Basic facts and location
At 8188 meters, Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world. It is located on the border of Tibet (China) and Nepal about 20 km to the west of Mount Everest.
Just west of Cho Oyo, at about the location of Advanced Base Camp, is the Nangpa La, a 5500 meter glacier pass which is a major trade route between the Khumbu Sherpas and Tibet. The border trade is a bit curious, as Nangpa La also is famous for illegal border crossings, but still authorities on both sides most of the time turn the blind eye on the trade. Long caravans with yaks can be seen here at all times of the year.
In the post-monsoon climbing season of 2006 all this changed dramatically, when Chinese border police shot some refugees to death at Nangpa La.
Some climbers claim that Cho Oyu is the easiest 8000 meter peak (if anything over 8000 meters can be called easy!). There's no really technical sections and the objective dangers are close to non-existent. Its relatively easy access makes it an attractive climb for someone with limited time, as it can be attempted in roughly 6 weeks round trip. Base Camp is accessible by jeep and it is possible to reach Kathmandu in a very long day from Base Camp.
Because of it's ease of access, ABC is often crowded with a large number of expeditions. There have been well over 1000 ascents so far.
This mountain has also recently become popular with ski mountaineers and snowboarders due to it's relatively low objective risk and good snow conditions, especially in the fall.
Cho Oyu is translated in Tibetan as "the Turquoise Goddess", from chomo=godess and yu=turquoise. This derivation of the name is not certain and other "translations" of the name includes "Mighty Head" (Tichy) and "God's Head" (Harrer). Another alternative translation of the name is "bald god". This makes sense looking at a Tibetan legend, where Cho Oyu, the bald god, has his back turned to Chomolongma, the mother godess, because she refused to marry him.
Cho Oyu 8188 meters - the sixth highest peak in the world. Photo from the Chinese side.
Sunset from C2
Cho Oyu was the 5'th of the 8000 meter peaks to be climbed. The order was: Annapurna, Everest, Nanga Parbat and K2.
- 1921 Howard-Bury researched the area and got some good photos of Cho Oyu from the Nangpa La area. The access to the peak reamained off limits from the Nepali side until 1951.
- 1951-1952 Eric Shipton makes a recce to Everest and at the same time makes some research about Cho Oyu. He returns the year after with a strong team to make tests on gear and team members for the 1953 expedition.
- 1954 Tichy and his team trespassed illegally into Tibet over the Nangpa La and started to climb on what later became the normal route on the west face. On the 19'th of October, 1954, Austrian climbers Tichy and Jochler, together with Indian citizen Pasang.
- 1958 Pasang returned with Sonam and made the second ascent. The first death occured on the peak during this expedition. After a highly disputed claim in 1964, the peak didn't see any more ascents until the late 70's.
- 1978 Koblmüller and Furtner, two Austrians climb the SE face. They did it illegally and the ascent was disputed.
- 1983 Messner, Kammerlander, Dacher climbed the peak alpine style with three bivouacs. It was Messner's 10'th 8000'er. They climbed via a part new route on the south-west side.
- 1984 Czechs Komarkova and Sterbova makes the first female ascent and repeated Messner's line.
- 1985 In Februari Cho Oyu was climbed for the first time in the winter. It was the fourth ever ascent of an 8000 meter peak in winter. On top of that, it was made on a new route, the hard south ridge. Berbeka & Pawlikowski summited the 12'th of February and Heinrich & Kukuczka followed three days later. This ascent made it 8000'er number 8 for Kukuczka and his second winter ascent that winter. The first was Dhaulagiri, the 21 of January with Andrzej Czok.
Nangpa La from ABC
Cho Oyu got more and more popular in the 80's and soon it became the 8000'er with the most ascents after Everest.
- 1985 Jaromir Stejskal and Dusan Beck made the first 8000 meter peak winter ascent in alpine style.
- 1988 Spanish climber Fernando Garrido was the first man who soloed a 8000 meters peak in winter.
- 1988 The first ascent of the north face was made by Slovenians. Iztok Tomazin (solo) and in the next days Viktor Groselj, Koze Rozman, Rado Nadvesnik, Marko Prezelj, Blaz jereb and Roman Robas.
- 1990 Lorethan, Troillet and Kurtyka climbed a difficult new route on the SW face. At the same time Yamanoi soloed a route just to the left of the above mentioned route in only two days
- 1993 First female winter ascent was also on Cho Oyu. Swiss Marianne Chapuisat climbed the top in 1993.
- 1995 A female Japanese expedition made an alpine style repetition of the 1990 route. Summit was reached by Takeo Nagao and Yuka Endoh after four days.
- Laura Bakos recently became the first woman to ski down a 8000m peak.
- Slovenian climber Pavle kozjek's new route in late 2006
The north face was climbed by Slovenian climbers in 1988.
Bor, Jck and John submitted some of the above info.
If climbing from the Tibetan side, there are two main ways to get there from Kathmandu, Nepal
Fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa, Tibet.
The flight to Lhasa passes Everest and some of the other 8000 meter peaks. On a clear day, it is a spectacular flight. After acclimatizing in Lhasa, drive overland for two days through Shigatse to Tingri. From Tingri it is a two hour jeep trip to Base Camp. This route is a great way to see Lhasa and other parts of Tibet as well as allowing time to acclimatize.
It is worth spending a couple of days in Lhasa to play tourist, see the Potala and other local monasteries, and get a feel for what Tibet is like. Although Lhasa has changed immensely over the years due to the Chinese influence (there is a blight of buildings with blue windows), efforts are being made to preserve some of the remnants of the Tibetan culture. It is still a fascinating city.
The drive from Lhasa to Tingri is subject to delays due to the road conditions. Although the road delays are usually not as bad as going from Kathmandu to Tingri, the road conditions can be very "interesting", especially during the monsoon.
From Kathmandu to Overland to Cho Oyu
Climbing out of Kathmandu and drive through Kodari (Nepal side of the border with Tibet) and Zangmu (Chinese side of the border) to Tingri. From Kathmandu to Tingri it usually takes two days minimum to drive, but it is advisable to stop on the way for acclimatization. Nyalam is about the only major town between Zangmu and Tingri to spend time acclimatizing. You're going all the way from about 800 meters to 5150 in one go.
Some years back delays were common on the drive between Kathmandu and Tingri as the road was frequently washed out and under repair. It was often necessary to carry equipment across the areas that have washed out. The road has now been upgraded in many parts and the risks of delays smaller. That said, in mid winter it may be blocked by snow for some days and in the rainy or melt off periods, delays can be brought on by mud slides and rock falls.
The drive between Tingri and BC can have some excellent views of the upper sections of the north side of Everest in addition to great views of Cho Oyu.
Once at Base Camp, it is an easy two day hike to Advanced Base Camp (ABC) where expeditions spend the majority of the time.
When leaving the mountain after an expedition, going back to Kathmandu is an easy two day drive. It can be done in one day if you are lucky enough to cross the Chinese border before it closes at 18:00 Beijing Time. It is more practical to stop in Zangmu, which is on the border between Tibet and Nepal - take a much needed shower, spend the night in dense air, and enjoy the "night-life" (discos & drinking). Hotels are in abundance here and the budget versions start at $1.5. Zhangmu may not be a place of choice, but compared to the dreadful dump of Kodari, it's pretty good.
If you really want to rest after the climb, Borderlands Resort is to be found just north the city of Barabise on the Nepali side.
The drive between Tingri to Kathmandu on the Friendship Highway provides spectacular views of Shishapangma, if the weather permits. The Yarlung Shan/Tong La is one of the most spectacular places of all to watch the high peaks of the Himalayas from.
If climbing from the Nepalese side, the normal approach is to fly into Lukla and trek to the route chosen. This takes you through the Khumbu region of Nepal, which is worth a trip all by itself.
See remark # 1 at the bottom of the page.
Map of Cho Oyu in relation to Everest and roads.
Moon over Cho Oyu
Permits are required for climbers on both the Nepalese side of the mountain and the Chinese side. On the Chinese side, you need to arrange for a liaison officer (LO) through the Chinese/Tibetan Mountaineering Association. An interpreter is provided by the CTMA and is usually a neccessity since the LOs don't often speak languages other than Chinese or Tibetan.
Coming directly from Nepal across the Nangpa La into China and trying to climb without permits is not encouraged. The Chinese have arrested climbers at ABC and removed them.
The Chinese LOs stay at Base Camp during the expeditions while the climbers spend most of their time at Advanced Base Camp (ABC). A mini city is being developed at BC for the LOs to stay at.
Permits for the Nepalese side
Nepal Mountaineering Association
The General Secretary,
Nepal Mountaineering Association
Post Box No. 1435, Nagpokhari, Naxal
At the moment I have no info for 2006, arranged by Nepali companies, but prices are usually about the same as if you arrange it with the Chinese. See below.
Cho oyu is the left peak
Permits for the Chinese side
China Tibet Mountaineering Association
No 8 East Linkhor Road
Lhasa, Xizang/Tibet, China
Tel: +86-891- 6333687
Tel: +86-891- 6333720
fax:+ 86-891- 6336366
A package deal with everything included, can start as low as $1800 and up to astronomical prices, depending on who you ask and what services you want.
What follows below is a reply to a request about permit fees for the 2006 season. Source CMA. I have deleted all sections but the, for this page, relevant parts.
The cost of mountaineering expedition in Tibet
(valid from the January 2006 to December 2007)
(work unit: US dollars)
Mountaineering Association of China
Mountaineering Association of Tibet China
Mount Cho-Oyu -----------------------------------------------maximum days 50
01 pax USD6000/per person
02-03 pax USD3100/per person
04-10 pax USD2900/per person
11-20 pax USD2800/per person
21-30 pax USD2700/per person
31+ pax USD2600/per person
Qomolongma + Cho Oyu-------------------------------- maximum days 80
Cho Oyu+ shishapangma ------------------------------- maximum days 70
(add USD300/p.p entry & exit via zangmu)
note: above costs basis on a group size, not for an average pax of clients.
1pax group(solo) add us$1000 as the registration fee for below peaks
--above costs basis on entry & exit via Zangmu. If from lhasa add USD100/per member/ per day and USD50/per sherpa/ per day during staying in lhasa.—additonal charge USD50/per person/ per day over the limitative times.—the rates us$ 1 = rmb 8
Ⅰ fee for nepalese staff
high altitude sherpa ---------------USD1200/per person
base camp cook -----------------------USD 800/per person
Ⅱ environmental fee
8000m -------------------------deposit fee USD500/per exp
7000m ------------------------- deposit fee USD250/per exp
6000m ------------------------- deposit fee USD150/per exp
environmental deposit fee should be handed by liaison officer. According to the regulation we will keep some of money at last which will use for funds in every year’s claearaion. Rest of deposit fee will not refund, if clients don’t take back their garbage.
USD 20 / per person by 8000m
USD 15 / per person by 7000m
USD 10 / per person by 6000m
On the normal route, Chinese side
Ⅲ the all above costs include the services:
(a) expedition permits fee, visa invitation letter etc.
(b) transportation from border zhangmu or lhasa airport to bc
and back for members, staffs and equipment
(c) jeep for members ,truck for staffs & baggage (one jeep for 4 members)
(d) liaison officer and interpreter
(e) all accommodation on full board basis in the way
(f) sightseeing & guide
(g) for mount qomolongma 4 yaks per member cbc to abc & 3 yaks per member abc to cbc. For all other mountains 3 yaks per member cbc to abc & 2 yaks per member abc to cbc
(h) 1 yak each for each high altitude sherpa cbc- abc going and return.
(i) 1 yak each for abc member and trekkers
(j) 1 yak carry 40k.g in spring,60 k.g in autumn
note:not include food,tents and equipments in mountain area
Ⅳ additional rate for addotional service
abc member USD1500/p.p
bc member USD1000/p.p
(over 10 days in mountain charge as same cost as abc member’s)
permit fee to abc for tourists USD100/p.p
extra yak for mount Cho Oyucbc-abc USD90/p.yak
satellite telephone permit fee USD500
Cho Oyu& shishapang ma duty jeep fee USD3000/p.car
flim fee of Cho Oyu&shishapang ma USD5000
Ⅴthe payment should be done befor expedition entry tibet.
Ⅵ fee for chinese high altitute or base camp staff
1.qomolongma: us$ 1600/p.p.
2.shisapangma: us$ 1300/p.p.
3.cho – oyu: us$ 1300/p.p.
4. 7000m peaks: us$ 900/p.p.
5. 6000m peaks: us$ 600/p.p.
6. Fee for base camp staff: us$ 600/p.p.
note: above rates excluded food and incentive.
When To Climb
A climber is approaching an ice cliff high on the peak
There are two seasons, not counting the alternative of climbing in the winter season. Pre-monsoon and post-monsoon.
The pre-monsoon season has its advantages in terms of a warmer summiting period. You usually start acclimatizing in early spring and the most common period of trying for the summit is in the end of May to early June. When you arrive there it can be bitterly cold, but it gets warmer by the day and hopefully you'll have a warm and nice day for the summit. This is why many climbers choose to go before the monsoon. The disadvantages are the constant time limitation the upcoming monsoon holds. Also, the weather can change quickly from no wind and sun to really bad in a matter of half an hour.
The post monsoon usually holds more stable weather, but when it's bad, it's usually really bad. The violent fall and early winter storms can be ferocious. On the other hand, there's no real deadline for the post-monsoon season. As long as you can deal with the cold, you can attempt the summit late in the year. Usually climbers try to be ready for a summit attempt in late September or early October. The skies are usually very clear after the monsoon and the fall of Tibet is beautiful.
There have been winter attempts and ascents, some of which have ended in disaster, but also some sucessful ones.
The best site I've found for the weather in the area is Adventure Weather. Daily updates about all expected temperatures, wind force and so on. Remark! This site is showing the weather for Everest, but Cho Oyu is close by and the differences are small.
The Weather Window Stats. Interesting stuff about the monsoon.
When there are expeditions on the peak, you can be sure to be informed about the weather ad nauseum. Also you can ask the base camp manager, who usually have a pretty good check on what's happening.
Books & Videos
References on the mountain. Most of these books can be found in the books section, complete with ISBN numbers.
- For the first ascent: Cho Oyu - Tichy
- A Swiss expedition that was there at the same time:"White Fury - Lambert & Kogan
- A guide book to the general area, plus routes on Cho Oyu - Cho Oyu Himal
- All 14 Eight-Thousanders - Messner
- Quest for Adventure - Bonington
- Mountain World-1955 - Allen & Unwin
Most of these books can be found at Chessler Books, where you also can find copies signed by for example Reinhold Messner. If not there, try Amazon.com.
There is a DVD, "Cho Oyu, West of Everest", that describes a climbing expedition led by Dan Mazur in 2000. It is available from Adventure Video.
Commercial Expedition Companies
There are a number of commercial expeditions to Cho Oyu. Some provide full guide services and others will help with the logistics (permits, etc.) of getting to the mountain. Some of the more successful are:
Based in the UK. Has been around for a long time.
International Mountain Guides
Run by Eric Simonson, this is a very professional group that has a good record on the mountain.
IMG Web page
They also have had good success on the mountain.
Adventure Consultants Web Page
The American Alpine Institute
Expensive at $16 000, but with a good reputation.
Another expensive one at $12 000.
Zeddy el Refai
There are a number of routes on Cho Oyu. By far the most popular is the western face in Tibet. The mountain is rarely climbed from Nepal, but routes do exist.
The West Face sees the most number of attempts. The crux of the climb is generally considered to be the ice fall between Camp 1 and 2 at around 6700 meters. With the number of groups on this route, this section is usually well fixed with ropes. The second crux is the rock band above Camp 3 at around 7600 meters. Because of the strenuous nature of hauling yourself up at this altitude, this section has stopped a number of would-be summitters. This section is usually done in the dark on the way to the summit which only adds to the challenge.
From ABC to Camp 1 is a moderate hike along the glacier moraine followed by a short, but steep hike up a very mobile scree slope. Depending on the time of year, the top of the scree slope can be snow and ice. Trekkers can often reach Camp 1.
From Camp 1 up the route is over snow and ice.
Sherpas & Tibetans
Jan van der Meer
There are several organizations dedicated to helping the Sherpa community. Here are two. Should you wish to contribute to this worthwhile cause contact either of the following organizations though the information below. Also see have a look at the alternative to Shepas further down - Tibetan porters and help-climbers.
The Sir Edmond Hillary Foundation
222 Jarvis Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The American Himalayan Foundation
909 Montgomery Street, suite 400
San Francisco CA 94133
Telephone (415) 288-7245
Fax (415) 434-3130
Vocational Tibetan Expedition Mountaineering School
For further information please contact:
Nima Tsering at: Fax: +86 891 633 6366
Hans Schallenberger at: Fax: +852 2646 5301
Words of Warning
Because of the relatively low objective danger, this tends to be a very popular mountain with climbers attempting their first 8000 meter peak. Because of this, it tends to be crowded. It also lures a significant number of people that underestimate the difficulties. The climbing is straight-forward, but the serious effects of altitude make this a challenging mountain. It is still the 6th highest mountain in the world!
The weather can be unpredictable and very dangerous to the unprepared. The wind and cold can be intense, and frostbite is common. There can be a serious avalanche danger in the post monsoon season. Numerous people have died on the mountain. It is not a mountain to be taken lightly.
Summiteers on Cho Oyu. Congratulations!
The capital of Nepal is a pleasent, interesting and bustling base for the expedition.
All kind of mountaineering gear is to be found here and many times at a very good price. Recently some shops have started to import gear directly from all large companies. Second hand products are also very easy to find, but prices vary a lot. Sometimes a shop owner ask a higher price for a second hand piece than for a brand new back home.
Also be very careful about fake and pirate gear. Some years back I would guess about 90% of all clothing fell into the fake category. There has been some improvement, but watch out.
There are two main tourist areas. The extremely busy Thamel and the Freak Street area which seems to loose in popularity for every year. It's very convenient to live in Thamel because everything you can possibly need is right around the corner. On the other hand, it's a very busy place with lots of tourist hasslers and it can be taxing to stay there for long. Hotels start at as low as $1½ for a basic double, but if you shoot for the $8-10 category you can find nice, clean rooms with attached bathrooms.
You can find all kind of cousines in Kathmandu. It's very tempting to try out all the exotic stuff, but be aware of Nepal's ranking on the "most dangerous places to eat list". It's in the top five and a unfortunately quite a lot of climbers suffer from bad stomach upsets already before taking off for the mountains. Beware!
Wait with the big splash until you have bagged Cho Oyu :-)
The most convenient accomodation is to be found close to the Barkhor Square, which also have most of the sites of cultural interest close by.
Dormitories in budget hotels starts at 15Y/person, cheap doubles goes for 60Y/room and more comfortable doubles with attached bathrooms starts at 140Y/room.
Recommended places in this part of the town is the Snowlands Hotel, Kirey Hotel and Yak Hotel.
The above mentioned area is a ten minute walk from CTMA.
Lhasa's old Holiday Inn, nowadays re-named to Lhasa Hotel is located in the western end of the city. Good doubles range in between 600-800Y/room, but compared to many other places, it's severly overpriced. You can for example get a room at the same quality level in the Yak Hotel for less than half that price.
Tibettrip.com has a nice guide of hotels and hostels in Lhasa.
Supermarkets are located all over Lhasa and are filled with food which is of interest for mountaineers, i.e. instant noodles, powdered food, dried fruit etc. Don't expect to find any "high-tech" mountaineering food here though.
The only place that has it on a daily basis is the great mountaineering shop opposite to the Banak Shol Hotel. Basically everything, for most types of mountaineering are readily available there. The exception is ropes, which always seems to be in short supply and of doubtful quality.
There are more outdoor/mountaineering shops all over Lhasa, but most of them sell pirate and copy gear of very mixed quality.
If you're lucky, you can pick up second hand gear dirt cheap.
An easy and cheap way to travel around in the city is to go with taxi, which has a standard fee of 10Y wherever you wanna go within the city limits.
Buses are 2Y/ticket, but if you don't know Mandarin, it can be a hard undertaking finding your way around. Ask the hotel staff to write directions to show the taxi driver.
At the time writing the Chinese Yuan is 8 to the US Dollar.
Credit & Remarks
Jcoughlin submitted this mountain and some of his info is still to be found on this page.
- 1: I have not been to the Nepali side of the peak and would appreciate all help on this matter.