th. So far the weather has been cloudy, with occasional snow. The mountain is covered in snow, which is to be expected this time of year, at the end of the monsoon. The current plan is for the team to have a puja at ABC on the 9th, after which the trekkers will descend to BC and the Sherpas and climbers will start moving up the mountain to establish the upper camps.

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #5
September 10, 2002

Cho Oyu
Cho Oyu Camp 1
Ben Marshall reports that everyone had a nice first trip up to Camp 1 (20,500 feet) and has returned to Advanced Base Camp feeling good. The team is taking a rest day today, and the plan is to go back up to Camp 1 and sleep for a couple nights, and maybe try climbing further up the ridge towards Camp 2 for some practice on the ice cliff. The team has had their puja at ABC and the Sherpas are now working on starting to fix ropes and build the upper camps. The trekkers are now heading back to Base Camp and will be heading over the Lamna La pass from BC on their hike to Rongbuk and Everest Base Camp. From there they will take the jeep to the border and return to Kathmandu. Right now the plan for the trekkers is to get back to Kathmandu by the 13th or 14th. Apparently the weather has been pretty good, nice in the morning, some snow in the afternoon, but nothing too bad.

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #6
September 12, 2002

Ben Marshall reports that all is well and that everyone is healthy and doing fine. On the 10th the guided group and the North Face group headed up to Camp 1, spent the night, climbed partway to Camp 2 the next day, and then descended to ABC. On the 11th the non guided climbers headed to Camp 1 to do the same thing. Today they climbed up towards Camp 2 for acclimatization, and now are on their way back down to ABC for some R and R. The climbers will all take a couple days rest, then head back up to Camp 1 and Camp 2 for further acclimatization. The trekkers are now on their way back to Kathmandu after going to Everest Base Camp and Rongbuk Monastery. Also heading back to Kathmandu is David Pierce Jones, who decided to go home early.

That is the latest from Cho Oyu!

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #7
September 16, 2002

IMG Cho Oyu expedition leader Ben Marshall called in from ABC on Saturday night (Sept. 14) and reported feeling great after 3 days of rest at ABC. Assistant guide Mike Hamill has returned to ABC after seeing the trek team back to Nepal (word from Kathmandu is that both Kurt and Peter flew out of KTM on the 15th and are on their way home!) Ben and Rob Mackay planned to head up to Camp 1 on the 15th, and then up to Camp 2 on the 16th for some good acclimatization before returning back to ABC for one more rest break before summit bids. Meanwhile, Kris Erickson, John Griber, and Doug Stoup spent the 14th at Camp 1 with plans to move up to Camp 2 on the 15th before descending for a rest break before summit bids. Climbers Rod Nelson, Jim Waldron, Jeff Miller and John Carnahan plan to rest up at ABC and then move up to Camp 1 on the 16th and then Camp 2 on the 17th before a final rest break at ABC prior to summit bids. Tom Doherty has experienced some ankle problems and has decided to sit out this rotation up the mountain with hopes to join the team in going up to Camp 2 or higher on the summit bid rotation.

We'll let you know when we hear more from Tibet ....

—Erin Simonson
International Mountain Guides

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #8
September 18, 2002

Ben Marshall reported in last night. After a trip to Camp 2, he and Rob descended to ABC along with climbers Doug, John and Kris, who had slept 2 nights at Camp 2. You can check out the details of their interesting day at - now everyone plans to rest for a few days before contemplating summit bids. Tom's ankles forced a decision to leave and head home and he was reported back in Kathmandu this afternoon. That's it for now, good to have everyone safe and resting at ABC!

—Erin Simonson
International Mountain Guides

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #9
September 20, 2002
Greetings. Ben Marshall phoned in this morning, it was the evening of the 20th over there in Tibet. Everyone is doing fine after 3 days of rest at Base Camp. Ben and some of the other expedition leaders have shared notes on plans for summit bids, and Ben indicated that a good number of teams, including ours, will start up on the 21st with summit bids in mind. Apparently there have been a few slabs of snow about 6-8 feet deep and 200-300 meters wide that have slipped off the mountains from below the first ice headwall (directly across the route) so everyone is going to need to be conscious of the avalanche conditions and make decisions accordingly. Ben also reports that high winds have really been scouring the upper mountain, so he feels conditions for climbing should be quite good and safe once they get up there. Sherpas from various teams are moving up to fix the route in the yellow band and get things buffed out and ready for larger numbers to move up. From our team, Ben Marshall, Mike Hamill, Rob Mackay, Rod Nelson, Jim Waldron and Jeff Miller will all start moving up tomorrow, the 21st, along with Doug Stoup and Kris Erickson. Rod, Jim and Jeff haven't yet slept at Camp 2, so they may stop there, sleep and descend before mounting a summit bid on the next rotation. Ben thinks that he and the others will contemplate mounting a summit bid from Camp 2 (skipping the overnight at Camp 3) if the weather conditions seem to begin to deteriorate. They'll make that call when they get up there and see how they feel.

John Griber is doing well and he and John Carnahan are heading down to ABC on the 23rd, hoping to leave BC via Jeep on the 24th and may make it all the way back to Kathmandu that day.

So that's the way it goes, sounds like things are on track, we'll hear about it when they descend in a few days!

—Erin Simonson

IMG Cho Oyu Autumn 2002
Update #10
September 23, 2002

Expedition leader Ben Marshall reported in from ABC this morning after the group was turned back by extremely high winds on their attempt to move up from C1 to C2. As Ben put it, the best decision was to tuck their tails between their legs and retreat. The climbing window looked like the best one they'd yet seen from a forecast standpoint, so they went for it, but it turned out to be too short. There is now a massive plume tailing off the summit daily, and they've had some precipitation regularly as well, with this forecasted to continue until the 27th. So now it's become a waiting game. Kami and Danuru fixed the route up thru the Yellow Band and above, so it should be good to go when the time comes .... Doug Stoup, John Griber and John Carnahan left for BC today, will take the jeep tomorrow to the border and we've got a van there waiting to bring them back to Kathmandu.

—Eric Simonson
International Mountain Guides

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #11
September 27, 2002

Ben Marshall reported in from ABC with bad news and good news. The bad news is that they have suffered 4-5 days of terrible weather, lots of snowfall and heavy winds. He and Mike Hamill made a recon climb up to Camp 1 today to survey the damage, which was pretty bad. Almost all tents in that camp for all teams were flattened, some with poles "smashed to smithereens", and personal gear strewn all across the mountain. Apparently Camp 2 fared better and wasn't destroyed. Ben and Mike were able to gather up all the personal gear for our team (had to fix some line to lower down the face to get a couple of folks' duffles, but retrieved everything) and we've got extra tents at ABC that can be used to restore Camp 1, so it's not "game over" yet.

The good news is that the weather has now cleared and is looking pretty good for the next few days, so the IMG team and a few others will move up to Camp 1 tomorrow (the 28th) with a view toward continuing to Camp 2 on the 29th and restoring that camp as well as sending some people up to put Camp 3 in place, with possible summit bids mounted from Camp 2 (skipping the sleepover at Camp 3) on the 30th. All are wary of the heavy snow load up high. Apparently one team mounted a summit bid early in the week and encountered heavy, slabby, waist-deep snow above Camp 2, which forced their retreat. So to this point, the mountain has shut everyone out and the climbing bids planned for the next few days might be everyone's last shot with the season coming to a close very soon.

Ben says the IMG team is excited about the prospect of giving it one more good try, so we'll look forward to hearing from them in a few days with the story about how it all turned out. We may not hear from him until early next week, so until then, let's keep our fingers crossed for them!

—Eric Simonson
International Mountain Guides

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #12
October 1, 2002

Kris Erickson called to report that the IMG team had made the top (8201m) and that he could see the North Face of Mt. Everest. This means they really did walk all the way across the summit plateau to the true highest point (you can't see Everest unless you do!). We don't have any further details, other than that they left Camp 3 (24,000 feet) at about 3 am and got to the summit about 9am. They will be trying to go all the way down to Camp 2 today, removing Camp 3 with the Sherpas help as they descend. It's a long day and we won't expect to hear a whole lot more until they return to ABC

—Eric Simonson
International Mountain Guides

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #13
October 2, 2002

I spoke to Expedition Leader Ben Marshall on the sat phone from Advanced Base Camp and got the lowdown on the IMG team's successful climb of Cho Oyu. Ben described the last few weeks as a real roller coaster ride…with good weather, bad weather, lots of snow, wind, storm, aborted attempts, destroyed camps, and finally, a PERFECT day…..making all the hard work and waiting pay off. Team members Ben Marshall, Mike Hamill, Rod Nelson, Jeff Miller, Kris Erickson, Jim Waldron, Kami Sherpa, and Danuru Sherpa reached the top at 9am on October 1. They spent an hour on top, then descended successfully. Five members spent the night at Camp 2, one went to Camp 1, and two to ABC. All members are now at ABC safe and sound. All IMG members used oxygen on the summit day and had no major health or altitude problems. All team equipment has now been brought down to Camp 1 and tomorrow the five IMG Sherpas will make one more trip up to bring down the rest of the gear. Yaks are due to arrive at ABC on the 4th, and the team will go to BC on the 5th, to Zhangmu on the 6th, and to Kathmandu on the 7th.

This puts the total number of IMG Cho Oyu summitters at over 80 on the world's sixth highest mountain. Since 1995 IMG has conducted 11 expeditions (ten successful) on Cho Oyu.

—Eric Simonson
International Mountain Guides

IMG Cho Oyu Expedition Autumn 2002
Update #14
October 7, 2002

The Cho Oyu team successfully crossed the Friendship Bridge back into Nepal yesterday and completed the road journey back to Kathmandu. The expedition is now officially over!

Thanks for you interest in our program. We plan to go back to Cho Oyu next autumn 2003.

—Eric Simonson
International Mountain Guides

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