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Detailed Report: Success on Cho Oyu (May 11, 2011)

Cho Oyu, 8201 meters

May 11, 2011


May 4: today the weather forecast was a bit off. It was announced that there would be sun, but it was windy and snowing. Nevertheless, the weather window was clear. The office in Bern where Meteotest is located, was indispensable. Without Meteotest, we would not be on Shisha Pangma.

Ueli Steck at 6800m.We decided to move up the mountain tomorrow. On May 5th, we will attempt to reach the summit. If this plan doesn't work, then we still have another day to attempt the climb. But on May 9th, we will order the yaks to leave ABC, and on May 10th, we will go to Everest's base camp, with or without a successful summit of Cho Oyu. But our main goal is Everest. Since we must leave by the 10th, the countdown has officially begun. This idea is liberating for some reason. Waiting for good weather at the ABC is not option: on to Cho Oyu, Everest and then home!

The weather calmed down quite a bit. Before lunch we visited another group at the ABC. Although it had a lot of people, it was fun to be on the mountain, and everyone was in good spirits. There was also a working heater in the tent, which made all of us jealous. We had the same model at Shishapangma, but the system broke due to the altitude.

At 12:00pm we sat down to eat, then began to pack. I was glad that we didn't have to pack everything this time, since many of our belongings were already at the top. I allowed myself the luxury of a second sleeping bag to supplement my other very thin, and light sleeping bag.

The climb to the camp at 6850 meters was very difficult because it was snowing the entire way. Fortunately, our bags were very light, so we walked at a safe, easy pace.

The glaciers that we passed along the route were impressive. Bizarre peaks, and shimmering blue towers rose into the cloudless sky. The weather at this point in the expedition was most beautiful.

Ueli Steck before climbing the summit.We took a short break before making the steep climb to the first camp. The steps leading to the camp were far apart from each other, but they did help. Upon our arrival at the Middle Camp (6850m), we cooked dinner and tried to get some sleep. The alarm clock was set for midnight, and there was a long day ahead of us. I would have loved to have stayed in my warm sleeping bag, especially with the icy breeze blowing on my face, but it was important to begin moving early.

By 3:30am, we made it to the second camp at 7200m. At that point we needed to take a break in order to stretch our legs, and warm our feet. While we rested, we met two young French men who were also preparing to head to the summit, so we decided to go together with their Sherpa.

Cho Oyu, 8201mWe finally reached the third camp which was located at 7600m. At this point, the sun rose and warmed us up nicely. We stopped to drink some hot tea, then continued on until we came to a ridge, which was secured with fixed ropes. I hung a sling with a carabiner to the rope for safety and began to climb. After a right traverse, the route went through a cornice on the summit ice field. It reminded me of something Elizabeth Hawley told me in Kathmandu: "if you can’t see Everest, you are not on the Summit". It's funny to think that these words came from an 80-year old woman who never climbed an 8000m mountain. But she was right: it would be a while before we could actually see Everest.

Once we reached the summit, we stayed there for about ten minutes, took some quick pictures and then headed back down slowly.

Don and Ueli on the descent, 7000m.This was my second 8000m summit in the last 18 days. I realized this as we were leaving. I certainly didn't feel as fresh as when we left Shishapangma. Still, I was very happy. It was a beautiful mountain, and all of the people that we met along the way were gracious and helpful. And even though many of them were non-climbers, and the route was less demanding technically, the peak was still 8201 meters high. Whether you start the mountain at 7600m to get to the top, or you take 10 to 20 hours to reach the summit, it's still very difficult. The important thing is that these people bring their experiences home with them. I definitely took many great memories home with me.

After climbing two peaks, I was very tired, and I was ready for the drive to Everest's base camp. But at that moment in time I was utterly and absolutely happy!

Kind regards,

Ueli Steck

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