After the second summit push last Monday was also not crowned with success, Gelje Sherpa has declared an end to the attempts over the Southeast Ridge of the eight-thousander Cho Oyu for the time being. “We put all our efforts into this push,” the 29-year-old let it be known. “We were so close. But our health and safety is the priority.”
According to Gelje, the Nepalese climbers reached an altitude of around 7,900 meters: “However, some of our team fell ill, there were also some issues with an oxygen mask and we decided that with this, the addition of incredibly strong winds up to 100kph and a very technical rock face near the ridge towards the summit it was time to retreat to basecamp.”
Five team members – half of his team – have now joined the eight-member winter team of Nepalese expedition operator Pioneer Adventure on Cho Oyu, Gelje wrote: “Their mission and our mission are the same. We are doing this for our country and to open a safe and accessible commercial route for all the mountaineering community. So together we are more powerful. Together we can make this happen.”
Until now, the two teams had been more like racing each other. Both wanted to open a new route on the Nepalese side of Cho Oyu this winter that is suitable for commercial teams. The normal route on the Chinese side of the 8,188-meter-high mountain had recently been used less and less – on the one hand because of China’s strict COVID-19 policy, on the other hand because of the restrictive issuing of permits in Tibet, and in addition the Chinese-Tibetan authorities had tightened the price screw considerably.
Up to 7,650 meters
The Pioneer Adventure team led by Mingma Dorchi Sherpa reached an altitude of 7,650 meters during their summit attempt, according to their own information, before the storm forced the climbers to turn back there as well. Mingma Dorchi’s team had ascended via the side of Cho Oyu facing the village of Thame. Originally, this had also been Gelje’s plan, but then he had opted for the Southeast Ridge.
“No matter what the outcome of this project is, we are certain that our pioneer route can open the chances of scaling Cho Oyu from the Nepal side commercially,” Pioneer Adventure shared.
Meteorologists do not expect the strong winds to die down until Sunday. There probably won’t be more than one more summit attempt. After all, the spring season is just around the corner. Expeditions during this time are the main source of income for the year for both Nepalese operators and the high altitude porters and mountain guides they employ.
Update 11 March: There was no further summit attempt this winter. For the coming fall, a new attempt via the route planned by Mingma Dorchi Sherpa was announced. According to information from ExplorersWeb, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, head of the operator Imagine Nepal, also wants to participate with a team.