Cho Oyu Climb & Trek Expedition Recent News spring 2011

Cho Oyu Climb & Trek Expedition Recent News spring 2011

Photos in Cho Oyu slideshow: David Lepagne, Guntis Brands, Phil Crampton, Johan Frankelius, Herve Coron, & Thierry Auberson. For caption information on these photos, please visit our Cho Oyu photo gallery.
Cho Oyu Spring 2011: news of our expedition
21 April to 28 May, 2011
"Click Here" for information about our upcoming Cho Oyu expeditions

Dispatches: Please click one of the links below to go directly to that dispatch or just scroll down.

Trip Summary: : Our team of men and women reached the summit of the world's sixth highest mountain on 20 May, 2011 together with our expert sherpas. This was our 8th successful Cho Oyu expedition. Everyone did a great job and we send our sincere congratulations. Max, our leader had climbed the mountain several times before and was very accomplished at timing the tricky weather to the acclimatization of the team.

Cho Oyu has about the most beautiful advanced basecamp I have ever seen, on the edge of the Nangpa La Glacier, surrounded by glamourous peaks. We had a training day and practiced our fixed rope technique on some small ice cliffs near to ABC. Our skillful cooks prepared delicious meals and we had a comfortable individual tent for each member in ABC. The walk up to camp 1 at 6400 metres/21,000 feet follows a glacial moraine and rock scree slope. Its fine to do that walk in sturdy trekking boots.

Cho Oyu has just two steep places, an 8 metre/26 foot high snow ice step, and a 5 metre/16 foot high rock step. Ropes are fixed here for safety. The summit plateau of Cho Oyu is quite broad, and you have to cross this plateau to get to the summit, where you can see a wondrous view of Everest and the Khumbu Valley.

Everyone had a great time on Cho Oyu, which is the most accessible of the worlds fourteen 8000 metre / 26,000 foot high peaks and considered to be the best way to train for Everest. We encourage you to join our next Cho Oyu expedition from 1 September to 8 October, 2011, and 22 April to 29 May, or 2 September to 9 October 2012. Welcome to our team!


Grace and Max at the top of Cho Oyu (Max Kausch). Grace McDonald on the summit of Cho Oyu (Max Kausch). Max and Jangbu on the summit of Cho Oyu (Grace McDonald).  Grace descending (Max Kausch). Itsvan and Kobra topping out the icefall at 6700 metres (Max Kausch). Team resting above the icefall (Max Kausch).

25 May, 2011
Cho Oyu Spring Expedition 2011 Summit Bid Dispatch Part 2 (17th, 18th, 19th of May) - by Grace McDonald

It's not really a fair comparison to those without oxygen - being Violetta, Zoltan and Istvan, but I was feeling great - having a great day with oxygen to top it off. We all pushed towards the rock band and I was lucky to zoom ahead with Jangbu while Violetta, Zoltan and Istvan climbed without oxygen. The sun was rising slowly and the views were beautiful as we tackled the rock band - complete with all sorts of ropes from past seasons. It was a bit of a guessing game with the preferred option being to clip into a bunch of ropes to increase the odds of something holding in case you took a fall. Luckily ice on the jumar wasn't an issue so there were no surprise falls, but it was still a bit of a "don't try this at home" exercise. back to top

Team member on his way to camp 2 of Cho Oyu (Max Kausch).

The time passed quickly and I found myself sitting with Jangbu on a steep snowy slope taking a rehydration break when another oxygen masked figure appeared towards the bottom. I was a bit confused about who it was but then I remembered that Max was also on oxygen and was catching up to us. At this point the rest of the team was out of sight below. Max joined us to take in the view and record some video and he joined me for the rest of the climb. It was nice to have someone else around with oxygen so we could push ahead quickly. Poor Jangbu continued behind us without oxygen but managed to stay pretty close. He's a strong Sherpa. Without oxygen we would have had to stop a lot more often but Max is a strong and persistent climber and I could tell he had some landmark far ahead in mind as our next rest stop. Normally I would have fallen quickly behind him but oxygen kept me on his heels and we pushed ahead up the steep slopes.

I remember wondering how difficult it would be to come back down these slopes without fixed lines but decided that was an issue I could concern myself with later. At this point, with the weather being so beautiful and our pace being so quick and steady, I knew we were going to make it. It was a great feeling. We took another rest and waited for Jangbu just below the summit plateau. It's an odd feeling staring up at it - it seems so close yet so far at the same time but I knew that we'd be there quickly once we got going again. I think it was on this last rest stop that we caught glimpses of people moving up below, but we weren't sure who was still coming and whether anyone had turned back. back to top

Zoltan breaking trail at 7200m (Grace McDonald). Team during acclimatisation climb to 6500m (Grace McDonald).

Max and I stepped onto the summit plateau and I saw what looked like a pretty big snow covered hill to my left. I was wondering if we had to go up that as well. Instead, we headed forward to the right and without a short time walking across a gentle slope, Max pointed back to that supposedly big hill and we had actually risen higher than the hill itself. The weather was slowly changing from sun and blue sky to blowing snow and cloud and then back again. The summit plateau was a bit of a strange place because it rises so slowly, you don't even realize it and all across there are drifts of snow and ice. I would have wandered for hours looking for the true summit if I hadn't had Max and his GPS.

Everyone had talked about how it takes about an hour to get across to the actual summit, but it went much faster with the oxygen and adrenaline pumping through us. I was waiting for that moment when Everest would suddenly appear in front of me and I would know I was there. No such luck! It was about 1:15 p.m. Max stopped, gave me the thumbs up and we were there. The spot was beautiful and I could feel that the sky was going to clear again so I had high hopes for a cool summit pic with me looking over at Everest. It did clear, only to reveal the sun and a beautiful row of puffy white clouds completely blocking the surrounding mountains - nuts!

Sunset from camp 2 (Mia Graeffe).

We needed to wait for Jangbu to join us so I clung to the hope that the clouds would magically move away. With the summit hug and fist pumps out of the way, we took a seat on our packs and started snapping pics and video. We felt great and were having a good time taking silly photos and videos and just sitting and taking it all in. It felt great to feel so great on the summit. We hung out for at least half an hour and wondered when Jangbu would come strolling around the last snow drift that blocked our view back. And suddenly there he was, a little tired, but happy to have his second summit of Cho Oyu under his belt. We repeated the summit hug ritual and Jangbu pulled out his point and snap for some summit memories. We gave him a seat on my pack for a rest and hung out for a bit longer taking it all in. It was a happy time for all of us. back to top


Team resting at 6600 metres. On the way to the icefall at 6700 metres (Grace McDonald).

Our thoughts turned to the others who were still climbing without oxygen and Jangbu told us that Phi Lama and Violetta had turned back. Information over radios at altitude can be sketchy at best and we were disappointed as I think we were all hoping for a girl power summit day and we all thought Violetta was more than strong enough to make it all the way. We never did get those clouds to move out of the way so we could get a picture perfect summit shot but we weren't too down about it - the summit was beautiful all on its own. We headed back across the summit plateau thinking we wouldn't be running into anyone as we headed back down but as we headed down the slopes just below the summit plateau, we spotted 4 people below - still heading up. Very cool sight! Zoltan and Istvan were still in it and Violetta was just behind them with Phi Lama following behind her.

As we crossed paths with Zoltan and Istvan, we could sense there exhaustion. Zoltan seemed discouraged (they were at that awful part where the summit plateau seems so close yet so far and I'm sure seeing us oxygen-filled happy people smiling and bounding down the hill wasn't exactly the most encouraging sight at the time). Istvan looked strong and Max jumped in to keep them going, telling them they had 45 more minutes to go up to the plateau and then it was smooth sailing from there.

OK - so maybe it would have been 45 minutes with oxygen, but you say what you have to say when you're encouraging people to go up. I knotted in complete agreement, thinking if we could get them to push for another 45 minutes, there's no way they would turn back. We continued down towards Violetta. She was clearly exhausted but not beaten and we could tell she was going to continue. Still, we shared the 45 minute timeframe encouragement. She gave us the "you're full of it" look and shared her exhaustion with us - but regardless, she was continuing. back to top

Mark, Dean and Paul at camp 1. The team in camp 1 (Max Kausch).

It would have been great if we could have headed back up with her - but again, oxygen-filled happy people were not on her list of world's most desirable climbing partners at this point, so we continued to take our happy faces down the mountain. The weather was changing in an out of sun and silence to cloud and wind but it was still a nice day overall. I thought it was going to take forever to get down but suddenly we were back on the fixed ropes heading down the rock band. There were a few parts where we just clipped in our safety lines and did a one-armed front facing walk down the less steep parts. Max is a pro at this move. Me, not so much and I spent quite a bit of time falling in the snow wondering why I was so uncoordinated when it came to this move.

We got to the last line and Max was waiting below. I clipped on my figure eight for the last time and started down only to come to a bizarre rope junction where I somehow managed to flip and fold myself into an upside down pretzel position. I laid there trying to think how I might get out of this and letting out a "Help??!!" to Max below. I'll never forget him looking up at me with a look of "How the heck did she do that and what the heck does she want me to do?". I swear he shook his head at me and may have let out a bit of a laugh. Don't get me wrong - Max always had my back and would always help if needed but I got the message - I could figure this one out. And so I did. Thankfully you don't have much of an audience at 8,000 m and Max was kind enough to not pull out his video camera as I unfolded and unflipped myself. back to top


On th way to camp 3 with camp 2 looking back. Glacier training (Grace McDonald).

So there we were, off the ropes and walking back towards our Camp 3 tent that we had left hours earlier. We reached the tent and Max took a seat outside and I crawled in for a rest. Minutes later he followed. It was nice and warm in the tent under the sun and we just laid there, sprawled out with our boots hanging out in the vestibule. Snow was starting to fall and the sun was coming out from behind the clouds less and less often. I could feel our desire to go down to Camp 2 slowly fade as we both drifted into light unconsciousness and started our usual murmuring and shaking Camp 3 sleeping style.

Jangbu arrived shortly later and started packing away things. From time to time one of us would shake out of unconsciousness and we'd talk about going to Camp 2. It was mid afternoon by this point and while we both knew we needed to go, I think we were both having awesome cat naps and had little desire to move. At one point we even had a rational pro con discussion about staying vs. going. The rest weren't going to make it down to Camp 2 tonight, we could get up early tomorrow and head down, we could sleep 4 to a tent here - it wouldn't be so bad . . . .

I opened the vestibule and saw Jangbu dismantling the Sherpa tent. That about settled it, we had to head down with Jangbu and leave our tent for Violetta and Phi Lama. We packed up REALLY SLOWLY followed behind Jangbu down the hill towards Camp 2. Max took the lead to break trail and with me no longer being on oxygen, I had no way to keep up to him. The sun was going down and I wasn't sure that me and Jangbu would make it before dark. Max seemed super human, reaching the Camp 2 plateau far ahead of me. I was wiped and getting more and more wiped by the second. I was sighing dramatically with each step like some 1940' movie star on the verge of fainting - what a baby! back to top


Team at 6700 metres (Max Kausch). Appreciating the views during an acclimatization walk at 5300 metres (Mia Graeffe). 

I yelled for Max below. I wanted him to wait for me and take my pack. He heard me and stopped and turned, looked up and gave me some strange thumbs up "you can do it" kind of sign. He hadn't really heard me and he kept walking ahead, further and further out of range. I considered sitting down and crying, but decided to curse his name instead. It may have been the anger that kept me going. I eventually figured that he must not have heard me. I reached Camp 2 as the sun went below the clouds, grabbed a sleeping mat out of one tent and crawled into Max's tent. He had the stove going and it took a while for us to warm up our hands before we could attempt to get our crampons off.

We were beat, but happy that we had reached our tent for the night and could get to warming up and rehydrating. Jangbu arrived shortly after and got us some ice for melting and crawled into his tent. We started with some kind of hot peach juice which quickly disagreed with my stomach and I became close friends with the tent garbage bag. I stuck to straight tea after that. We were warm in our sleeping bags and the tent stove was doing it's job. As usual, Max was doing all the cooking and making sure I stayed hydrated. It seemed like such a little thing, but in the moment, after coming down from the summit, taking over that job pretty much qualifies you for sainthood. back to top


Puja at basecamp (Grace McDonald). Our tents at C2 (Grace McDonald).

Shortly later, in the darkness, Max heard someone coming, it was Zoltan and Istvan, coming down from Camp 3 to set up their tent at Camp 2. We were surprised they had come all the way down. Zoltan stuck his head in and I asked if they had summated. He said yes - but it turns out he hadn't understood me and they had turned back. Unfortunately Max called in a dispatch saying they had summated and it would take a few days to figure out this misunderstanding and correct the posting.

Like I said, information at altitude can be sketchy at best especially if you're not a native English speaker. We also heard that night that Violetta had summitted at some point after 3 p.m. and was resting at Camp 3. We were so happy to hear that - she's small but tough and we knew she could do it. Our girl power summit day had actually happened! Awesome!

If I had had more energy I would have done a happy dance in the tent BUT something else was happening - my eyes were really starting to burn and no amount of rubbing would help. Max thought it was dehydration and told me to keep drinking. I was skeptical and then I realized that I was having trouble seeing anything. Snow blindness! Pictures would later reveal that I hadn't always kept my glacier glasses on and when I did have them on, the oxygen mask made it impossible to get a real seal against my eyes. back to top

 Climbing the ice cliff (Mia Graeffe). 

We covered my eyes with my buff and I took a couple of Nyquil to speed me off to sleep and hep me forget about the fact that I was blind at Camp 2. The real gravity of the situation escaped me as I drifted into oblivion. Morning came and I was definitely blind. I learned how to move around and get things done and Max and I talked about the fact that we would have to continue moving down today - blind or not. We would wait for Violetta to come down and then we would go.

It took Violetta a long time to get down the hill from Camp 3 with Phi Lama. They reached the edge of camp and splayed themselves out in the snow before Jangbu came over to deliver hot milk tea. Violetta didn't realize we were in the tent and when she did she came right over, sat inside and revealed her damage to Max - frostbite on the hands. Ouch. Girl Power summit day had changed to girl pain day. What a pair we were - blind and frostbitten. She patted me and our summit congratulations were lost amidst thoughts of getting down the mountain. It had snowed a lot that night and there was more snow coming today. No one quite knew exactly how I was going to get down without sight, but for some reason, Max wasn't stressed about it and neither was I. There was a feeling of "we're just going to do it " in the air. back to top


Loading the yaks at 5300m - Interim camp (Istvan Toaso). Views from our dinning tent at 5700m(Jozsef Zukos).

Zoltan and Istvan packed up and headed out of Camp 2 before noon. I'd comment on the weather but with no sight I had no idea. Max strapped on my crampons and Violetta took me for a bathroom break and I could hear the Sherpas packing up. I had no idea what I was in for. I'm not sure any of us did. We just had to get down.

There was lots of snow and the Sherpas headed out first dragging tents which helped flatten some of the snow. Violetta followed and then came Max with a 40 kg pack and me strapped to his harness behind with a 20 kg backpack. His direction was my direction and to help we shared a trekking pole that he would pull on to give me a more exact idea of our direction. I was in darkness but it was the middle of the day. I didn't feel cold but I could sense that it was snowing or blowing snow and there was a lot of snow.

The route seemed completely different than how it had seemed the other two times we had come up. That's what a lot of snow can do. The consensus was that I was better off not seeing what we were dealing with. I was actually feeling quite relaxed and happy. I looked at this as an adventure and I trusted Max completely. It was weird, I didn't even think about not trusting his direction and I figured if anything was going to go wrong there was nothing I could do about it anyway. That left me free to just chill out and follow the pulling of the trekking pole ahead of me. back to top

Team getting ready for the 2nd trip to camp 1 (Max Kausch).  Above camp 1 (Max Kausch).

There was the odd trip up but we move remarkably smoothly. In the back of my mind I knew the traverse to the upper ice wall mould be a bit tricky. It was, but I was a puppet on a string and Max was doing a brilliant job of directing my feet. It's funny, I think just trusting it all made it go smoother and took away the hesitation in my blind steps that might have otherwise tripped me up. If I hadn't been so trusting, this would have been much more difficult. I actually had no sense of where everyone else was but it turned out that Violetta was above us as we rappelled down the first ice wall.

The snow was deep here and I dropped below Max attached to his harness as he rappelled down. The deep snow made for hard going as I hung below Max. We went pretty quick and really only ran into one moment of panic when we both tripped and I found myself with my face in the snow and Max and a 40 kg backpack holding me in place. We thrashed and rolled a bit trying to get back to our original configuration on the fixed line as I considered death by suffocation in the snow and the stupidity of not having the strength to get Max and his pack off of me - note to self, more upper body strength training next time! back to top

Jangbu and Violetta at the top of the icefall 6700m (Grace McDonald). Glacier training at 5700m(Grace McDonald).

It must have been snowing more because the path across the "football field"to the lower ice wall was unrecognizable to me. Max and Violetta kept commenting on how they couldn't see much ahead of them. We must have been in some kind of white out or in heavy cloud or fog. I think if I had seen it for myself I would have been much more discouraged but I stayed in a remarkably good mood and if Max and Violetta were worried they didn't show it.

It was tiring moving to the lower ice wall but somehow we made it. I think we had all kind of been wondering how I would get down the near vertical face with all that ice. Violetta went ahead as did the Sherpas and me and Max slowly worked our way to the main vertical line. This was going to be a bit tricky as we couldn't both take share the line as it was a sketchy rope so he left my safety on the upper line and attached me and my figure eight to the lower line. He went a bit lower and attached himself to the line. The plan was simple, he would move my safety onto our shared vertical line line but I would hold the line until he was down and gave the go ahead for me to rappel once he was off the line.

In hindsight the thought of rappelling solo and blind should have been way scarier but there's something about being in the situation that leaves little room for fear. I just stabilized myself and listened and felt the rope move as Max went somewhere below. It seemed to take a long time but then I heard a yell for me to go. I started rappelling slowly and kicking my front points into the ice as I moved lower. For some reason I moved to the right across the wall as I descended. I can't say why but his inclination to move to the right always struck me when I descended. I'm not sure what I was compensating for but Max started yelling for me to straighten out and I lost my footing and swung fast way over to the left. I was expecting a hard thud but I hit a part of the wall with a bunch of snow and Max had grabbed the line to slow my swing. I corrected myself and continued down without moving to the right. back to top

Above camp 1 (Alex Holt). Climbing a rockband at 8000 metres (Max Kausch).

When I reached Max I was happy and he was laughing at how ridiculous my swing had been and how unfazed I was by the whole situation. We repeated the process and moved down the wall until we were ready for the traverse. I heard him yelling to the Sherpas ahead and Violetta. There was a traffic jam on the line with one of our Sherpas losing a crampon. It took a while to clear the jam and get the able bodied across. I just hung out and waited and then me and Max made quick work of the traverse. It was pretty impressive for a blind girl but I remembered the traverse well and knew I was exhausted so the best move was to make it fast.

Phew - off the lower ice wall and through the worst (we thought). I knew Camp 1 wasn't too far away - maybe a couple of hours for us to get there. Violetta and the Sherpas went ahead and we plodded on through the snow. Time went by slowly and it felt like it was taking forever to get there. It's hard to have a sense of where you are when you can't see - even if you remember the route. It's not the same without your eyes. I kept asking Max how much further. I was like a 4 year old on a road trip, but I felt like we were almost there and it couldn't be much further.

Max noticed that there didn't seem to be any tents at Camp 1 below and when we finally stomped into Camp 1 it was clear that someone had lost their mind not left a tent for us there. It was getting dark out and we were met by Sonam, one of our kitchen boys. He patted me to greet me and gripped my arm tight. They really do worry about you when you're not well and it's quite sweet. At one point when one member was quite sick down at ABC the staff tried to arrange another puja to help with his recovery. Luckily there were two small Dutch team tents left at Camp 1 and between me and Max we had two mats and two sleeping bags - perfect.

We had no stove so the first hour in the tent was quite cold. In fact, I don't remember Camp 1 every being so cold but we were exhausted and dehydrated so I'm sure we were just feeling it more than usual. Communicating with Sonam was a bit difficult as we were sure he had a stove and we wanted to take it so we could warm up the tent but we couldn't seem to get anywhere on that request so we just took the tiniest bowl of hot soup from him and rehydrated using cans of coke that had been left at Camp 1 - not ideal for rehydration but you gotta do what you gotta do. back to top


 Istvan rapelling during the glacier training (Jozsef Zukos). Amazing clouds on top of Cho Oyu (Jozsef Zukos).

It was good that the tent was so tiny as I think it helped us stay warm, but that night I started having some funky vivd dreams. It must have been the dehydration but I woke up in the middle of the night convinced that four other people from the Dutch team had returned to the tent and were sharing the tent with us. I started to get really aggravated because they kept wanting me to switch places and move around the tent and they had built a mini Cho Oyu mountain in the tent and were each taking turns practicing their summit route (that's why I had to keep moving out of the way).

At one point I was convinced they had put me out in the vestibule. I remember being pretty mad about it so I turned over to Max and he asked me what was wrong. I told him there were just too many people in the tent and the Dutch were going to have to get out. I was completely serious. He knew I had lost my mind and told me so. It took me a few minutes to agree but he told me I would probably continue to have the same dream when I went back to sleep. He was right, my night was spent arguing with imaginary Dutch climbers climbing various routes on a mini Cho Oyu inside the two-man tent. When the sun finally came up I wasn't exactly well-rested. I don't think Max was either given that I'd spent the night wrestling imaginary people.

I managed to get my boots on with some help and Max and Sonam stood me up outside the tent while Max packed things up and got us ready for our trip down to ABC. It's a long way to ABC and the first obstacle is "horrible hill" - steep, scree filled at the bottom and nice and slippery almost all the way down. I had actually been looking forward to walking down this obstacle for the last time knowing I wouldn't have to come up it again. It was too bad that I wouldn't get the chance to see it.

The weather wasn't being so nice that morning. There was a brutal wind and Max and Sonam had wrapped me up in a heavy down jacket - very nice but I could tell they were freezing. Sonam took Max's heavier pack and Max too mine. He had decided to leave my crampons off because it was just too cold to take the time to put them on. As I slipped and tripped down the top of "horrible hill" Max decided it was time to get my crampons on. Good call - smooth going after that, with his direction from our shared trekking pole we moved down almost as fast as we would if I had been able to see. But then we came to the scree mixed with big rock obstacle course. back to top

Below camp 3. Above camp 3 (Stefanos Voutselas).

We'd made pretty amazing progress down the mountain since the day before but the scree and rock that formed the rest of the route to ABC would be our downfall - for me sometimes literally! Sonam tried to help but walking a blind person across rock is frustrating, slow and painful. I took a few good falls and usually landed well but I won't lie, a few times I could feel the tears coming on. I think it was a combination of exhaustion, frustration and pain.

This was the first time I got concerned that I might actually get hurt coming down. It was very difficult for Max to direct me around the larger rocks but under the circumstance I still think he did a fantastic job although we were tired and he was trying to walk for two. We made it down and I was so happy to be done with that. Now we had a smaller scree slope down into the valley - I knew it would suck but at least it was a shorter hill.

About half way down Max managed to finally reach someone on the radio at ABC. There seemed to be a lot of confusion as they were packing up and getting ready to head down to Interim Camp with everyone that was left at ABC. Max and me had been communicating amazingly as we came down the mountain, but a simple conversation with ABC was proving difficult. He was trying to understand what was going on there in terms of Yaks and packing up and he wanted them to leave our tents there and send up a Sherpa to help us.

At this point Max was planning on carrying me but needed someone to take the pack. In truth there was no way he could have carried me far, we were both unbelievably dehydrated, down to our last coke and ready to fall over. Without help we were at least 4 hours out from ABC. He managed to talk to two of our members, Violetta and Enrico and gave them a heads up that if they were heading to Interim Camp now they would be waiting for us for a number of hours. Enrico wasn't feel great and wanted lots of time to get down to Interim Camp so they agreed to go ahead and just wait as long it would take. Everyone wanted to get off the mountain and there was definitely some frustration about the delay but at that point getting me down was still the main focus. back to top


Cho Oyu Advanced Basecamp (Grace McDonald). Breaking trail to C3 (Grace McDonald).

We managed to get a bit further down near some pools of frozen water and I splayed myself out on the rocks for a rest while Max ran off to try to get us some water. I'm sure it was somewhere on the scale of drinkable without causing severe illness and it tasted great. I think our bodies were happy to finally taste some water. It was right about then that two of our Sherpas appeared and they came bearing gifts - eggs and pancakes. I'm not kidding!

Our staff cares and they love to show it with food. I was so happy to get some food in my mouth and just sat there eating. They were happy to see me and I was happy to see them but I could feel some other guys around me as well.

It turns out that two Yakpas had followed them out and they were discussing some options for me. At one point Jangbu Sherpa stared talking about money to carry me. I thought it was a joke but negotiations ensued and for US$150 I would be carried by the two Yakpas to ABC "piggyback" style. I knew we didn't really have any choice but to go with that option so I jumped at it. We had a good laugh as the Yakpas hiked me onto their back and I clung to them. Yakpas tend not to shower often - it's just not their way, so getting up close and personal can be amusing.

It took a couple of hours to get me to ABC. Everyone was gone except for the Dutch expedition and the Yakpas. They set out a chair for me as Max set about figuring out where everyone was and what needed to be done. Then negotiations ensued for my carriage to Interim Camp. It would take 2 - 3 hours with energy and sight. I'm guessing about 6 or more in my shape with Max throwing out directions like "Rock left", "Big rock right"; "Big step down". Progress on rock is painfully slow. The Yakpas threw out a staring price of US$900. Non-starter for us. Max threw out US$200 and an emotional plea for the safety of "Didi" (me - the girl) who needed to go to the hospital. A bit of an embellishment but these Yakpas are hard bargainers. I think we did good with a final price of US$300 for a full lift to Interim Camp.

Included in the price was an improved seating system for added comfort. They would put a padded rope around my butt and then I would hop on their back and they would loop the rope around their forehead. They would each go for a solid 10 minutes before passing me off to the next carrier. At one point a young girl even carried me - those Tibetan girls are tough! It was s moth ride with the only concerning parts being some points where I could hear rushing water beneath me. I sure it was just water running well under the rocks but it sounded like a rushing river crossing and I didn't want to be dropped in glacial water. Luckily the whole ride was drop-free. back to top

Climbing up towards the summit (Stefanos Voutselas).

It took 2 hours and we were in Interim Camp around 6:30 (we think). What a relief - and I'm sure it was a relief for our remaining team members who had been wasting hours at Interim Camp in the tea tent and were ready for a new scene - a night in Zangmu. Or so we thought. I heard Cobra and Istvan behind me and our Sherpas and Max - but no Violetta.

She was a short ride away still resting in the tea tent while everyone had left to sit in the van.

Plans changed along the way - sort of to our surprise. We pulled into Tingri for a dinner stop and the Chinese Tibetan Mountain Association driver told us our destination was Nylam. Not really such a disappointment as we loved the showers in Nylam and it would be a shorter drive. I think Enrico was hoping for an even lower altitude but there was no changing the mind of the CTMA driver.

So it was a blind dinner in Tingri. Violetta took care of filling my bowl with rice and vegetables but I decided maybe a spoon would work better than chopsticks as I'm only moderately competent with chopsticks and rice and that's when I can see. Back into the van and off to Nylam, we arrived late and without an luggage but we had huge comfortable beds and spare toothbrushes in the rooms so me and Violetta net to bed.

This night I removed my eye covering for the night and in the dark, my sight was actually not too bad and there wasn't significant pain. In the morning, we left the curtains closed and just opened the room door a bit to let in some natural light from the corridor. It hurt my eyes a bit but with my glacier glasses on it was fine. I was even able to go for a shower with the glasses on. Max wasn't so happy about this exposure to the light so by breakfast time my eyes were covered and I was in darkness. Someone from the local restaurant paraded me over for breakfast with the rest of the gang and Violetta put a pancake in my hand to munch away on. We couldn't have found a more obstacle laden place for a blind person - a few concrete stairs at the bottom, a ladder-like set of stairs then a left onto a final, shaky set of steep wooden stairs. back to top


The start of the icecliff at 6700m (Max Kausch). Team on the way to camp 2 (Max Kausch).

Back to the hotel for some quick luggage repacking and we piled into the van for the ride to Zangmu. It went pretty fast and as usual, we stopped for more food before heading off to the border. Inside the restaurant it was darker so I was able to throw on my glacier glasses for a bit and test out my eyesight. It was definitely coming back but things were still foggy. My eyes were really red and puffy and a bit scary looking. The trip to the border was fun as the liaison officer came along and escorted me down the road cracking all sorts of jokes - thanking Max for the blonde girl. I'd never seen him in such a jokey mood but he was getting a kick out of this. I could feel lots of people staring.

The liaison officer took me right through the border, past the lines and checkpoints and stood me against a wall and told me to wait for my team. So I stood there blind and waited. back to top

Team climbing above camp 1 up the fixed lines (Arnold Coster).

So there we were, crossing the Friendship Bridge back in Nepal. It felt good to be back and truly off the mountain. The rest of the trip was easy - seated in a bus back to Kathmandu. By the time we arrived I was pretty comfortable just putting my glacier glasses on and peeking outside once the sun started to set. My eyes still burned and were terribly red but I knew they were getting better.

Max insisted I keep my eyes covered as much as possible so I did but at this point I'd grown frustrated with the complete lack of sight. It changes your entire experience and you're never quite sure who is around you or where you are. It took a few more days for full recovery and I lived in my glacier glasses for a while - a good excuse to wear sunglasses even once the sun goes down. At the medical clinic in Kathmandu I learned that my corneas had healed and with a little ointment at nights and eye drops during the day I should be completely fine. It's about a week later now and I can tell my sight isn't exactly the same as before but I'll plan a full check-up back in Canada to get a full sense of any lasting impact.

I know that snow blindness is a serious thing on any mountain - especially an 8000 m peak and I don't want to make light of it. I was scared at first but looking at the whole experience of the climb I had a tremendously positive experience, almost always felt safe and learned a lot about my ability to stay strong, trust people and stay positive and happy during dangerous and frustrating situations. I think it really helped Max as well and kept the stress out of the situation as much as possible. I don't plan on having snow blindness again and I'm sure I'll be super vigilant in the future about making sure I keep my eyes completely covered in the mountains but I definitely feel a good sense of confidence about dealing with the unexpected on the mountain and I feel lucky for being able to take away good memories from this adventure and I look forward to my next adventures.

Grace McDonald back to top


Istvan and Zoltan on the fixlines at 6700m (Max Kausch). Full moon over Cho Oyu (Max Kausch).

24 May, 2011

Cho Oyu Spring Expedition 2011 Summit Bid Dispatch (17th, 18th, 19th of May) - by Grace McDonald

We left ABC on the 17th of May, 2011 in beautiful sunny weather with just the right amount of cloud. Zoltan and Istvan started out first followed by me, Violetta and Enrico with Max enjoying the last morning in the dining tent before catching up with the rest of the team at Camp 1. Everyone tucked away into their tents and took full advantage of the milk tea on offer from our wonderful Sherpas who were always helping us stay hydrated. Everyone seemed to have a good trip to Camp 1 - it was our third time so it was about time we pulled it off without feeling completely exhausted. We knew we were in for a long trip to Camp 2 the following morning so I kept the ipod playing to a minimum and headed off to bed around 8 p.m. for one last solid night's sleep. We were one of the last two teams on the mountain with a Dutch team setting up to attempt the summit one day after us. back to top


Max fixing lines (Jozsef Zukos). Grace rapelling during glacier training (Jozsef Zukos).

We woke up to another beautiful day - perhaps a bit too beautiful and sunny for climbing. Me and Violetta headed out first  with a few simple goals, stay hydrated, stay energized with snacks and arrive at Camp 2 before the sun went down. Enrico, Zoltan and Istvan followed shortly behind us. A couple of the Dutch team members were also heading part way with us for a night at Camp 1.5. We had already acclimatized  with a night at Camp 2 so we all  surged forward making good time towards the lower ice wall. On the way we met the final Polish team member, Piotro, who was heading back down to ABC to head back to Kathmandu. He shared good news about his summit success during some difficult days of weather.

The sun was making for a pretty hot day of climbing but that would change soon. I took a seat about 100m from the ice wall and waited for other members to arrive. Soon Zoltan and Istvan appeared and continued on to the base of the ice fall while I sat and was joined by Max, our Sherpas, Violetta and Enrico. Having had good energy gel rest I headed over to the ice wall. We'd  been up and down the wall before and most of us found it an easier task this second time around - although the wall is quite icy in the Spring and took a lot of our energy and focus.

Above the ice wall everyone chilled out in the sun across the "football field" (home of Camp 1.5 where the Dutch team would be staying). We were making great time and were sure we would hit Camp 2 before sun down. We just had to get up the ice wall - not so much a wall as a really steep hill strategically placed to steal and and all energy you had left for the day. The only way through this beast was up, slow and steady. The only problem was the weather was about to teach us a lesson about getting fed up with hot, sunny weather. It started as a slight wind but by the time Max was rounding the top corner around to Camp 2 with the rest of us in tow, he was capturing some cool video of snow gusts taking us out sideways and making for a torturous walking into Camp 2. It was like the mountain was taking direct aim at each of us. Me and Violetta would meet our goal of making it to our Camp 2 tent before sun down, but we weren't any warmer than the first time we had arrived post sun down. That said, we were now snow melting, tent cooking pros. Zoltan, Istvan, me and Violetta settled into our tents for the night and Max got his tent warmed up for Enrico's arrival shortly later.

We knew the 19th would present new challenges as we had never made the trip up to Camp 3. After such a long day getting to Camp 2 I don't think any of us had any problems focusing on resting for the day ahead.


Lens shaped clouds over Cho Oyu (Jureg Merz). Enrico and Violetta on the way to ABC (Jureg Merz).

The snow gusts subsided during the night but the trail to Camp 3 had disappeared, meaning a tough day of breaking trail up a long, boring steep hill littered with crevasses. Our incredible Sherpas were heavily weighted with loads of gear and it was slow going in the deep snow. We headed out around noon and made slow headway. Thankfully Max noticed how difficult the trail breaking was for our Sherpas and rushed ahead with Zoltan and Istvan in tow to break the trail all the way up to Camp 3. Looking at the trail from below it seemed impossible that it would take so long to reach Camp 3 but everyone arrived in the darkness, frozen to the core and wondering if we would ever get warm. It was a rough climb for everyone, including our Sherpas.  Zoltan and Istvan managed to set their tent and I arrived shortly behind Violetta. I tend to be a bit bossy, demanding and inflexible when I'm freezing and exhausted in the dark and I may have flung my backpack at her head in my mad rush to inform her that there was room enough for two in the vestibule area. I think she was too exhausted to notice. Enrico and Phi Lama were still heading up the trail and we made the call to go three to a tent for the evening and jumped at the chance to have Max join us in our tent - the dude knows how to melt snow and take care of his tent mates, we're no fools and the next day was summit day! A thousand thank you to Max who didn't even unfurl his sleeping back until he had melted us each 2 litres of water each. Unfortunately Violetta would come to regret tenting with me and Max as Camp 3 seemed to bring out the moving and talking sides of us. Apparently we had quite the active night murmuring back and forth and shaking in our sleeping bags - I imagine we came across like huge, dreaming puppy dogs, less than ideal Camp 3 tent mates.


Zsombor ascending fix lines (Jozsef Zukos).

It wasn't too rude of an awakening at 4:00 am and we yelled for Enrico who, last we had heard, was with the Sherpas in the other Camp 3 tent. We weren't getting any response but used the time to melt more snow for the summit bid. As it neared 5:00 a.m. we became more concerned about the lack of response from Enrico.  Over the radio Max learned that Enrico had turned back to Camp 2 the night before and had slept below.  Unfortunately the information been relayed to Max, who had even told Enrico was at Camp 3. While the rest of us were getting ready to make our summit bid, the focus had to quickly shift to Enrico and Max quickly dispatched a Sherpa down to Camp 2 to establish radio contact with Enrico so he could properly assess the situation. 

In the mean time, the sun was rising at Camp 3, we wouldn't be needing our headlamps for the day and we all needed to get going. I was eagerly awaiting my oxygen tank. Breathing at Camp 3 was fine but I had never climbed with oxygen before and was eager to get a feel for it. Violetta was attempting the summit without oxygen as were Zoltan and Istvan. It was a bit of chaotic, rushed departure but we all had our heads in the game and I set off following Jangbu Sherpa who's plan was to take me to the summit.  Behind me came Violetta with Phi Lama.  Zoltan and Istvan followed towards our first obstacle - the rock band. I have to say that seeing this all in the light of day on a sunny morning was very special and much more enjoyable than it would have been in darkness. But the oxygen I was carrying with me was like a cartoon rocket booster and I felt warm, fast and energetic as I hustled up the rack band on Jangbu's heels. It was  a novel feeling, keeping up with a Sherpa (the secret is for you to have oxygen and the Sherpa to not have oxygen).

to be continued... back to top

22 May, 2011 

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu SummitClimb 2011 expedition.

I'm very sorry for the lack of news during the past few days. We had a busy summit push and an even busier descent.

Grace McDonald, Jangbu Sherpa and myself summited Cho Oyu in about 7 hours on the 20th. Also the same day, Violetta Pontinen and Phai Lama sherpa summited Cho Oyu without oxygen in about 8 hours. Kobra and Istvan unfortunately gave up the summit about 150 metres below it. Enrico turned around on the way camp 3 and couldn’t get to the summit next day. The whole team apart from Violetta, slept at camp 2 between the 20th and 21st.

In the morning of the 21st, a few problems started. Grace have realized to be snow blind due to the position of her sunglasses over the oxygen mask. A few hours of UV light over 8000m were enough to damage her cornea. Violetta also woke up with not so good news. After her summit with no oxygen, she realized her small finger from right hand had froze. It wasn’t a severe case and she moved to ABC the same day.

Grace and I on the other side, had a very difficult time descending to lower camps. Grace was totally blind and needed assistance on the way down. It took us about 9 hours to get to C1 and another 6 hours next day to get to ABC.

The staff have packed and moved ABC and left camp at about 11pm. The whole team and equipment got finally reunited at interim camp at 6pm on the 22nd and started the drive towards Nepal.

Violetta is recovering well from her frostbite and is very happy about her summit. Grace is on her last day of recovery and is even attempting to open her eyes in the morning. We believe she’ll totally recover tomorrow.

We are currently at Nyalam having breakfast and getting ready for the border. I will write you more detail and email photos from Nepal.

Thank you very much for reading the news

Max Kausch back to top

21 May, 2011
Cho Oyu team summits!

Team reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi this is Max Kausch calling in the dispatch from Camp 2 at 7100m. I’m here with Grace, Zoltan and Istvan. We all summited yesterday and then came back to camp 2 and we’re all back here safe. Violetta and  Phil Lama summited without oxygen and they slept at Camp 3 and they will hopefully join us in a few hours.

Now we’re all going to get some thing to eat and sleep.

Thanks for following at back to top


Camp 1.5 (6700m) seen from almost 7000m. The place looks like heaven but we were far from it: the team took almost 11 hours from C1 to C2 (Max Kausch). In the first icefall at 6700 metres (Max Kausch).

20 May, 2011
Cho Oyu team going for the summit!

Team reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi this is Max Kausch calling in the dispatch for the Cho Oyu SummitClimb Spring expedition 2011.

We’re currently at 7700m and today we’re going for the summit push. I’m here with Grace, Violetta, Istvan and Zoltan. Unfortunately Enrico turned around yesterday and he’s at camp 2 Lhakpa and he might be heading down very soon.

It now about 5am. Thank you very much for following the news at

We’ll call in with another dispatch from the summit of Cho Oyu. Thank you bye bye. back to top

19 May, 2011

Team reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi this is Max Kausch calling in with the dispatch for the Cho Oyu expedition.

We made it to Camp 2 and right now we’re at 22,100ft. It’s the 19th May and it’s about 8pm now.  Here with me is Violetta, Grace, Istvan and Zoltan.

We had news today that Zsombi and Jozsef made it to Kathmandu.

We’re currently on the summit push. Tomorrow we’ll be heading to camp 3; we have 3 sherpas with us who will help us to get to camp 3 which is 7,400m.

Thank you very much for following us at back to top

Team on the way to camp 2 (Max Kausch). Tents in camp 2 (Grace McDonald).
17 May, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring Expedition 2011.

We have sad news for you today. Zsombor Tulit and Jozsef Zukos are on their way down to Kathmandu due to health problems. We will miss them very much. It seems that Zsombi and Jozsef became very dehydrated on the last trip to Camp 2 and this caused series of other problems on their bodies. They are now heading to Zhangmu and we believe they’ll reach Kathmandu on the 18th.

The rest of the team is having breakfast and getting ready for the summit push. Violetta, Grace, Enrico, Istvan, Kobra and myself, will leave ABC today and head to Camp 1 to sleep. Tomorrow the 18th, we’ll sleep at Camp 2 and finally touch Camp 3 on the 19th. Our plan is to leave Camp 3 at about 3am Nepali time on the 20th and try to reach the 8201m summit of Cho Oyu. Then we’ll try to sleep at Camp 2 on the way down and reach ABC on the 21st.

In the meantime we’ll call voice dispatches from high camps and hopefully one from the summit.

Last night the cooks made us a good luck cake for the summit (photo attached). Today is Bhudda’s Birthday and full moon, so all the sherpas and Tibetans are very happy about today being our first day of summit push.

Wish us luck!!!

Best Regards from Cho Oyo ABC

Max Kausch back to top


Full moon over Cho Oyu (Grace McDonald).

15 May, 2011

This is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition

We are on our 2nd day rest at ABC. I’m very happy and proud as our entire team has reached camp 2 at 7100m, and completed the acclimatization plan. So many things could have gone wrong up to this point, but our members did it. It took everyone a lot of courage and discipline to pass the 7000m line. Now, we have camp 1 and camp 2 set and fully stocked for the summit push.

We are planning to move back to the mountain on may 17th. The plan is to sleep at C1 on the 17th, C2 on the 18th, C3 on the 19th and then leave very early morning on the 20th to tackle the summit. Our weather forecast shows a decrease in winds, then they increase again after may 21st. There’s also a chance we might try to summit on the 21st, but we won’t be able to confirm this until tomorrow.

Most of the other expeditions have left ABC and there’s only one expedition remaining here apart from our own. The weather has been clearing slowly and Cho Oyu is now looking drier than before. All our members are doing great but Jombi and Jozsef are trying to recover from severe cases of dehydration acquired during the last push to C2. We really hope they recover fast enough so they can push to the summit with the rest of the team.

Thanks for following the expedition news at

Regards from Tibet,

Max Kausch back to top


The delicious 'good luck' cake made by our awesome cook, Dorje Sherpa (Grace McDonald).

14 May, 2011

Hi this is Grace, Violetta, Zoltan and Istvan for Summit Climb’s Spring Cho Oyu Expedition on May 14, 2011.

We are all happily resting and hydrating in the dining tent this afternoon after a long return trip to Camp 2. What an adventure! We all started from Camp 1 yesterday after a good night’s sleep. Some members were battling coughs and we set off in shifts – me, Violetta and Enrico heading out first and then the Romanians heading out shortly after. We had all heard it would take around 9 hours but we tried to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I’d love to tell you that there were many entertaining moments on the journey but this was a tough one for funny moments. There was an exciting traffic jam at the ice wall. We noticed a couple of people spending a long time at the bottom so Max headed up to see what was happening while we hung back in case someone needed to be brought down. It turns out it was a girl from another team who was not feeling very well and decided to go on oxygen and continue up the ice wall. Unfortunately despite the oxygen she was slow moving and that left the rest of us hanging on the ice wall and waiting and waiting and waiting while we watched her ascent. Thankfully it was warm and the wait provided some nice photo opportunities. Once she cleared the lines we all headed up, looking like experienced experts in comparison.

Up top Zoltan and Istvan decided to set up camp at 6,800 m and continue the journey up to Camp 2 the next day. The rest of us forged on, searching deep for the enthusiasm required to get through the this last long part of the journey. It was a long hard slog but we rewarded ourselves with awesome views that we enjoyed during our last rest break before heading through the final trek to Camp 2. The sun was setting and we knew we had to boot it. Well despite our best efforts the sun dipped beneath the horizon about 10 minutes before me and Violetta reached out tent. We didn’t have the strength to see where everyone else was at but we were sure they weren’t far behind. 

So the problem is that when you arrive at Camp 2 cold it can be next to impossible to get warm. I will admit to deteriorating into a rather childlike state once inside the tent, shoving my fingers under my underarms and just sitting and shaking. Every couple of minutes I would make a move to unroll a sleeping bag or warm jacket. Violetta (aka “Mama”) decided to be the adult of the moment and got our stove lit and started melting snow so we could fight the dehydration that had set in a couple of hours before. It was a long cold night with some sleep. Some members continued to fight coughs and we were all happy when the sun came out in the morning and slowly warmed us up. It was especially helpful for Violetta who had ice form on her helmet over night. It was a cold night.

So Max started popping his head into tents shortly after 10:00 am to deliver the news we knew was coming – it was time to head down. I’m not sure how everyone else was doing but me and Violetta were in a Chinese noodle soup coma (a very bad breakfast choice) and not up for much moving around. But we’re good little soldiers, so when Max told us it was time to start going we pulled ourselves together and decided we would figure out how to accomplish the task of getting to Camp 1 on the way. We took off first with Enrico right behind and I think we looked like zombies for the first 10 steps. The good news is the further we moved the better we both felt. It’s amazing how much better you feel as you start coming down. We were flying down the ice wall before long and after a quick break in Camp 1 we tackled our favourite (not) part of the journey back to ABC – horrible hill. This is where me and Violetta usually split as she enjoys a more leisurely walk back to ABC and she also likes to get a bit lost on the way back to ABC and she managed to do it again this time – but not before dark.  Enrico came in shortly after. Unfortunately it was a long night for our remaining members who spent almost 12 hours getting down from Camp 2 with the last part of the journey in the dark. Max and one of our Sherpas kept them company and one of the kitchen boys headed out with hot juice so they were well taken care of and are now resting at ABC.

Zoltan and Istven spent last night at Camp 2 and arrived back at ABC around noon today.

I should mention that a few of us have seen some sun damage on our faces. We’re all having a good laugh right now as Zoltan is discovering a new level of tan of certain parts of his face. All I can say is moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!

Jurg sent us an email today letting us know that he made it back to Kathmandu and is taking a quick trip to the Phillipines before reuniting with us hen we return to Kathmandu. We are all missing him as he was an awesome team member and provided lots of laughs, but we are really excited that we’ll have the chance to see him again when we get back to Kathmandu.

Thanks to all our friends and families for following our journey. back to top

13 May, 2011

Team reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi this is Max Kausch calling in with the dispatch for the Cho Oyu expedition on Friday 13th. I’m calling from Camp 2 right now at 17,100ft and I’m here with the majority of members. Enrico is right next to me and we have the girls, Violetta and Grace, also Zsombor and Jozsef in another tent.

We’re going to be going to ABC today and have 3 rest days before the final push. It was a very long day coming here yesterday; very tiring and we’re hoping to get to ABC at about 5pm today.

Thank you very much for following us at back to top

11 May, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition.

After 2 full rest days at ABC we are heading to C1 today and C2 tomorrow to finalize our acclimatization process. Everyone is healthy and had their batteries fully recharged during the past 2 days. We hope we’ll be ready for the summit push in about 5 days from today.

The weather forecast looks promising for the next few days. The winds look fairly weak so we hope this will allow us to reach C2 tomorrow with no problems.

ABC is almost empty now. There are only 3 expeditions left here.

We will call voice dispatches from high camps during the next 2 days.

Thank you for following the news at

Max Kausch back to top


Violetta on the way to C2- 6500m (Max Kausch).

10 May, 2011

Hi, this is Grace from the SummitClimb Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition.

Yesterday and today have been top notch rest days following our acclimatization sleep at Camp 1 and a short hike up and then back down to ABC. For the most part we all enjoyed a really nice night of sleep at ABC and woke up to warm sunshine. But rest is hard to come by when your dining tent floor resembles a swimming pool, so Max took charge and booted us all from the tent and installed a lovely stone floor – OK, it needs some work but it was a nice treat to be able to hop from stone to stone. I’m sure Zoltan appreciated the new floor when his chair broke later that night. Rocks hurt but a wet bum before bed is a terrible thing.

In other news, there’s a Bulgarian guy here who had an interesting plan to take a bike up to the summit and ride it for a meter or so – strange but true. Unfortunately we learned that his bike took flight at Camp 1 in the high winds the other night (I’m sure that must be some kind of record for highest flying bike in the world but that’s of little comfort to him).

Max was on call as the camp doctor again last night. I’m not kidding – there are camp wide referrals to our dining tent for a visit with Dr. Max (although he lacks any formal medical credentials and always makes it clear that he is not a doctor, he’s the closest we got here on Cho Oyu and we’re glad he’s our guide!). We met Alex from the Ukraine about a week ago and marveled at the state of his throat. After a quick consult last night it was clear that Alex would be heading back down tomorrow. The mountain is actually emptying out pretty quickly but we’re still in good company with a group from Poland, another group from Holland and a group of French Canadians.

Aside from a few sore throats and coughs, the group is doing well. We had a nice long sleep again last night and are enjoying our final rest day. After breakfast we took our official team photo. Today we learned how to light the propane heater in the dining tent ourselves. We feel very empowered – like cavemen discovering fire.  Hopefully we can harness that feeling of empowerment and propel ourselves up to Camp 2 over the next few days.

All the best to all our friends and families and thanks for following the expedition. back to top


Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Team – From left to right at the back: Zoltan Szabo, Istvan Toaso, Jozsef Sukos, Zsombor Tulit, Jurg Merz, Chimmy, Violetta Pontinen, Phai Lama, Dawa Jangbu Sherpa, Enrico Cambini, Sonam, Lakpa Sherpa. At the front from left to right: Max Kausch, Dorje Lama, Grace McDonald (Max Kausch).

8 May, 2011

Team reports in live (click here to listen)

Hi, this is Max Kausch calling in a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring Expedition 2011.

We made it to Camp 1 yesterday. We trekked to explore the route to camp 2 today 6700m. We did it together with Grace, Violetta, Jozsef, Zsombor, Zoltan, and Istvan. Also Jurg and Enrico are still at base camp but will be joining us at some point today. We have 6 tents here. Last night was pretty windy and the wind actually broke two of them, but our sherpas patched them and hopefully tomorrow we might have another two tents.

Right now we’re trekking to advanced basecamp and we’re going to have 2 days rest over there and recover and come back up to came one then camp two. Thanks for following bye for now. back to top


Part of the team at 6600m.From left to right: Violetta, Grace, Istvan, Jozsef, Jombi (Max Kausch). Violetta and Max at 6600m (Grace McDonald).

5 May, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition.

We were very lucky today to have a clear and warm day. The whole team trekked to Camp 1 at 6400m to acclimatize and our sherpas set a few tents up there.

The trek is not very easy. One has to basically trek for about 5km over ice, snow and moraines to get to a place called scree slope at 6050m. From there the “fun” starts. One has to gain 400m in only 2km of trekking. The scree slope is fairly steep and it took the team about 2 hours to overcome this obstacle plus 3 hours to get there. It was an interesting day. We had amazing views on the way up to all the neighboring 7000m peaks and astonishing glaciers.

We are all back to ABC and will have a day of rest tomorrow before heading back to C1 to sleep there.

Thank you very much for following the news at

Max Kausch back to top



Sonam and Chimmy finding the best spot for the pray flags (Grace McDonald). Camp 1 at 6400 metres (Grace McDonald).Violetta and Sonam at ABC (Grace McDonald).Grace and Violetta at camp 1 (Max Kausch).

4 May, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition.

Today the weather finally cleared for a few hours so we enjoyed the time as much as possible. In the morning we had a Puja with many Tibetans, Sherpas and people from other expedition who we invited.

Right after the Puja we went ice climbing and glacier training on the glacier nearby. The ice was very hard and the members developed their ice climbing skills and techniques on fixed ropes.

Our first trip above 6000m starts tomorrow morning. All of us will take loads to C1 at 6400m and then come back to sleep at ABC. This is decisive to our acclimatization plan.

So far so good, no one had problems with altitude apart from rough nights and headaches once in a while. We are all very happy we’re adapting so well.

This is all the news for today.

Thanks very much for following the news at

Max Kausch back to top


Zoltan ice climbing during our glacier training (Grace McDonald).Members enjoying our Puja at ABC (Max Kausch). Jozsef and Zoltan practicing ice climbing (Max Kausch). Our team members heading towards our galcier training (Max Kausch).

3 May, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition.

The weather was pretty miserable yesterday and today so we had to postpone our glacier training and puja (Buddhist ceremony) until tomorrow. We all look forward to having at least one sunny day at ABC so we can dry out our stuff.

Today another team arrived in ABC making a total of 7 teams here. We are getting along very well with them and helping each other.

All the team members are adapting very well to the altitude. Half of our members took their first shower after 1 week without one. Our staff set up a nice shower tent with a mat to make it comfortable. It is quite amazing to see the amount of commodities we can have up here at 5700 metres.

We’ll write again tomorrow with photos of the puja and glacier training.

Thank you for following the news at Max Kausch

back to top


Child at interim camp (Max Kausch). Violetta cutting birthday cake made by our cook Dorje (Grace McDonald).

1 May, 2011

This is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition

We made it to ABC!!! From now on, this will be our lowest altitude for the next 3.5 weeks. The approach was very snowy and setting up tents wasn’t easy. Now it's about 10pm and everyone is sleeping in their tents. Here at ABC, every member will have their own tents.

It took us about 6 hours to get here. Everyone arrived pretty tired but after drinking a few cups of tea and having dinner, we all felt good and I guess we’ll all have a good night.

From here we can see several mountains and Cho Oyu itself. We can see pretty much the whole route to the summit. It seems a very snowy spring, different than the last one when everything was extremely dry. I hope we can use this to our benefit so the members can have a faster and safer progress on the slopes above Camp 1.

There are 5 or 6 other teams over here. We heard that other people already reached Camp 1 and fixed some rope on the way to the ice cliff at 6700m.

We will write you with more news tomorrow.

Thanks very much for following the news at

Max back to top


Jurg Merz and Violetta Pontinen at the top of a 5400m peak (Grace McDonald). Members approaching ABC (Max Kausch).

30 April, 2011

Hi this is Grace McDonald from the Summit Climb Spring Cho Oyu Expedition 2011.

We all staggered through the hot sun yesterday from Chinese Base Camp at 4900m to Interim Base Camp at 5300m. Me and Violetta kept hoping the camp would be around the next corner but were continuously disappointed. We kept crossing paths with Jurg and Irish Bob and then Enrico, our resident Italian who continually entertains us with his authentic Italian hand gestures. Jurg and Irish Bob are equally entertaining with their Odd Couple esque sparring. Me and Violetta are just happy to laugh at the non stop entertainment offered by this group. 

The rest of our group are 4 garlic loving Hungarians Zsombor, Joszef, Istvan and Zoltan. They brought up the rear, but we’re sure they were just trying to give us a false sense of confidence. One of them proved his intellectual superiority when a truck went by with all our bags and supplies and Sherpas on it and he hurled his day pack on top. At this altitude there’s no way my brain could have come up with that idea on the spot.

We all eventually made it into camp and were happy to see our wonderful staff had set up our tents. We all managed to stay warm last night.

Today is Violetta’s birthday.  We all sang her the Happy Birthday song over breakfast in the dining tent. The fun isn’t stopping there, we have a secret birthday cake coming her way tonight and perhaps a few gifts and obviously another rendition of Happy Birthday.

I just want to add Happy Birthday wishes to my husband Ilkim – you share the same b-day as the lovely Violetta, I guess it’s no wonder I get on with her so well.

Thanks for following the news at

Grace McDonald back to top


Jurg Merz trekking to interim camp at 5300 metres. Zoltan Szabo and Enrico Camini playing chess at 5300m. The low oxygen environment makes it extremely difficult (Grace McDonald). 

28 April, 2011

This is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition

Today we finally met Enrico Cambini, who came all the way from Lhasa and enjoyed some site seeing on the way. Enrico is teaching us a lot of Italian words so by the end of the expedition we’ll probably speak some Italian or at least speak with our hands like Italians do.

Now our team is complete and we can start moving up the mountain. Everyone did some light walks in the area to improve their acclimatization. The team is very disciplined with the acclimatization and I’m very proud of them! No one had any altitude problems so far.

At lunch time today we had an interesting challenge: one of our kitchen boys cut his finger with a kitchen knife and I had to sew it up with 6 stitches. Sonam is fine now and very thankful for not having to go all the way to Nyalam to get his finger fixed. We also helped a member from another expedition who didn’t acclimatize properly and had serious problems. He is OK now.

Tomorrow morning we’ll trek about 8km to interim camp which is only 300m higher than here. We’ll also spend 2 nights there.

Regards from Tibet,

Max Kausch back to top

 Max sewing up Somam's finger (Jozsef Sukos).

27 April, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring Expedition 2011.

Today we finally saw Cho Oyu for the first time. Everyone woke up feeling well and said goodbye to the North Col and Everest BC teams. They are heading now to Everest and will be there for another 12 days. We all made good friends and will miss them a lot! Good luck guys!

Here at Chinese Basecamp it’s about -5C and it’s snowing right now. We just had a delicious meal made by Dorje and the kitchen boys. They made us pizza! Everyone loved it.

So far all our members are adapting very well with the altitude. The cooks are constantly filling the thermos bottles with hot water and this is keeping everyone super hydrated. Up here at 4900m, this is extremely important because of the acclimatization.

We all look forward to meeting Enrico Cambini, our last member who has been traveling through Tibet and will join us tomorrow morning.

Regards from Tibet,

Max Kausch back to top


Part of the Cho Oyu, EBC and North Col team at the top of a 5000m peak. Bottom left to right: Rachel Unger, Raj Thapa, Jozsef Sukos, Zsombor Tulit, Istvan Toaso. Top left to right: Frederick Leverentz, Violetta Pontinen, Robert Purves, Thomas Sefranek, Jurg Merz, Shivesh Ram, Zoltan Szabo (Rachel Unger). Thomas fixing Jurg’s tooth filling (Thomas Sefranek).

26 April, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu, North Col and Everest Base Camp Expeditions Spring 2011.

We left Nyalam yesterday morning and drove for about 4 hours to Tingri. We stopped several times on the way to observe the beautiful landscape and mountains of the Tibetan plateau. As soon as we arrived to Tingri, the CTMA showed us the new hotel they built here. It is quite amazing to be at 4400m and sleep in a comfortable room with large beds and huge windows. The Chinese have invested a lot of money in this place so the climbers and trekkers can be comfortable while acclimatizing.

We had Chinese food for lunch and walked around town for a while. Everyone is getting along here. We are 17 people, from 3 different expeditions.Yesterday we figured that between all 17, we can communicate in more than 25 languages!!

Our EBC member, Mr Shivesh Ram, speaks Mandarin and often helps us at restaurants so we can get what we want. Our North Col member, Mr. Thomas Sefranek, is a dentist and treated a tooth filling on Mr Jurg Merz, our Cho Oyu member. Like I said, everyone is getting along very well. The EBC and North Col teams will say goodbye to our Cho Oyu team tomorrow as the Cho Oyu expedition is heading to BC.

The sherpas already went to Cho Oyu BC to set tents and find a good spot for us. Our amazing Cho Oyu staff are:

  • Lakpa Tendu Sherpa (climbing sherpa)
  • Dawa Jangbu Sherpa (climbing sherpa)
  • Phai Lama Tamang (climbing sherpa)
  • Nima Dorje Lama (cook)
  • Chimmi (kitchen assistant)
  • Sonam (kitchen assistant)

Today we had a sunny morning here in Tingri. After breakfast everyone will trek to a 5000m peak nearby. This will really help on the acclimatization as we’ll sleep at 5000m tomorrow. All the members from the 3 teams haven’t had altitude problems so this means our acclimatization plan has worked very well.

Thank you all for following the news at

Regards from Tibet,

Max Kausch back to top

Grace driving a local transport in Nyalam (Max Kausch). Cho Oyu team at BC 4900m – only missing Enrico now (Dawa Jangbu Sherpa).

25 April, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition. We are leaving now to Tingri and everyone woke up with no altitude problems. Everyone is healthy and looking forward to seeing the mountains. Today we will cross the 5100m pass Thong La. Hopefully the weather is clear so we can see Shishapangma and other peaks. We will write you again from Tingri.

Our 4WDs on the road (Max Kausch). Village on the way to Tingri (Max Kausch).

Best regards from Tibet!

Max Kausch back to top

24 April, 2011

Hi! This is Max writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 expedition.

We made it safely to China! The whole team is healthy and acclimatising well at Nyalam, the second Tibetan city on our trip. We left Kathmandu at 4am this morning and traveled for about 4 hours to the Chinese border. The trip went very well and we had no landslides, protests or earthquakes on the way! At about 11am we crossed the border and got stuck at the traffic in Zhangmu. All the vehicles coming from Tibet kept coming without stopping and part of our team had to wait for over 3 hours. One truck lost its brakes and bumped into one of our cars. The accident caused an even bigger traffic jam, but Jurg and other members lifted and moved the truck out of the way. Thanks to them, the team will sleep in Nyalam today! Thank you guys!

We'll spend another night here, then move to Tingri, where we'll have another 2 nights before heading to Cho Oyu. Our acclimatisation process will be very slow so everyone has a chance at getting used to the altitude.

Thank you very much for following the news at

Max Kausch back to top


The Cho Oyu & EBC & North Col teams at Nyalam - New Spring 2011 Fashion Show (Max Kausch).

21 April, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing the first dispatch for the SummitClimb Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition.

Every single member made it safely and is healthy in Kathmandu working on their last minute preparations before starting the expedition to the sixth highest mountain in the world!

Kathmandu has been partially cloudy for the last few days and we have had a few thunder storms. Every one looks forward to the expedition ahead.

Yesterday we met Ms Elizabeth Hawley, to review our plans for the upcoming expedition. She told us about other teams and wished us good luck! Today we had our briefing so all the members could get to know the details about the expedition, itinerary and other members.

Everyone had purchased most of the equipment they need and are now packing up their duffles bags so we can try to cross the Chinese border tomorrow.

Below is the team rooster:

  • Mr. Maximo Kausch - UK
  • Mr. Jurg Merz - Switzerland
  • Mr. Robert Mooney - Ireland
  • Ms. Violetta Pöntinen - Poland
  • Ms. Grace McDonald - Canada
  • Mr. Zsombor Tulit - Romania
  • Mr. Jozsef Sukos - Romania
  • Mr. Istvan Toaso - Romania
  • Mr. Zoltan Szabo - Romania
  • Mr. Enrico Cambini - Italy

Best regards from Kathmandu,

Max Kausch back to top


Team buying down clothing in Kathmandu. Team having breakfast together in Kathmandu (Maximo Kausch).