Mountaineering - with Hedvig and Gert Rasmussen
by: Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen
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Cho Oyu 8201m.

- april-may 1996 -

If you have been mounteneering in the Himalayas once you´re infected! Just the size of the mountains and the enthusiasm in such an expedition is unike. You will never get it elsewhere.

After my Mt.Everest expedition in 1994 I said "Never again!". That promise lasted one month, then the mountains tempted more than the hardships deterred. It then became possible to join the Cho Oyu spring expedition 1996.

Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

Geography:

Cho Oyu is a part of the Himalaya chain, which together with Karakorum, Tien Shan, Pamir etc. covers Asia in a broad band from West to East. Cho Oyu is situated 30 km. west of Mt.Everest on the Nepali-Tibetian border. It can be climbed from the two countries. In both cases you go first to Nepals capital Kathmandu and then you drive either to the south base camp in Nepal or you drive to the Tibetian border and through Tibet to the north base camp. The north base camp can also be reached by flying to Lhasa, regional capital of Tibet, and from there drive to the base camp - you just have to let others take care to get all your equipment transported from Kathmandu.

Here are some maps of the area: Cho Oyu

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

The mountain:

Cho Oyu is the worlds sixth highest mountain and officially 8201 meters high. Mt.Everest, the worlds highest is only some 600 meters higher.

Cho Oyus poetic name is Goddess of the Turquoise. The mountain was climbed first time in 1954 by an austrian expedition with Herbert Tichy, Sepp Jöchler and Pasang Dawa Lama. In 1952 the english with Edmund Hillary used it for preparation for the Mt.Everest ascent the year after - though not reaching the summit.

Previously Cho Oyu was not climbed that many times, but during the 1990ies it has been "rediscovered" and is now one of the most visited. It is considered one of the "easier" 8000´s - everything is relative: No 8000 is easy! There are at least four routes to the summit, we got a permit to the "normal" route on the tibetean north side.

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

The team:

Herman Kiendler A    
Maria del Refugio Morales Campos Mex    
Hans Delorenzo A    
Maria del Carmen Pena Mex    
Horst Kaluza D Expedition leader  
Juris Osis Lat    
Rolands Laveikis Lat    
Valdis Sakars Lat    
Janis Ventins Lat    
Alvars Valentins Rutkis Lat    
Uldis Zorgenfreis Lat    
Rudolf Widerhofer A    
Gert Rasmussen Dk    
Jorge Hermosillo Mex    
Tenzing Sherpa Nepal Sirdar  
Chokleg Nepal Porter  
Zhambu Nepal Porter  
Buma Nepal Cook  
Nima Sherpa Nepal Kitchen aid  
       
Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

The route:

The basecamp is situated in 4800 meter. To here all equipment is transported by truck. Then everything is reloaded on yaks, who carry the loads 25 km via one intermediate camp to the advanced base camp (ABC) in 5400 meters. From now on every gram must be carried by the sherpas and ourselves to furnish the three high altitude camps. Camp 1 was put just above the famous/notorious "Killerhang" in 6400 meter, camp 2 was placed on a small plateau at 7000 meter and finally camp 3 on a shelf at 7600 meters. Fixed ropes were placed on technical difficult parts of the climb - most important on a 80 meters high icewall and on a 50° snow slope between camp 1 and camp 2, but also just above camp 1 and on exposed rock between camp 3 and the summit.

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

The tour:

April 6th. 1996: What a feeling to land again in Kathmandu Airport. Even though the city has grown more noisy and polluted (if possible) since my first visit at the Mt.Everest expedition in 1994, the city IS fascinating: The combination of mysticism, hinduism and other -isms on one hand and a country in development on the other. But as usual the expedition preparations were manifold and little time was left for tourism.

The tranfer to the base camp went approximately in the same manner as at the Mt.Everest expedition. First with bus and truck to the border town of Kodari and first lodge. Since last time the lodge had electrical light and padlocks on the doors installed. The former progress, the latter? Next day to Zhangmu - the chinese side of the border - and a delicious chinese lunch. Food is immensely important on such an expedition, where the rest is coldness, no sleep, drudgery, exhaustion. The night spent in the town Nyalam in the Power Plant Union building. Heaters were turned on - extremely considerate! The freezing temperatures let you notice, that we are at 3800 meters altitude. Dinner in our "regular" chinese restaurant. Then three days of acclimatisation with hikes and climbs up to 5000 meters in the area. Then finally a long drive to the base camp of Cho Oyu, a beautiful drive over the Lalung La pass (5050 meters) with a vue on Shisha Pangma, the smallest of the 8000s. The road was opened only a week ago, so we were driving through tunnels of snow - and even our Toyota 4-wheel drive got stuck, bur we made it.

The base camp was desperately cold and stormy (the altitude is now 4800 meters), with the effect that never were the trucks faster unloaded and the tents put up.Here we acclimatised again for 3 days with shorter hikes and climbs before continuing towards the advanced base camp (ABC). We only had 56 yaks, so the equipment had to be transported in 2 shifts. It became a hard tour due the the distance and the snowy weather. We had to give up the plan of setting up the advanced base camp where the austrian 1954 expedition had their camp. The yaks simple sank into the snow. Unfortunately we thereby got more distance as well as altitude to overcome on the further transport, where the sherpas and we were to carry the loads. Annoying since we must climb up and down many times to get all the equipment up.

The high camp 1 was set up in 6400 meters on a ridge above the "Killerhang". This "pleasant" name is correct: This slope you ascent by taking 1 step forward and slip back 2 steps. The camp though was situated with a beautifull view. Here I saw for the first time a heliotrope (not the flower!) - an atmospheric fenomenon where you see 3 suns in a lightcircle. At night you could often watch electrical discharges reminding of polar light. The nights are so beautifull at these altitudes. I have noticed that on all my expeditions.

It was hard work to carry the loads to high camp 2. We must off course also carry the equipment for the following high camp 3. The steepest part of the route consisted of naked ice. It requires discipline to kick the front teeth of your crampons fully into the ice so that the weight of yourself and the load is carried safely. After this wall a smaller plateau came for "relaxation" , then one more wall and then many crevasses, but we found a site for our camp 2 in approximately 7000 meters.

The trip to high camp 3 is one long slope. 20 steps up, a rest standing, 20 steps more, sit down and so on. You have to count steps before resting otherwise you do not progress. Finally we did arrive to 7600 meters and put up our small but reliable tent. When the tent was up and tea made, I said to myself: "You will succede!"

Well, you must not tempt Nemesis. During the evening I got increasing stomach pains. At midnight we (Valdis, Horst and I) started melting snow for tea making and at 2 o´clock we started for the summit. It didn´t work at all! Valdis was exhausted from the previous day, Horst had beginning frostbites in his fingeres, changing of gloves on a steep slope in the middle of the night with storm and snow drift is not the easiest task! My stomach got worse and worse and when at 8000 meters altitude I lost my torch, saw the light tumbling down the slope, disappearing into a crevasse I took it as a sign and turned around. At that time Valvis had allready returned and Horst also gave up now.

The followed a 5 days tour (torture) down to base camp. Persisting stomach pains, snowstorm and passing corpses of people frosen to death sets your imagination going, but if you must you can mobilise strenght you didn´t knew you had. Our expedition all reached with equipment and waste safely the base camp and the waiting trucks and Jeeps.

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

Home again:

On the whole the expedition was a succes: 5 climbers out of 14 did reach the summit - some directly from high camp 2 following an alternative route. We all got safely home with few injuries: Janis had to be driven out in the middle of the expedition with altitude sickness but recovered in Kathmandu. Horst got frostbites and had black feet the rest of the summer but recovered without permanent injury. My stomach problems were cured home in Germany. Other expeditions were not so fortunate as ours.

It was off course sad to give up a climb just 200 meters below the summit after one year of preparations, 5 weeks of hardship on the mountain and the money you have invested! So close.... Here you have to be responsible and acknowledge that the limit is reached. The most important is ALLWAYS to get down safely and not risk yours or other peoples health. The mountain will probably still be there next year!

Reaching the summit would have been but one of the joys of mountaineering: The beauty of mountains in the snow, the stars that shine the brightest at altitude, the feeling of beeing part of a real expedition, meeting pals from the Mt.Everest expedition again, the chinese food (food again!) the nightly drive through nepali villages, the rediscovery of scents, warmth and colours after 5 weeks on the glaciers. Finally: To reach an altitude of 8000 meters is a present that not many will recieve.

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos