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Asia, Nepal, Cho Oyu, West-Southwest Ridge Attempt

Cho Oyu, West-Southwest Ridge Attempt. Our team was composed of Bill Roos, Wally Berg, Frank Coffey, Dr. Chuck Coffey, Alan Roberts, Ted Keresote, Rob Gustke, Scott Thorburn, Brad Udall and me as leader. Our approach march started from Jiri on September 4 and on the 12th we reached Namche Bazar. On September 19, Base Camp was established at 16,900 feet in the upper Thame valley, three hours above Sumna Phug in a beautiful meadow on the east side of the Sumna Glacier. While the monsoon continued, we acclimatized by carrying to a dump at 17,700 feet locating Camp I at 19,000 feet. When the weather became clear on the 25th, we turned our attention to the “arête.” Our goal was to climb a 2000-foot steep snow- and-rock arête to reach the Nangpai Gossum plateau, to follow the plateau to the upper sections of the west-southwest ridge at 23,000 feet and to climb the ridge to the summit. After ten days of fixing rope on the steep terrain of the arête, we found an exposed knife-edge, over a quarter mile in length, between us and the plateau. After deciding on October 5 that fixing ropes and carrying loads over this section was not worth the risk, time or energy, we moved to the “Sumna Spur,” a prominent 4500-foot-high rib just west of the arête. On October 14, Gustke and Frank Coffey established Camp I at 20,400 feet on the spur. To get there, we climbed 2000 feet of ice, snow and rock up to 65°. We fixed 300 meters of rope in the upper sections. Gustke, F. Coffee and I reached 22,000 feet on October 17 but were stymied by an unstable knife-edge that led to the base of a 200-foot-high ice cliff. Above the cliff, the way was clear to the Nangpai Gossum plateau. Unfortunately, the massive storm that commenced on October 17 and lasted until the 20th precluded further attempts. Base Camp was evacuated with much difficulty because of deep snow. We reached Namche on November 2.

Mark Udall