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The Cho Oyu Route:

The long route up Cho Oyu. Photo taken from Advance BaseCamp.

Reaching Camp 2 after climbing up 2 ice cliffs, the route upwards remains tough and challenging.

ARCHIVED REPORTS:

June 13

After numerous misleading press and media reports, primarily by the local newspaper, The Straits Times, pressure from the climbing community as well as a sense of doing the right thing has made me issue the following statement. The Singapore team in question have now admitted, after other media covered this controversy, that they did not reach the top of Xixabangma as previously declared in the media. However, they have not accepted that their claimed alpine-style ascent is in dispute. The reader/surfer can read the following, surf to the relevantwebsites and decide for themselves. The Straits Times have elected not to publish the letter below to correct their previous reports nor report on the controversy.

ISSUES OF STYLE AND ETHICS IN MOUNTAINEERING:
TEAM DID NOT CLIMB TO THE TOP, AS CLAIMED

The Singapore Xixabangma team and my former Everest 98 team-mates returned recently to accolades for their fine efforts on the mountain It was an all-Singapore summit day, without the use of oxygen, and on one of the world’s highest peaks.

But the Singapore team did not climb to the top of this mountain, as reported in the media. They were inaccurately described as having climbed to the top of the peak when the true ( Main ) summit is several hundred metres away at the end of an exposed ridge and higher than the Central summit which they climbed instead.

The team’s claim to have climbed it alpine-style is also questionable.

Alpine-style climbing evolved in the Alps and is broadly defined as climbing a route in a single, continuous push without the use of external help eg sherpa porters to carry gear, without the use of pre-placed fixed rope, camps, caches of supplies and without reconnoitring the route..

Their basecamp manager’s clarification that the public had been told that the climbing sherpas would be hired for only the acclimatisation/ build-up phase and not the summit climb misses the point entirely.

If sherpas are used to lessen the team’s fatigue immensely by pre-placing camps, carrying loads and so on for weeks prior to an “unassisted” summit push by an all-Singaporean team in the final days of the expedition, isn’t this amounting to external help ? More importantly, by reconnoitring most of the route before the summit push, the team sought to remove as much of the unknown factors of the route which are part of alpine-style climbing.

Sir Chris Bonington, the leading British expedition leader of his generation, when asked, thinks that the Singapore ascent is not in alpine-style. He said,” true Alpine style is without any kind of preparation or recce’s” .

The others who doubt the team’s claim include Ms Elizabeth Hawley, the eminent Himalayan mountaineering historian and Mr Joss Lynam, Head of the Expeditions Committee of the Union of International Alpine Associations ( UIAA ).

The team placed on themselves a significant climbing standard but then sought to tweak the ‘rules’, the essence and spirit of alpine style climbing until it became an issue to anyone with a strong background and understanding of this noble ideal and style of climbing. This is not a trivial issue for mountaineers here and abroad.

In the team’s website ( http://www.xixa.com.sg/team/team.asp )
, a member of the team also claims the first Southeast-Asian alpine-style ascent of a 7000m peak in 1996. In reality he had previously recce’d most of the route on acclimatisation climbs and had used a sherpa to help carry a load and climb with him on his final summit push.

It seems the definition of “alpine style” that excludes use of such external help is modified by members of the team when it suits them. Surely this cannot be right.

This in itself does not detract, as mentioned earlier, from what would be described as a fine lightweight ascent of the lower summit by the team which does them credit. But it would do them more credit if they had refuted the misleading media reports of their climbing to the top as well as conceding their claim to have climbed the peak in ” alpine style”.

David Lim

26 May 2002, Kathmandu

60 Days on High Ground

I arrived back in Kathmandu on Friday evening, our driver expertly throwing our Land Rover Defender Mk 2 around rain soaked roads from Kodari. Dodging villagers, dogs, other vehicles, all went well until at extremely low speed in a Kathmandu alley, he ran into a low metal grating. You can’t win ‘em all.

At this stage, I’d like to thank all my supporters, sponsors and well wishers. Amongst the sponsors, I’d like to thank the people from CAMP Scandinavia, the only foreign sponsor (not even an office in Singapore) for their assistance and belief in me. Their new prototype ankle-foot brace has done the rounds here. Canon, who kindly arranged for a mission-critical cable to be supplied in Kathmandu when I was missing it last month. I have some neat footage but missed some wonderful chances 2 days ago. We were desperately clinging on for safety that such chances had to be let go.

The Singapore Sports Council for the Disabled have been a solid but quiet partner as have the Singapore Sports Council. Asia Cellular Satellite have worked wonderfully, and allowed me to send the exciting photos and dispatched consistently in these 60 days as well as helping out when a tragedy needed some SATCOM use up high recently. Thanks too to Ting Sern who had put together the SATCOM power solutions.

I can tell you how distressing and lonely it was at 7,900m on Cho Oyu when I had to beckon to MB Tamang to descend from his position slightly higher up and call off the summit climb. There were not only tears for the disappointment but also tears of exhaustion. 60 days of climbing not one, two but three peaks and no success on the 2 main objectives. In short , I had given 100%,maybe more, but was beaten – first of exhaustion and insufficient fixed line on Shishapangma and then of pure exhaustion from the sustained difficult ground on Cho Oyu. My bad leg had let me down. A summitter with experience with GPS coordinates has now corrected all my previous altitude markers ( from my uncalibrated wrist altimeter ). These are:

Camp 1 = 6,350m
Camp 2 = 7,100m
Turnaround point = 7,900m

Now with several days of rest I have looked back at the most intense climbing expedition of my life and have taken stock. In my mind, when no disabled climber in the world has attempted such two peaks back-to-back and when many are climbing with a whole posse of sherpas for support to my sole Tamang partner, the odds were stacked hugely against us. Encouragement comes from strange quarters. Climbing sherpas throughout this trip have made great remarks about how wonderful it is that I’m trying to give these peaks a shot without the usual entourage of foreign guides and local support teams. To have praise from these enormously cheerful and strong climbers makes me feel proud to keep the flag flying Italians, Dutch, Germans have also given me much support even if I am I’m climbing with such difficulties.

To have climbed to 7,600m (Shishapangma) and 7,900m (Cho Oyu) over tough terrain with no external aids save what fixed line was available was an uncompromising position to take. Perhaps in the future I might accept more help. We had no air or ground support to call upon if the going got tough or if we lost equipment and I think this style of climbing makes easy successes impossible. But we leave with our self-respect.

Dave

26 May - Death On Cho Oyu

Tragedy Strikes the Irish Team.

Three Irishmen from both the Republic and the north came to climb Cho Oyu. My only contact with them comes at Camp 1 when I meet them coming down from Camp 3 after a successful summit bid. The following account is not necessarily the most accurate but tries to capture the gist of what happened on those fateful days. The full story no doubt will emerge from the survivors of the climb.

In the second week of May, Richard and Humphrey had planned to summit from Camp 2 at 6,925m, normally a practice reserved for only the strongest climbers (or sherpas). Adam elected to climb to Camp 3 and meet with the two others in the early hours of the morning. Richard and Humphrey left very early, hooked up with adam and proceeded for the top. However, very shortly after leaving Camp 3, Adam was not feeling the best and decided to descend to Camp 3/2. He was advised to rest up and keep warm and await for the returning climbers. He had a radio.

The two Irishmen summitted and descended late in the day to C3 and then the following day to C1 where I met them. The following day, their elation was tempered with the fact that they had had no radio contact with Adam (there was a radio at their camp at ABC). Evidence at C2 showed he was there briefly but no other signs. The real sense of desperation and fear sank in when they contacted Jamie McGuinness, a mountain guide with whom they had some rapport. Jamie reported no sign of Adam’s rucksack or him at ABC.

If someone is missing for 2 days on a big hill like Cho Oyu and is nowhere safe on the mountain, there is a 99% chance he is toast. Still, the two exhausted climbers went back up to the first icecliff where a large crevasse may have swallowed Adam up. The two descended to ABC, lacking time, energy and resources for a full SAR. My ACeS phone came in handy for them to report their missing friend to the UK insurance underwriters. They also hoped to contact the family of Adam.

A day later at Camp 2, a sherpa reported seeing a body in a specific crevasse. It looked new, and had a jacket which matched Adam’s. The mystery seemed to be over although the tragedy had only just begun. There are two fixed ropes passing this section. A pink one passes cleanly by the crevasse. The other ends abruptly just above the lip of the crevasse. It is not inconceivable that Adam had clipped into this rope and then found it ending abruptly above the chasm. Unclipping, he might have slipped and taken a quick plunge into the crevasse. We don’t know.

Jamie, with whom I share kitchen facilities at Cho Oyu ABC, requested I poke my head over that crevasse and take a few photos of the body for insurance and death certificate purposes. This was a grisly task but one which I accepted as part of being on such an expedition – one tries to do what one can to help others if one can.

In the end, Adam’s parents requested a full body retrieval and one is currently under way, interrupted temporarily by the bad weather last week. McGuninness and Tshering Bhote are attempting the retrieval.

The friends and parents of Adam receive my full sympathy and condolences and I hope the retrieval and repatriation of the body and/or personal effects will help everyone achieve some form of closure of this tragic event. Cho Oyu is considered one of the ‘ safer’ 8000m peaks. However, Adam’s death and the death of three sherpa climbers in 2001 is a reflection of how these mountains have a dozen places where you can get yourself killed.

Dave

23 May 2002 Chinese BaseCamp (4,900m)

(22:20hrs Singapore)
It was a long walk down to BaseCamp with the yaks. The yaks are wonderful creatures, able to carry a good size load. But walking behind yaks is another experience. One always have to keep an eye on where I put my foot down.

Next leg of my journey will be to return to Kathmandu and that long awaited bath.

Dave

20 May 2002 Advance BaseCamp

Two fried eggs, a pancake and a sprinkling of black pepper. If you’ve just had a horrible 9 hour day descending in a windstorm, this is the closest you’ll get to culinary heaven. I missed adding that apart from 2 -3 mugs of hot tea, you’ve also had nothing to eat but six small biscuits all day. (see route!!)

ASCENT AND AN EPIC DESCENT
I’m down from Cho Oyu. We didn’t make the top but got to 7,800m and past most of the technical difficulties of the route. We got to ABC on May 13th, rested a day and went straight up to Camp 1 (6,300m) or so. This camp is right on the glacier’s edge. This was followed by a hard haul over 2 ice cliffs and then to Camp 2 (6,925m). In 1997, I recalll we had a fine day to Camp 3 at 7,350m and took (for me anyway) 5 1/2 hours. This time, in bad (snowy, cloudy) weather, we made it in 3 1/2 hours and with bigger loads – you go figure….

The weather was brilliant on Friday and we thought we’d missed the best of it. Our day on Sunday started on 4am where we climbed up to the 50m vertical rock band. Unlike the 1997 route I was successful on, the fixed line and route took the most direct and thus most vertical approach to the summit block. The route was about 50 m through granite and then 50 degree snow couloirs for about 100m and the an unprotected slabby bit that went on for another 100m before the big snowpatch underneath the summit block.

By this time, it had taken me about 5-6 hours and the wind was picking up. It would be easy to say that this was why we turned round. But the truth of the matter is that the very tough terrain was murder on my bad leg and the energy spent compensating for it had completely fatigued me. We had taken on the mountains on its terms and we’d been beaten. We had been leading the small pack all the day and were happy to let an Italian couple at that stage take over and make the top. I’ll send a pic of the route soon. I had given 100% but it wasn’t enough. We dropped back to Camp 2 – disappointed but knowing we had done our best.

If there was one reason for failure to summit both Shishapangma and Cho Oyu it would be a lack of compromise in style. Perhaps in the future, I should, like so many disabled climbers gunning for the big peaks, get a posse of sherpas to lay fixed rope ahead of me and / or carry everything. My insisting on doing as much as I could, this may have lessened the margins of success. I’m not sure where the line between a mountain tourist and adventurer lies but I’m sure I’m well inside the right line.

The descent the next day was a small epic. Windy weather had been predicted but not the 70kmh sort that knocks you of your feet. My camping mat went ballistic as a gust of wind caught it. It’s in the next glacier system now. Descending the two ice cliffs was also scary and tough. My left hand was half frozen and the ropoes were stuck in the ice. Finally, we cleared these obstacles only to meet more strong winds. The same Italian couple were almost blown off the ridge. Finally, the four of us roped ourselves as two pairs and inched our way down – four legs per group better for balance in the strong winds.

It was 8 – 9 hours before I was back in ABC – and now for those eggs and pancakes by Gyanu, our cook.
Dave

20 May, 2002 Advance BaseCamp 5,600m

(23:05hrs Singapore)
We started the day with the hope that it will be a quiet climb down after our summit attempt. We were exhausted from yesterday’s attempt. Moving off from Camp 2, we started towards the ice cliffs. We had to get down. As we approach the cliffs, we began to get a bit of a breeze. Strong and gusty.

When we reached the ice cliffs, we found that the ropes were glued down. The freezing cold has effectively glued our ropes to the walls. Getting down seems a real challenge. MB and me spent at least 15 mins trying to figure out how to get down. The winds began to pick up. Exposed on top of the ice cliffs, we decided to make our way down. MB and me roped together and wormed our way down. We were like flies on a wall. Using what rope we can find, rope that stayed detached from the wall., we struggled down. Being linked to MB has been very comforting. MB is a pillar of strength. Midway, as we crabbed down the ice walls, the winds started to pull and tug at us. I think they were blasting at about 70 miles/hr. It is like being grabbed and pulled from behind. Only in this case, when I looked over my shoulder, I see the white snow flying in the winds. A mistake here will mean falling down the ice cliffs. Clinging on the ice wall, I feel that if I were to let go, I could actually fly off in a wind like this. As if to answer to my thoughts, one of my karrimats ripped off from its harness on my backpack. It flew off in the direction of Mt Everest… perhaps if any climber finds a karrimat that has my name on it flapping about, please return it to me. I would appreciate it very much. That mat and me have gone a long way together.

After the first cliff, we had to get over to the next cliff. We crawled… crouching down often when the winds get too strong. At this stage, the winds sounds like a huge jet engine, howling, whining and screaming. Here we pause for a moment as we caught a glimpse of Adam’s body, he lay in a crevasse near these cliffs. We said goodbye to our friend and continued. I understand that 2 climbers are still up at this altitude trying to bring Adam’s body down. It will be difficult. We reached Camp 1 after 3 to 4 hours of climbing. It was a climb of an epic proportions.

From Camp 1, we dragged ourselves down to Advance BaseCamp, reaching it at about 6pm our time. We have been on our feet for almost 10 hours. In this journey, I had only a few biscuits and water. Reaching ABC, we stopped at the kitchen tent and rested. Drinking warm water and tea. Looking back up to Cho Oyu, MB said, “Tough route.” We climbed on the mountain’s terms, giving 100% of our energy and efforts. It has challenged us to the core.

Amazingly, both MB and me are healthy. Have a bit of a dry cough right now. My fingers were nipped during the climb down the cliffs. Feeling is returning to all my digits now. Resting now, time for a bit more tea…
Dave

19 May, 2002 Camp 3 (7,350m)

(16:16hrs Singapore)
Have just returned to Camp 3 from our summit attempt. It has been a tough, tough day. We reached 7,800m at the Summit Rock before turning around, about 400 vertical meters away from the summit.

We started climbing at 4am this morning. We had to break trail as there were no one in front of us. Quiet on the mountain. Probably because winds are expected to pick up tomorrow to levels between 40 to 75 knots, very strong gale force winds, very dangerous to be on the mountain. The going was not easy. Winds picked up as we begin climbing. We began with a snow covered slope. This lead us to a vertical ice cliff of about 50m high. It was very difficult climbing up this wall. And getting over this cliff took a considerable amount of energy. It was exhausting. Once over, we continued climbing up a snow covered slope. The slope has an inclination of about 50 degrees. At this altitude, I had to rest and suck air every 6 to 10 steps, the thin cold air burns. After the exertion at the cliff, my legs felt like lead. The slope continues and we started to encounter a lot of broken snow. This is soft snow sitting on top of loose rock. Very wobbly and difficult for me with my bad ankle. After quite a while of this, the snow thickens. Then it was soft snow until the Summit Rock at 7,800m. It took us 5 hours to get to this spot. To continue to the summit would take another few more hours, leaving us with no time to turn around safely. We decided then to give the summit a miss. We have pushed to our max, but Cho Oyu has eluded us.

This route to the summit is much tougher than the one I took in 1997. The cliff beyond Camp 3 took a lot of energy to climb. It has exhausted me. One consolation is that I have surpassed my personal limits again in this climb, going up to 7,800m without bottled oxygen.

Resting for a short while here at Camp 3 before going down to Camp 2 for the night. I feel very, very drained. Tired. Thirsty, very dehydrated. We are boiling water before moving on to Camp 2. The 2 months of unrelenting effort has also taken quite a bit out of me. Feeling really mortal… our main job now is to get off the mountain safely. Winds are picking up…
Dave

18 May, 2002 Camp 2 (6,925m)

(12:35hrs Singapore)
Woke up this morning to a white-out on Cho Oyu. Strong gusty winds and loads of snow greeted me and the other climbers in Camp 2. This is the kind of weather that makes you want to dig a cave and hibernate until the sun comes up again. Stuck my head outside the tent just a few moments ago, can’t see very far. At most, 100m. A white-out on the mountain can be very dangerous, a climber can walk off a cliff or into a wall of ice, or worse, step on a much larger climber with your crampon-ed boot.

Climbers are sitting in their tents waiting for better weather conditions. It doesn’t look good. Any attempt up to Camp 3 would be difficult and arduous.

Camp 3 (7,350m)

(18:20hrs Singapore)
Guess what… I’m at Camp 3!!!
MB and me decided to make an attempt this morning. Got bored sitting around in our tent. We started climbing at 11:30hrs our time. Conditions were not good. Thick soft snow (the kind that you can make snow angels with). We had to break trail up to Camp 3. Breaking trail means that there is no trodden path for us to follow. The wind and the snow has wiped everything out. It feels like we were climbing an untouched mountain. As we moved off, the weather remains “crappy”, we were blasted often by wind and snow.

The route we took today was different from the one I climbed in 1997, this route is more direct, passing some pretty deep crevasses and steep climbs. The amazing thing was that in 1997, I took 5hrs 30mins to get to Camp 3, and in good weather… blue skies and sunshine. Today, it took us 3hrs and 30mins in bad weather and me with a bad ankle. Hmmm, maybe its the “crappy” weather or bad ankle.

We will make a summit attempt tomorrow, at dawn. The weather is not with us, it is likely to remain “crappy” and mushy. It will be a difficult climb.
Dave

17 May, 2002 Camp 2 (6,925m)

(17:50hrs Singapore)
Reached Camp 2 after 5 hrs 30 mins of hard climbing. We are sharing facilities of another expedition here… they have been summitting over the last few days, and they have left a bag of extra food for us!! MB is going through it… hee hee hee, it’s like Christmas. Only problem is that these items are labeled in Japanese. Guess we just gotta try it out and hope that we don’t end up eating wasabi.

The climb up the 2 ice cliffs was very tough. With the changing weather conditions and temperatures fluctuating, the ice looked more cracked than usual. Climbing an ice cliff is difficult, I have to wear crampons (those spiky things that we attached to the bottom of our boots). If there are no toe-holds (little steps for the toes) I have to kick into the cliff and dig in. With my weak ankle, it is quite a strain climbing. One particularly difficult section, where I had to haul myself over a ledge by pulling on a fixed rope attached to an ice screw… I discovered after climbing that section, the screw has loosen and has worked out halfway from my tugging. It is not fun to fall from an ice cliff up here!! Anyway, I just screwed the screw back in again and moved on. One have to just focus on the job and carry on.

My ankles are aching from the workout today. Other than that, both MB and myself are healthy but hungry, thirsty and tired. One of Jamie’s (the leader of the expedition whom we are sharing facilities with) sherpas helped us out today with carrying about 10kg of our gear. This means that MB and me had a slightly lighter load today. I carried about 10 kg on my back. It is still very hard, the weight seems to grow heavier every step I take.

I can see clouds building up in the horizon. It might snow tonight but the sun’s shinning right now. From here we can see the route to Camp 3. It will be a grunt tomorrow but at least there are no ice cliffs. Water is boiling, tea…
Dave

16 May, 2002 Camp 1, 6,300m

(16:10hrs Singapore)
Woke up this morning and decided to take a break. The view here is just too good to waste, fresh air and the quiet sounds of the mountain. Resting in Camp 1 for the day before I make that excruciating climb up those 2 ice walls before reaching Camp 2. This means that MB and me will make a summit attempt on Sunday instead of Saturday.

Camp 1 sits on the edge of a glacier, literally on the edge. There are about a dozen tents, some on ice and the others pitched on scree (loose rocks and pebbles… the kind that can creep into your boots and gives you pain).

One of the tough part about climbing mountains is that after a certain altitude, your mouth cease to taste food well. Everything that I shovel into my mouth starts to taste the same. Oatmeal tastes the same as porridge. Only the really tasty wakes my tastebuds up, fried salted fish and other gamey stuff. I can only dream on… For dinner, I guess that I will tuck into a simple meal of instant noodles boiled with some bits of dried chicken.

Today, has been rather eventful. Spoke to climbers going up and down. The news is that a climber, a friend, has gone missing since yesterday. He was returning from a summit attempt. There was evidence that he was at Camp 2 but there was no sign of him in Camp 1 or even in Advance BaseCamp. Climbers searching the area have found no signs. We are all very concerned. We can only hope as the search continues while there is still light. Dave.

15 May, 2002 Camp 1 (6,300m)

Reached Camp 1 after 6 hours of climbing, walked through a lot of scree slopes and ice. The skies were blue today. Felt good but exhausted. The last time I climbed to this spot, in 1997, I did it with no load. Today, I carried slightly over 15kg of equipment and food. MB is remarkable, he took a load of about 30kg. We are both very tired right now.

Getting a bit of clouds right now. We have been getting bits of snow now and then through the day. Camp 1 sits exposed on a broad ridge. Camp 1 gets a bit of a breeze sometimes. From here to Camp 2, we will follow the ridge. We will have to climb 2 ice cliffs, this is going to be tough, before reaching Camp 3 tomorrow.
Boiling water now.

14 May 2002 Advance BaseCamp

(17:20hrs Singapore)
Pre-summit dispatch
We’re taking a gamble tomorrow by heading for the summit. We have weather predictions showing low winds at the 9,000m mark for the 18th. The schedule will take up up the 5 hour moraine slog to Camp 1 (6,400m) and then over 2 steep ice cliffs to Camp 2 (6,800m). A sustained 45 degree snow slope goes to Camp 3 from whence we will give the top a shot on the 18th May. The summit block is looking pretty formidable with much rock showing through snow.

Radio reports from today’s summit teams at 7,800m this morning had one describe the route a a ‘real bitch’. It’s steep and tough. Weather has been a mix of clouds, swirling snow showers but no strong winds. This seems to be the outlook for the week.

We can continue to stay here for 3-4 days more, hook up with some Dutch and Germans or strike it out while we have this stable sort of weather. This means going it alone for the top. It’ll be exciting with an extremely uncertain outcome

In the midst of all this, please spare a thought for one of the big reasons for ASCENT 8000 – to demonstrate that the disabled are not always unable. 5,000 Singaporeans are wheelchair-bound and thousands more suffering from one or more disabilities. Sports helps to get them out and about. Do spare a minute and go to the links I have to the Sports Council or the Disabled. Volunteer your time, contribute!

Disability sports is usually not a popular issue with the major media who, in Singapore, prefer to focus on exaggerated near-death encounters with crevasses on mountains or bak kwa (honey roasted pork) munching heroes.

It’s hailing graupel and I must be off. Thanks for all the kind emails (hola! Gil) and well wishes.

Audio dispatches only from tomorrow
Dave

May 13, 2002 (Monday)

Advanced BaseCamp, 5,600m (16:20hrs Singapore)
Reached camp this morning. It was a great 4 hour walk. The skies are blue, the sun is out… everyone is in a cheerful mood. This is the weather for walking in the Tibetian highlands. Woke up this morning, in Intermediate Camp, and was rewarded by a great view of Cho Oyu. The day started off with blue skies and Cho Oyu looked just spectacular, so beautiful that I almost forgot to breath.

ABC has a bit more creature comforts than Intermediate Camp. Have a better tent (double layered) and the cook tent is a bit larger, one of those orange globe things. All this is because I got to share facilities with one of the expeditions here. Basically, this means that I get to use some of their facilities, while climbing the mountain will be entirely our own effort.

ABC lies in a valley and just south of us stands a 6,000m peak. My tent here sits next to a 45 deg slope that rises to about 1,000m high. Sitting in front of my tent, I spotted a small hare (I think) and lots of tiny ground mice. Plenty of small wild animals. It will be a good idea to keep food well packed. I intend to rest tomorrow before setting up to the higher camps on Wednesday. This will give me some time to do some chores, like washing my socks… and other fragrant items. For the rest of today, I’ll rest, drink tea and eat.
Dave signing off

13 May 2002 Advanced BaseCamp

(20:00hrs Singapore)
It’s sunny here at Cho Oyu ABC. We arrived after a 4 hour hike today and I’m preparing or the summit push on Cho Oyu. It’s taken us 2 nice days of walking to get here and part of me wonders if I’ve missed a good summit window – looking at all the climbers heading up to Camp 3 at 7,400m today.

In any case, I have 11 days here and only need 5 days to make the summit and back. ABC Cho Oyu in is in a moraine valley so getting emails in and out is tough because of the interference with the transmissions caused by the mountains being so close by . But bear with us – some new pictures coming soon I hope!

For my friends at EduQuest involved in the schools programmes, some interesting altitude matters include how water boils at a lower temperature up high so at 7000m+, you can spill boiling water on your hands and not get scalded!.

Another key thing to note is the all -important weather. Every year around this time, the approaching warm monsoon air comes up from the south and west and pushes the unwelcome jet-stream winds ( these go up to 150km/h and stay in the 7000-10000m range ) to the north. So before the onset of the wet and warm monsoon storms on the mountains, there is often a window of opportunity to summit. I’m waiting for it!

Tomorrow is a rest day.

12 May, 2002 Intermediate Camp

5,350m
Reached Intermediate Camp today. Took me 5hrs 30mins to get here, I was a bit faster then when I first came here 5 years ago… Acclimatisation helps. It was a beautiful day today. Bright blue skies, breathing fresh air. Tomorrow, it will be a shorter trek up to Advanced BaseCamp.

Enroute, I met climbers who have just summitted Cho Oyu. It is encouraging to meet them. I hope for the best on our attempt.

The Intermediate Camp is now situated some distance from the “original” one. The older campsite has became filthy and dirty. A by-product of the abuse heaped on it by the many expeditions that comes this way over the years. Sad.

Both MB and me are in good health, except for my dry cough. I feel a bit tired and worn, guessed that this is what long expeditions can do to a person. On an encouraging note, MB related to me a conversation he had with some sherpas from the other teams. The conversation goes like this…

Sherpa : “eh.. what is your climber carrying?”
MB : “er, the usual. Sleeping bag, boots, crampons, snow shovel, water, food…, maybe 10 to 15 kg.”
Sherpa : “Waa… your climber with bad leg is very strong. He carries more. Our climbers are normal. But we carry everything…”

11 May, 2002 Chinese BaseCamp, Cho Oyu, , 4,900m

Hola
It has been a quiet day today. Did managed to get some rest and some hot food. I had Pringles potato chips!! The entire tube. Burp!

Have spent time checking on our gear. They have suffered quite a bit of abuse on Shishapangma. Doing some basic repairs and patching. The weather seems to be easing for the next few days. This will allow me to get up to the higher parts of Cho Oyu with less wind blasting into my face. The snowfall and storms in this area over the last 3 weeks have also resulted in loads of snow on the mountain. The going may be a bit tough at the higher levels. I hear of quite a few camps suffering damage from the storms. I will move off to Intermediate Camp tomorrow.
Water boiling, time for tea!!

10 May, 2002 Chinese BaseCamp, Cho Oyu, 4,900m

Hi there!!
Made it over to the BaseCamp today. Had lunch in Tengri but I didn’t stop for that much awaited bath and rest. Reason being that by getting here a day earlier, I get to prepare for Cho Oyu and also to check out local weather conditions. Besides, I somehow gotten a bit fond of how I look. Took 4 weeks of wear to get this seasoned!!

The Chinese BaseCamp in Cho Oyu remains much as I remembered it since my last climb about 5 years ago. One major difference is the loss of that beautiful green meadow here, what remains is just dust and yak dung. There is also a certain aroma in the air…(and it ain’t me!). Our yaks came in today. They will help us carry our gear up to Advance BaseCamp. The clanging sounds of the yak bells are going on all the time. Kinda of musical.

The meal in Tengri and the warmed air at lower altitudes have helped eased my dry cough which has developed over the last few days. Other than this, MB and myself are healthy and happy. I have stocked up our larder a bit with some large chunks of frozen pork. This will supplement our diet on Cho Oyu. One gets hungry for meat sometimes.

Basically I plan to move off to Intermediate Camp on Sunday, a 6 hour trek. Then on Monday, I will plod on to Advance BaseCamp. This will be a grunt, 6 to 7 hours of trekking. Tomorrow, Saturday (May 11) I plan to rest, do a bit of cleaning and charge up my batteries. Maybe I’ll have that tube of Pringles tomorrow…

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