American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Cho Oyu

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

Cho Oyu. Cowboys on Cho Oyu consisted of Americans Michael Bacon, Alan Jennings, Charlie Schertz, Ed Yoshida and me as leader, Michael Clarke, who is an Englishman who has acquired American citizenship, British David Hambly and Canadian David McClung. We flew to Lukla on March 21, but our baggage came overland through Jiri. We spent ten days acclimatizing in the Khumbu while waiting for our baggage to arrive. We took the standard approach to Base Camp through Thame, Marlung and Lunak. The weather was poor with heavy snows. One yak died in the deep drifts; we compensated the owner. On April 7 we established Base Camp at 5200 meters at Kangchung, wrongly marked on the Schneider map as Dzasampa; Dzasampa is located further up the Nangpa Glacier at the base of the icefall. During the next ten days, we used a dozen porters to help transport baggage to the site of Camp I with temporary camps at Dzasampa and at a place above the icefall. On April 17 we all occupied Camp I on the moraine of the Gyabrag Glacier at 5920 meters. This camp served as Advance Base. On April 20 Schertz and I occupied Camp II at 6350 meters on the northwest ridge. On April 23 Hambly and Bacon occupied Camp III at 6720 meters on the ridge at the base of the icefall. We all returned to Base Camp for our only rest period. On May 7 a four-man party tried to establish Camp IV at 7500 meters. High winds and intense cold turned us back a few yards above Camp III. On May 10 we again attempted to establish our high camp and make a summit attempt. Using lines we had previously fixed in the icefall, which had ice up to 80°, we broke new ground and reached the base of the first rock band on the western face of Cho Oyu. Bacon and Schertz dropped their loads and Hambly and I established Camp IV 100 meters higher at 7500 meters. The next morning we left at 6:30 and started through the first rock band. We bore to the right, joined the west ridge at 7800 meters and progressed up the ridge, a series of moderate ice pitches, to the flat snow area below the second rock band. We took a direct line through this, exiting on the right side into the broad, long summit area. We reached the summit at 2:30 P.M. on May 11. During the half-hour we stayed on the summit, we took photos and displayed the flags of Nepal, the United States and Great Britain. The thermometer read – 20° C and the wind was estimated at 30 kph with gusts up to 60 kph. At the summit was a metal flag pole with a metal Chinese flag attached. The true summit should not be confused with the lower false summit, which is closer to the second rock band. On the false summit is a pole with odd bits of prayer flags. Comparison of summit photos seems to indicate that it was there that Jan Smith got. No other summit attempts were made. Supplementary oxygen and high-altitude porters were not used.

James Frush

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