This Thursday, 1 December, the meteorological winter begins. And again Gelje Sherpa is drawn to the 8,188-meter-high Cho Oyu. The 30-year-old Nepali mountaineer wants to try again to climb the sixth highest mountain on earth via its Nepalese south side. The Norwegian Kristin Harila will probably also be there as his client. Gelje confirmed this to me: “Yeah, I’m planning to go with her [to Cho Oyu].”
Also on the team, according to Spanish sports newspaper Marca, is Brit Adriana Brownlee. The 21-year-old has so far scaled ten of the 14 eight-thousanders, with bottled oxygen, always led by Gelje.
Gelje wants to complete 8000er collection
The “Mountain Tiger,” as he calls himself, is only missing the sixth highest mountain on earth in his eight-thousander collection. Kristin Harila had actually abandoned her eight-thousander chase after twelve peaks climbed this year – via the normal routes, with Sherpa support and bottled oxygen. In addition to Cho Oyu, the 36-year-old still has Shishapangma to climb. The Chinese-Tibetan authorities had made no exception for the Norwegian this fall. Tibet’s mountains have been closed to foreign climbers since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is possible that this will change next spring, but it is not yet certain.
Previous attempts failed due to storm gusts
In October, Gelje Sherpa’s team, which included Brownlee and Harila, had to turn back at Camp 3 at 7,200 meters. The wind had been “insane,” wrote the 29-year-old Nepalese at the time. “We were in 70kph winds and we knew straight away this was not safe territory.” Gelje says he plans to ascend via the same route this time.
Last winter, he had failed at an altitude of 7,650 meters in his first attempt to open a route on the Nepalese side of Cho Oyu that was also suitable for commercial teams. At that time, too, violent gusts had stopped him.
Still no permits for winter expeditions in the Karakoram
And what else will the upcoming winter bring in terms of expeditions? So far, potential players are still largely keeping a low profile. For example, the Spanish winter specialist Alex Txikon, in recent years in the cold period en route on the eight-thousanders Manaslu and Mount Everest, is already in Nepal and has announced “several very interesting projects planned for the next few months”.
And in the Karakoram? As Karrar Haidri, Secretary General of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, informed me, the tourism authority has not yet issued “any permit to any winter expedition”. But that could still change.
P.S.: Speaking of Cho Oyu winter ascent. If you missed my article about the mystery of the possible solo ascent of this eight-thousander by the German Peter Riemann 30 years ago, just click here.