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Cho Oyo - Dispatches

Summit !! 21 September 2003

In the tent at 0330 there was nothing to be worried about, just the time pressure in order to be ready for the 0430 start. 0415 and Russell shouts "Are we ready to do this?" no reply then another "Are we ready to do this?" We begin to emerge from our tents. I struggle with cold crampons and my fingers in their inner gloves begin to freeze; bugger I can't afford this kind of problem. The wind is blowing, it is dark, people are unrecognisable behind oxygen masks, with only an 8000+m mountain above, it is a scary situation. I think; just try to warm your hands and get going. We separate out as we head for the rock band, hands becoming painful as they warm inside large down-mits; a big relief.
Suddenly, after a big effort to climb the rock band, I am following the lead sherpas and we are heading for the shoulder, in good time; maybe success. The Japanese who had left at midnight were now just in front, we were making great progress. At 0815 I turned to the Sherpa below and pointed at what I thought was the summit plateau he nodded to confirm, I was suddenly elated with the idea that I was going to make it. At this stage, Nowa the lead sherpa, another Tibetan Sherpa and I were tailing the Japanese as we ascended onto the summit plateau which was a massive field of untouched snow, no tracks leading to a summit which was by no means obvious. The Japanese then faltered, they were very tired having broken trail for most of the way in deep snow. "ABC, this is summit plateau, please confirm direction to actual summit." The directions came through and Nowa and I were off in knee deep to thigh deep snow. Nawang in the lead, with no oxygen and myself behind on two litres/minute took another 90 minutes to reach the summit at 0946. Five minutes later, Everest and Annapurna disappeared in cloud. Soon after, the Japanese arrived, they like us, were jubilant in success.
It was an amazing experience to climb Cho Oyo but even more so to share it with three Tibetan Sherpas who it clearly meant so much to.
They will be my friends for life.

Julian Haszard (New Zealand)
23rd September 2003

Dispatch Four: Camp One Acclimatisation
The plot thickens !!!!! Meaning that in a little while we will be off on the quest for the summit of Cho Oyo....More of that later..

Firstly it is to our great relief that we can inform some very good news regarding the injured Yak man.. After being treated at the Xigatse hospital it is now almost certain that he will keep his eye and even more vital, his sight.. This is very good news and undoubtedly this man will be forever grateful to Russell for taking action when others who should have did not !!!!!

And now finally after a long time we must oblige to a young man's beggings !!
To Kevin's mum....Kevin eats very well and is feeling fine !!!!

7 Years in Tibet....No we are not referring to the movie and the ever attractive Brad Pitt (sorry girls) (hopefully not boys!!!!) The following should have appeared in the last dispatch, however, surely due to our hypoxic state it slipped our mind...
Rob and Jo, our Aussie/British couple celebrated having shared the last 7 years together, so a special table was prepared for them by Lacchu in our lovely 5600 meter ABC restaurant.... The food, as always, was fantastic, and Russell somehow had found a bottle of whiskey in a crevasse, amazing...
Being the serious mountaineers we are, it was still half full when we went to bed....Or maybe we are just a bunch of softies ?????

This expedition group is, as mentioned, multinational which is sometimes very obvious at the dinner table.. The food is sometimes a tad spicey, leaving some people looking kind of strained and others apparently immune... Our Japanese team member Makato, however, is used to spices, so he has always been smiling at us when we were on fire... Yesterday, at last, the good man overdid it and we spotted him sweating quite a bit.. Nice

Friday was our first big day on the mountain. This was the day that we did the first proper gear carry to camp 1 at 6400m. This was a critical day, to get our important upper mountain gear to Camp 1 and also to acclimatise higher. It is fair to say that some of us were nervous about the carry and sleeping and working higher on the mountain. We had an early lunch and then headed off. Some took three hours, others seven, it was a hard day. The night was then spent at Camp 1. Some were more comfortable than others. The next day most of the party headed up to the Ice-cliff at 6700m. Russell, closely aided by Richard and to a lesser extent the group, then fixed a new, much more efficient, diagonal fixed line up the ice-cliff. We then returned to Camp 1 where we decided to stay one further night. Unfortunately Lacchu's pizza was long since eaten. It was a comfortable but long and empty-stomached evening at camp 1. The next day we descended to a late lunch at ABC.

You may have gathered from some of the detail, that within the group there is one strong element gunning for an early summit bid and a slower element who perhaps will need a little more time before going for the summit. We have discussed this within the group and we all agree. So now a plan exists for the whole group to move to camp 1, camp 2 then the stronger element will head for camp 3 then the summit with oxygen with the exception of Mogens who will attempt with no oxygen. The remainder and those who do not feel ready will descend to ABC from camp 2 with the intent of a later summit bid again with oxygen. We all have a good idea of where we stand, we have the benefit of Russell's vast experience and we realise that mental focus is now the key. We are all excited but have to remain relaxed in the wait for the right weather and the day we leave ABC for camp 2 and the summit.

signing off

Mogens Jensen
Julian Haszard

15th September 2003

Cho Oyo Expedition 2003 - Newsletter 2 (Sep 10 2003)
Dispatch Two: Base Camp to Advanced Base Camp
Friday the 5 September was the last full day that we spent at base camp and it was a day of mixed emotions. Firstly it was the day of departure of Juhani and Merja the Finnish couple who had come with intent of reaching base camp and spending some time viewing the mountain. We were all very sad to see them go, they had been very good traveling companions. Some of us had also benefited from Juhani's skill as a doctor and Merja's as a nurse.

It was, however, not a simple departure for Juhani and Merja for the day started with an unexpected casualty. While having breakfast one of the Sherpas asked Russell to take a look at a Yakman from another expedition. The very unfortunate Yakman had sustained a nasty puncture wound just below and involving the right eye. The wound was weeping and had been bleeding, it appeared that he had recieved no medical attention of any kind. He explained that the accident had occurred at around midnight, a yak horn had caused the wound.
He was pretty keen to get back to work, herding up towards ABC. This was clearly not going to be possible. Russell and Richard provided first aid, cleaning and bandaging the wound. After discussion between, Russell, Julian and Juhani it was decided that the Yakman be given a strong painkiller (Tramadol), an anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen) and an antibiotic (Amoxil). Russell organised and paid for the Yakman to be transported to the nearest hospital, he also provided for one of the Yakman's friends to travel down later to see him. The whole incident was very unfortunate and it sent a shock through our party We were also very angry at the lack of attention and even basic aid provided by the expedition effectively employing the Yakman. There is often criticism of commercial expeditions in terms of their large infrastructure and associated costs. This incident clearly shows, that to operate in this environment, you need to be prepared and it is the prepared expeditions that absorb the lack of preparation from others. But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this incident was the apparent lack of compassion shown to a fellow human being.

Saturday dawned a glorious day for our move to ABC. There was an air of excitement at the prospect of moving to the mountain proper. We were also very aware that this was going to be a long day, 22km and approx 800m of ascent. We headed out of camp after breakfast and crossed the river via a foot bridge. We were then lucky to find a new road heading towards ABC and then a truck offering a ride to the construction head. So 22 of us hitched a ride, on the back of a truck carrying diesel drums, halfway to ABC. A gift from the gods. We walked another four hours and arrived at ABC in the snow with only a short wait for the yaks and Lachhu. He has left after us and ran from BC to ABC in less than 5 hours. He was a little suprised that he did not catch us up.

Monday, time for the puja, the gateway for everyone planning to approach the mountain. The sherpas set up the scene which was nothing less than fantastic. Prayers, prayerflags, presents, offerings for the mountain gods and many rituals all together gave everyone a very emotional moment to remember. Now we can procede further up Cho Oyo knowing that we have the blessing of the mountain gods. Which was exactly what was planned for us yesterday, as we all headed up towards camp 1 at 6400 meters.

Tuesday. First part of the trip consisted of a large amount of bouldering and scree. Then we approached what Russell describes as, 'a gentle scree slope'. I doubt any of the expedition members agree with that statement, since 40-50 degrees were dominant throughout. But then again, Russell has tried some rather taxing things in his time... Anyway most people felt up for the challenge and gave it their best shot. Which proved sufficient, the team looks fit and keen, promising well for the tasks ahead.. The descent of the scree slope actually turned out to cause more worried minds than the ascent since speed can quickly become too hairy.. Luckily everyone got down safely with only a few slips being the case..

Back home at ABC everybody felt just a "little" exhausted but also satisfied knowing that an important milestone had been reached...

Wednesday. Today & tomorrow are rest days after which we go to camp 1 again to sleep overnight.. Also meaning that we have to transport quite a heavier load than last time.. Ascent times are likely to be just a tad slower.

Signing off
Julian Haszard and Mogens Jensen

Cho Oyo Expedition 2003 - Newsletter 1 (Sep 05 2003)
Dispatch One: Kathmandu to Basecamp
Hello and welcome to the dispatches for the 2003 Cho Oyo Himalayan Experience Expedition. During the course of the expedition we will be posting a number of dispatches that will relate to key points and events while we try to climb this the sixth highest mountain in the world. We hope to provide information that is informative, interesting and even entertaining.

The team is diverse to say the least. We have members from eight different countries;
1 Libanese, 2 Japanese, 1 Australian, 2 Americans, 1 Lithuanian, 1 Dane, 2 Kiwis, 4 Brits, plenty of potential for discussion !!!! English is the common language.Every member has a story of their own, but all of us are here with the common goal of reaching the summit. In order to do that we realise that we must conquer ourselves, not the mountain.The mountain is here to stay, while we are merely mortals who can vanish in a split second !! To quote our expediton leader, "success is not just to reach the summit but to get everybody home safe !!!!!"

Basecamp 4900m, we are settling in after our trip from Kathmandu to Lhasa, Xigatse, Tingri and then finally here.The last few days have allowed us to begin our acclimitisation process. Not all of us have managed to stay clear of the dreaded stomach upsets, and some have had to take antibiotics. However now we are all in good health enjoying the very good food and living conditions provided here at base camp. We have all been very impressed by the high work rate of the sherpas in preparing things for us here and also importantly for the move to advanced base camp and higher. They are very friendly and we all look forward to spending the next few weeks with them. They are clearly the backbone of the expedition. We will be here enjoying stunning and humbling views of Cho Oyo until Saturday when we will embark with 50 yaks (70 yaks will have already gone) on the 22Km trek to advanced basecamp (ABC) at 5800m.

Signing off

Julian Haszard
Mogens Jensen

Summit Videos and Articles. Check out Taranaki Daily News to read about the mission. You can also see some photos and videos.
2 September 2009 Samagon - Dispatch three and some more photos are available.
31 August 2009 Samagon - Dispatch two is now available.
24 August 2009 Samagon - The fist dispatch and some photos are available.
18 August 2009 News from the roof of the world - Mike Scott prepares to leave for Nepal.
15 August 2009 The team leaves for Nepal next week please click here to read more about the team.
Copyright © 2009 Julian Haszard.