Cho Oyu Overview
Situated on the very western edge of Nepal’s Khumbu region, roughly 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of Mount Everest, Cho Oyu rises to a formidable 8,188 metres (26,864 feet) above the border between Tibet (China) and Nepal.
The sixth highest peak in the world is often considered to be the easiest of the world’s 8,000ers to climb. This is mainly attributed to a lack of technical difficulty and exposure along the main route to the summit. As a result, the peak is a popular target for mountaineering enthusiasts and can get quite crowded.
Most expeditions to the summit begin from the Nangpa La, which sits at an elevation of 5,716 metres (18,753 feet). The glaciated pass is a historic trading route between Nepal and Tibet, and provides fairly easy access to the northwestern slopes of the peak.
Quick Facts about Cho Oyu
- Cho Oyu was one of the few peaks in the Himalayas to retain its native name and never have an official Western one. In the Tibetan language, Cho Oyu means "Turquoise Goddess".
- After its ascent in 1954, Cho Oyu became the fifth 8,000 metre (26,200 foot) peak to be successfully summited. It was also the highest mountain to be climbed without the use of supplemental oxygen until the same feat was repeated on Everest in 1978.
- Cho Oyu remains the second most climbed 8,0000er in the world after Mount Everest, receiving three times the amount of traffic that the third most popularly climbed 8,000er does.
History of Cho Oyu
The first attempt to climb Cho Oyu came in 1952. Sir Edmund Hillary and his party had been denied permission to climb Mount Everest and were instead given the option to climb Cho Oyu. They ended up climbing the northwestern face, but never reached the summit.
The first expedition to successfully reach the summit of Cho Oyu came on 19 October 1954 when an Austrian expedition led by Herbert Tichy, Joseph Jöchler and Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama made it to the top of the mountain via the northwest ridge.
Overall, Cho Oyu was the third 8,000er to be climbed. However, all of the first ascents had to be made from the Nepalese side of the mountain after the border with Tibet was closed. Now, the peak is frequently climbed from the Tibetan (Chinese) side of the border.
Experience Required for Climbing Cho Oyu
While Cho Oyu is widely considered to be the easiest 8,000er to climb and has been labeled as a trekking peak by Nepal, reaching the top of the peak is still a challenging feat.
The ascent requires some technical abilities – mostly snow and glacier climbing – all of which will take place at elevations of 6,000 metres (19,700 feet) and above. As a result, participants should have previous experience at 7,000 metres (23,000 feet) or more and take the proper amount of time to acclimatise during the trip.
The climb is also physically demanding, so a high level of physical fitness is required. Most guides recommend spending three or more months improving endurance, strength and flexibility.
Main Routes up Cho Oyu
The west ridge/west face route, also called the normal route, is the way to the summit that is almost exclusively used by commercial guides on Cho Oyu.
The ascent begins from a base camp on the Nangpa La pass, which can be reached by jeep from the Tibetan (Chinese) side of the border, and requires a combination of snow, ice and glacier climbing.
While the vast majority of the climb is not overly technical, there are two short technical sections that need to be climbed en route to the summit.
Away from the normal route, it is also possible to climb via the north face of the mountain, but this is far more technically demanding and exposed. There are also some routes from the southern side of the mountain, in Nepal, but these require a week or so for trekking to reach and are also more technically demanding than the normal route.