American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Cho Oyu Winter Ascent and Tragedy, 1994

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 1994

Cho Oyu Winter Ascent and Tragedy, 1994. The last of the winter expeditions to get to their Base Camp were two Swiss and four Spaniards, who got to the foot of Cho Oyu from Nepal on January 8, 1994. They were not a closely knit party but a collection of Europeans who wanted to climb Cho Oyu as cheaply as possible. The co-leaders were Swiss Jean-Luc Beausire and Juan Carlos Piedra (actually with dual Swiss-Spanish nationality), who wanted to share the $8000 peak fee and other costs. They advertised for more climbers. Spaniards Juanjo Garra and Joaquim Tell, who did not know each other, responded. Later, Jordi Magriñà and Albert Cucurull also joined. They expected to climb as three separate groups, but Tell dropped out early, leaving the Swiss as one team and the Spaniards as the other. The Swiss pair set off from Base Camp at 5600 meters for their push to the summit as soon as the clouds cleared on the morning of January 19. The Spaniards followed the next day. The Swiss stayed ahead of the Spanish trio, who in the following days spotted them above from time to time. Then Beausire and Piedra disappeared. They were last seen alive on the 22nd, moving up in an area of séracs at 6700 meters. Their footprints continued on to just below the first foresummit of Cho Oyu, still an hour or two from the highest point. There was no indication that they reached either peak. They may either have fallen or collapsed from exhaustion and then frozen to death. One body in red down clothing was seen on the 25th two or three hundred yards to the right of the climbing route in a dangerous area of rock and ice. The Spaniards did not attempt to reach it, knowing that in temperatures of -20° to -40°C, no one could survive. The Swiss had left their tent, sleeping bags and gear at a bivouac site at only 7000 meters. Cucurull abandoned his attempt to reach the summit on the 25th, but Magriñà and Garra pressed on and finally on their seventh day up from Base Camp, at eleven A.M. on January 26, 1994, gained the highest point. They had spent the previous night out without a tent but had the protection of their sleeping bags. Despite frost-nipped toes, all returned safely to Base Camp.

Elizabeth Hawley

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