Sherpas scout new route on the 8000m Cho Oyu in Nepal

Mountaineering in Nepal
8,188 meters high: Sherpas are scouting out a new route on Cho Oyu

Gokyo in Nepal looking towards the south side of the 8188 meter high Cho Oyu

© Imago Images

A new ascent to one of the most popular eight-thousanders is set to attract more foreign climbers to the Himalayas. Nepalese mountain guides head to a dangerous side of the mountain.

It is considered one of the most feasible eight-thousanders, of which it is the second most climbed in the world. More than 4,000 people have already stood on the 8,188-meter-high peak of Mount Cho Oyu in the Himalayas, data from the expedition archive “Himalayan Database” shows. Only on Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, were around 6,000 more people. Now two groups of Nepalese Sherpa mountain guides hope to attract even more climbers from abroad to Mount Cho Oyu – by finding a second manageable route.

The route, which almost everyone has used so far, starts in Tibet. However, the mountain with the Tibetan name “Goddess of Turquoise” is on the China-Nepal border and the Nepalese Sherpas now want to find a good route from their homeland. Currently, the Nepalese mountain side is considered more dangerous. There are more avalanches and more rocks there, says US mountaineer and blogger Alan Arnette. You also need a lot more technical skills.

The Sherpa teams see potential, as their team bosses say in an interview with the German Press Agency. As part of its strict corona policy, China has not given any permits to foreigners to climb its Himalayan mountains since 2020. Such climbing permits are needed in China and Nepal.

Approval for $1800 instead of $9000

And apart from the pandemic, China is also more restrictive, say the Sherpa mountain guides – for example because the People’s Republic does not want to authorize many trips to politically sensitive Tibet and to prevent mountaineers from congestion on the mountains. In addition, the price for a Cho Oyu climbing permit in the spring high season from Tibet is around 9,000 US dollars, while in Nepal it is only 1,800 US dollars.

The mission of the two Sherpa teams, each with around a dozen members, made many headlines in Nepal. The reason: Some are considered to be particularly good mountain guides, which is also underlined by data from the “Himalayan Database”.

The 29-year-old leader of one team, Gelje Sherpa, has climbed 12 of the world’s 14 eight-thousanders and was a team member of the first winter mission on the world’s second highest mountain, K2 on the China-Pakistan border. Ascents in winter are considered particularly difficult because it is colder and windier then. In the other group, Mingma Dorchi Sherpa climbed the highest mountain Everest and the fourth highest mountain Lothse on the same day, teammate Pemba Sherpa has scaled Mount Everest 12 times.

Marketing strategy for an 8000er

Now the Sherpas are looking for a route and want to attach fixed ropes to more difficult places. They are looking for places where mountaineers can acclimatize to the altitude in the future, for supplies and high-altitude camp, as well as landing options for helicopters that could fly out from there injured and dead, as Pemba Sherpa says.

In Kathmandu: The Nepalese mountaineering team before their departure to Mount Cho Oyu

In Kathmandu: The Nepalese mountaineering team before their departure to Mount Cho Oyu

© Prakash Mathematics / AFP

According to their own information, the teams have received money and equipment such as tents, food, ropes and oxygen bottles worth the equivalent of around 15 million rupees (111,000 euros) from expedition companies and other interested parties for their project. This budget is a bit tight for the mission, which is expected to last around two months, but they do it anyway. If they succeed, it should bring them more prestige and possibly more work as mountain guides.

But not everyone in the mountaineering community is convinced of the plan. Alan Arnette, for example, believes that the Tibetan route will always remain easier and therefore appeal to a wider audience.

Climbers on Mount Everest (icon image)

But it also depends on the marketing strategy of a possible second route. The Sherpas are convinced that they will soon bring more income to the people in their Himalayan mountains in Nepal – the many mountain guides, porters, hotels and tea houses.

Also read:

– Tourists storm Mount Everest and leave their rubbish behind

– Himalaya: Why we have to say goodbye to the myth of the idyll

– Mount Everest: Why the chances of a summit victory have doubled

Roshan Sedhai and Anne-Sophie Galli/DPA

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