A team of Nepali climbers led by Gelje Sherpa on Monday was forced to retreat after reaching an altitude of 7,560 meters on the Southeast ridge of Cho Oyu due to deteriorating weather conditions. The team, which set out for the final push to the summit late on Sunday, is now returning to the base camp, according to Ashok Rai, the manager of the expedition.
“Our team aborted the final push because the window was too short to get going. There will be a second attempt once the weather improves,” Rai told Everest Chronicle.
The weather started deteriorating after 9 am, and weather reports indicated heavy snow and strong winds starting around noon with wind gusts up to 100km/hour.
According to Rai, it took over 4 hours for the team to fix ropes on the south col adjacent to Tenzing peak. This exhausted the team and delayed the ascent.
The team believe they could have still reached the top, but then would have run out of time to return safely. “We were in a tricky situation. We decided to retreat. Safety is the most important part of climbing,” said Rai.
The team is heading back to base camp, where they will wait for a better weather window. “The mission is on. Even if we don’t make it within February, we will do it next month,” said Rai.
Gelje’s team is one of the two groups of Sherpa guides climbing Cho Oyu which straddles along the border with China. Another team led by Mingma Dorchi Sherpa has also descended from 7,200 Meters after storing rations for a final push around February 27, according to Nivesh Karki, the manager of the team.
“As per the weather reports, the storm will continue till February 25. So, the team might probably move on the following day. If weather permits, the team will set out for a summit push on February 27,” said Karki.
Both groups are on a mission to explore new routes to the world’s sixth highest peak via the Nepal side. Sherpa guides hope that the new routes would attract more aspiring climbers to attempt the peak via Nepal, bringing more jobs and revenues to the country.
If he succeeds in scaling the peak, Gelje, 29, will only have one 8,000 Meter ascent remaining to become the youngest climber to summit all 14 highest peaks in the world.
Considered one of the easiest 8,000 Meter peaks to climb, Cho Oyu (8,188-meters) attracts hundreds of climbers every year. Since the peak was first climbed in 1954, almost all expeditions have been done from the northwest face in Tibet. Nepal’s Department of Tourism lists only fourteen successful summits from the Nepal side.
This winter expedition of Cho Oyu has been seen as the second most challenging Himalayan ascent attempt after an all-Nepali team’s first successful winter summit of K2 last winter.