Guides Cho Oyu 2000 Expedition
the IMG Autumn 2000 Cho Oyu Expedition
is committed to running top quality Himalayan
means experienced and well-paid guides and Sherpas,
high-end equipment and good logistics.
For example, the IMG team has a 50-day
itinerary to allow time for a second summit attempt
should the first bid be thwarted by bad weather.
All members will have oxygen on summit day
using IMG's proprietary oxygen system, which has
worked flawlessly on over a dozen expeditions.
IMG teams remove all their oxygen bottles from
the mountain (and bring them home for recycling).
All human waste and garbage is carried down
from ABC. IMG
uses a fully permitted (legal) satellite and radio
The team will enter Tibet via Lhasa (for better
acclimatization) and will carry a Gamow Bag
(hyperbaric chamber) in case of altitude sickness.
IMG Autumn 2000 Cho Oyu Expedition is organized by
Eric Simonson and led by Tap Richards.
Tap was a member of the 1999 Mallory &
Irvine Research Expedition and is a veteran guide with
many international climbs under his belt, including a
depth of experience on Mt. Rainier, Mt. McKinley,
Aconcagua, Cho Oyu, and Everest.
Tap assisted Eric on the IMG Spring 1996 Cho
Oyu Expedition and successfully reached the summit.
He again assisted on the IMG Spring 2000 Cho
Oyu Expedition (along with guides Craig John and Jake
Norton) which put 9 persons on the summit.
Tap, however, turned back on summit day with a
client having difficulty at about 26,000 feet. Such is the life of a guide!
will work with climbers John Matthews, Greg Yanigihara,
and Joe Coughlin (on his third Cho Oyu attempt!).
Trekkers Kris and Lydia Jett, Matt Nielsen, and
Jasmin Ajanovic, led by guide Heidi Eichner (a veteran
Rainier guide with numerous expeditions to Denali,
Aconcagua, and other peaks) will accompany the
climbing team to Advance Base Camp before journeying
on foot to Everest Base Camp at Rongbuk. After
completing the trek, Heidi will join the summit
Sherpa team consists of four top-notch individuals,
led by Kami (Ang Chirring) Sherpa (from Pangboche),
the Sirdar. Kami
has climbed Cho Oyu twice, Everest four times, and has
also climbed Dhaulagiri and Makalu.
Phunuru Sherpa (from Phortse) is a Cho Oyu
summitter and is a phenomenally strong young climber.
Cooks Pemba Tshiri Sherpa (from Beganje) and
Karsang Sherpa (from Khunde) have worked on a number
of past IMG groups and do a terrific job running the
Base Camp and Advance Base Camp, as well as keeping
track of the logistics on the mountain.
||IMG Cho Oyu Dispatch #1
August 27, 2000
After a day and a
half of packing, errands, and sightseeing, the IMG Cho
Oyu expedition departed Kathmandu on schedule
yesterday for the beginning of the expedition.
The climbers and trekkers, led by Tap Richards and
Heidi Eichner, flew to Lhasa, Tibet on a scheduled
flight on China Southwest Airlines. They left
very early in the morning and were in Lhasa in time
for lunch. The Sherpas, led by Kami and
Pemba, started early in the morning for Tibet via the
Zhangmu road in a big truck with 80 porter loads of
food, fuel, expedition gear, and supplies for Base
Camp. They would definitely NOT be in Tibet by
The weather has
been quite rainy in the Himalayas, and the monsoon is
not over yet. The road to the border is washed
out or blocked out by landslides in five different
places, each of which will requiring hiring local
porters. The Sherpas have several thousand
dollars of Nepal rupee notes with them for paying
porters. They expect to take two days to reach the
border town of Zhangmu, a trip that can be done in six
hours in good conditions. From there they will
travel to Nylam and Tingri, where they plan on meeting
Tap and the crew on the 29th.
Meanwhile, the climbers and
trekkers will have a day and a half to explore Lhasa,
including the famous Potala Palace, Barkor, and Jokang
Temple. Lhasa at 11,000 feet, is a great place
to start acclimatizing. Then they will drive by
four wheel drive vehicles to Shigatse, and then to
Tingri, crossing several 17,000 foot passes along the
So far everything is going fine,
except for the road conditions, which are to be
expected this time of the year! If the
post-monsoon season is "normal" this year,
it will start to improve in the next few weeks.
International Mountain Guides / Expedition 8000 www.mountainguides.com
||IMG Cho Oyu Dispatch
August 30, 2000
Photo: On the road across Tibet;
Tap Richards and
the IMG team report that they made it to Shigatse OK.
The weather has been quite rainy and the roads were in
bad shape...good for 4WD vehicles! Tibet in the
autumn, reports Tap "is completely different from
the spring...they should open a golf course here, it's
so green...compared to the spring, when its all brown
and dry." Tap reports that "both Lhasa
and Shigatse are quite happening, with the Tibetan
Yogurt festival starting this morning (seven days of
holiday) and lots of yogurt for us and the clients
(better than goat lung and tripe).
After visiting the Tashilumpo
monastery in Shigatse this afternoon (the home of the
famous Panchen Lama), the team will get ready for the
drive to Tingri tomorrow, where they meet the Sherpas
with the trucks.
International Mountain Guides / Expedition 8000 www.mountainguides.com
Three: September 1, 2000
||IMG Cho Oyu Dispatch
September 1, 2000
Photo: Cho Oyu Base Camp
Tashi Delek from Base Camp.
We arrived here, tents already set up, hot tang to
drink, and Pemba's cooking - life is good. As
always, I am reveling in the enjoyment of arriving
here. It's always a journey getting to the base
of the mountain. Today, is the first day we
haven't been rained on. Once again, the Sherpas
did an amazing job getting this far with all the
equipment and supplies in tact. The road was
simply non-existent, in four places. That's 130
loads each time. The day we traveled from
Shigatse to Tingri was true adventure - sixteen hours,
four flat tires, one major break-down, and more mud
than I thought Tibet could yield. At times, our
best option was to drive down the middle of the river.
When we could drive on the road, it was a total mud
bog, some puddles almost to the height of the windows.
The rest of the time, we resorted to off-piste driving
and the shear power of the engine. Who designed
those Toyota Land Cruisers, anyway? I think every
member of our team will be buying one, upon our
return... We are all still amazed that we
actually did pull in to Tingri, two nights ago, at
12:30 am. There were multiple times that we
thought we would be spending the night in the jeeps.
To say the least, the dry dirt floor and rock-hard bed
of the Everest View Hotel never felt so good.
It's only getting better, as Base Camp is equally that
much more pleasurable. All are felling well and
looking forward to not sitting in a jeep, getting a
chance to stretching the legs and some R &R.
We'll stay in touch. Hope all is well back home.
International Mountain Guides / Expedition 8000
Four: September 4, 2000
click on the pictures!
up at Cho Oyu from just
up the Gyabrag Glacier and
the Nangpa La Pass from about
halfway to ABC
Greetings from ABC. All our
team is here and feeling as good as one could expect
for 17,600 feet. The spot we've chosen to hang
our hats for the next month is really pretty sweet.
The classic Advanced Base Camp really shows that Cho
Oyu has recently become a popular destination for
climbers. As I strolled the place, flags from
seven different nations whipped in the wind. Some
twenty-plus teams will attempt the mountain this
season. With these kinds of numbers, Pemba and I
thought we would stand a better chance of staying
health by setting up our own little village. As
long as our health isn't tied to the current weather,
we should stay strong.
We have yet to see a day where is
hasn't rained, and now up in the higher elevations,
snow. Never thought I would be drawing any
parallel between Seattle and Tibet, but this feels
just like the N.W. in November. Looking out over
the plateau, green is everywhere - no longer can I say
that the place is a monochromatic brown. Above,
the Himalaya are blanketed in white. The deep snow and
frequent storms are a hurdle to our progress, but our
spirits our still high and we know it's still early in
the game. For now, it's nice to be settled into
the place we're calling home, as we hear rumors of the
roads to Base Camp are only getting worse.
Weather depending, we will spend
the week attempting to build Camp 1. Two
more days of R&R, the puja, and then we can start
thinking about doing what we came here to do.
Until next time - Bye, Bye...
Tapley Richards and the IMG Cho
Five: Camp 1 photos !
|View looking up
from Camp One.
Note ice cliff halfway
to Camp 2.
|Camp 1, looking back down toward
Click on these photos for full
size copies !
Greetings from Cho Oyu Advanced
Base Camp. Our trekkers (Kris, Lydia, Matt,
Jasmin) just took off for Everest Base Camp and
Rongbuk Monastery, before heading back to Kathmandu
and the real world. Meanwhile, the climbing team
is making good progress on the mountain, due much to
the hard work of our two climbing Sherpas, Kami and
Punuru. This past week was very busy with the
puja ceremony, trips to Camp 1, and the ongoing
process of setting up ABC.
We do have the place all fixed up
and we're settling in; we've done our first loads of
laundry (by hand - no laundry mat, yet), taken
showers, and erected a swank bathroom. Pemba's
cooking is better than you'll find in most eating
establishments in the States, and certainly better
than anything on the Tibetan Plateau. As long as
we don't think too much, life here is pretty cush.
Definitely, after a long day of humping loads up to
Camp 1 (20,700ft.), the site of ABC is pure
Some recent good weather windows
have forced us to get off the couch and start building
higher Camps. Our first trip to Camp 1 was
arduous, as the first trip to a new elevation usually
is. This past trip, we still worked hard, but
felt good and abused ourselves considerably less.
The Sherpas on the other hand, leave camp with us,
quickly become dots off in the distance, then sometime
later, they come running past, laughing - we're
sucking wind and still on our way up. The notion
of being humbled like that is somewhat gratifying.
We all have certain skills and aptitudes that will
contribute to the success of our expedition, our
Sherpas sure know how to make it happen.
In the upcoming days, we're
looking at spending the night at Camp 1 and a possible
carry to Camp 2. The route to Camp 2 is not
completely established, but the good weather is
promising. Some teams are making noise of
a summit attempt, this week. We'll adhere to the
mantra of biting it off one chunk at time.
Things are going well and we're excited to be moving
closer towards going high. We'll keep you
Tapley Richards & the IMG Cho
Six: September 15, 2000
|IMG Cho Oyu
Assistant guide Heidi Eichner,
along with trekkers Kris and Lydia Jett, Matt Nielsen
and Jasmin Ajanovic made the trek from Cho Oyu ABC to
BC, then two days east over Lamna La Pass to Rongbuk.
After visiting the Monastery and Base Camp (the
weather cooperated, giving them great views), they
headed for the Nepal border, via the Zhangmu road.
Despite some washouts, etc, the team made it
successfully to Kathmandu, on schedule!
Heidi has now made it back up to
ABC to meet Tap and the climbers. During the
last several days, the climbing team made another trip
to Camp 1, this time to sleep there.
Tap reports: "The
members spent one night at C1, made a trip up the ice
cliff and are back here at ABC. The Sherpas and
I spent two nights there and carried loads to C2.
The second night, the monsoons returned and we
experienced some considerable snow build up. Two
large avalanches came very close to the C2 area (one
stopped just 10 meters short). Heidi returned to
ABC today - sounds like the trek went great, they had
beautiful weather, great views of Everest and smooth
travel throughout. Two days of rest, now; then
we'll make a trip to C2 for sleeping (weather
permitting). The usual Mountain Circus lives on.
We got at 4:30AM, to go up the ice cliff, as C1 was
full of people to go and do the same. We did
beat the crowd, still waited 45 min. to rappel the
cliff... Lots of people we've seen before. From
The Polish woman, Hanna, to Makalu
Gao, with no hands, to Charlie Fowler
and his group from Telluride to ski off the summit,
all without oxygen and stuffing themselves (all four
of them) into one small tent, 'cause they only have
one tent, to a clueless, pseudo guided group lead
Anyway, we're doing well, here.
Tap and Heidi
Seven: September 23, 2000
The latest from Tap
Richards at ABC:
We're down from a good trip to
C2, sleeping at C1. Greg and Joe seem to be
recovering well and we're all slated to go up again
tomorrow. We're in position to go to the summit,
but will just have to see how things go. We'll do what
we can! A Korean party of five and their three
sherpas did make the top, earlier this week.
Rumor has it, they took twelve-plus hours to get to
the top, trudging through deep snow. Other teams
will try, in the next few days, including Russell and
his "stronger members". Still only the
Koreans' tents at C3. We're still getting some
small snow accumulations, in the afternoons, but
really the weather seems pretty good. Amazingly
enough, we saw a few teams arrive just this last week.
John Otto and Dan Mazur were one of them, and yes, the
psuedo guided group I had mentioned.
I'm still trying to feel out
exactly what their program is. I do know that
there's almost twenty of them and only three sherpas.
They're working their asses off making trips to C1
EVERY day. They think they have to fix their own
lines up the ice cliff, 'cause there's so many of
them. They came by at one point, while I was up
on the hill, and hammered Joe and Graig for info... Chris Boskoff and her assistant Charles, who we also
know, seem to be doing OK, although, I haven't had
much opportunity to really sniff it out. Anna,
from Poland, is back at it - trying her dardnest .....
The small teams have either split up into numerous
little solo attempts, or they've joined together to
create one larger cluster - (maybe they find it easier
to climb with each other, if nobody speaks the same
the language and they share nothing in common).
Stevie Haston still thinks we (the commercial
operators) are all a bunch of bastards, as he and his
girlfriend huck their carcasses of the ice cliff, on
snowboards. Then again, everybody is snowboarding
off the top this year. Well, that's pretty much
I'll keep you posted.
Eight: September 25, 2000
IMG Cho Oyu Expedition UPDATE
I just got off the satellite phone with Tap.
He reports that everyone on the team was successful in
reaching the summit yesterday. They had
just made it back down to down to ABC, and Tap will be
sending a dispatch tomorrow when they had a chance to
rest up a bit!
He said it was a cold windy day, with deep snow.
He said that everyone was fine from his group, but
that some people on other teams that were not using
oxygen got some frostbite.
We'll be looking forward to getting all the details
International Mountain Guides / Expedition 8000
Nine: September 26, 2000
Tap, Heidi, John, Greg, Joe, Kami, and
Phunuru summitted on a long hard day in deep snow.
Here is their story:
Sept. 24, 1:00 AM: Half-awake, Half-alive,
and Half-excited to be getting up to attempt the
summit of Cho Oyu. I wipe the frost off the
radio, turn the switch on, and talk to Kami, our
climbing sirdar and head Sherpa. He and Phunuru
are coming from Camp 2 to meet us for the summit bid.
Kami and my radio conversation is concise, and
Kami, How's everything?
Some good, some bad! Many stars, but also many
[The sherpas have a delightful and simple language
for stating the obvious.]
I, too, am aware of the wind, as Heidi and I are
forced to bring the stove into the tent, in order to
melt the frozen pot of water. My mind wanders to
Starbucks, a double tall latte', and the Sunday paper.
How did you spend your Sunday??
Relieved to be out of the cluttered tents, we
fumble with our last-minute gear adjustments. As
always, the first few minutes of climbing are
difficult and awkward. Everyone struggles with
their oxygen masks and equipment. The deep snow makes
the walking arduous, our down suits seem only to get
in the way, it's dark, windy, and very cold.
We've teamed-up with another expedition to make the
going easier and for safety in numbers. Each
member takes a turn at breaking trail and trudging a
path. Our five American climbers are all
breathing oxygen and consequently are staying
relatively warm, other climbers suffer from the cold,
wind, and lack of thick air. We chose not to
stop and rest, and although we're moving higher on the
mountain the summit doesn't seem to get any closer.
It's a particularly hard day of climbing on the
easiest 8000 meter peak!!!
Joe, John, and Greg continue:
With the soft snow every other step is a post hole
and even with oxygen it sends you into
hyperventilation. It takes all of your energy just to
squeeze down a power gel, which even at sea level, has
the nutritional value of a coke and a box of Junior
mints, the texture of a bad oyster and an assundrious array of flavors that all suck. But they are
convenient and light and you need some fuel for the
S&M activity that you are putting yourself
through. Last years Sunday stroll is today's
death march from hell. Putting one foot in front of
the other becomes an arduous task.
The summit plateau of this mountain is not very
steep but seems to go on into infinity. A slight
incline, soft snow, an awkward down suit, and a pack
that, at that altitude, feels like you are carrying
your 90 lb. cousin; never made walking so difficult.
You realize you have summited when you finally see Mt.
Everest and Lhotse, but by that time you really just
don't care. We snap a couple of photos with the
cameras that weren't frozen and turn around. Wishing
like hell that there was a helicopter, or even
be to abducted by aliens rather than to have to walk
down. It is bitter cold and very windy, couple that
with your exhaustion, and your overwhelming desire to
be down from such an alien environment and fear
becomes an effective motivator. You're not thinking
about the expedition being over or eventually being
able to go home and sit on a toilet. Your literally
thinking about putting one foot in front of the
other and doing it sure-footedly without spiking
yourself with crampons.
One major aspect of climbing that
some people do not think about is that "climbing
is optional, descending is mandatory." You must
not waste yourself on the summit attempt. You need
enough strength in reserve for a heinous descent, into
a poor campsite, for some barely edible food. And
edible is anything you make for yourself on a six inch
stove at 24,000 feet. We would challenge Wolfgang Puck
to create something palatable in those
In some respects the descent is
more psychologically taxing than the ascent. You look
out as you are rappelling down the Yellow Band and see
Camp 3 but it never seems to get close enough. It is a
downhill slog across a mellow snowfield with a beaten
path, but we just cannot seem to get there. And to top
it off, Camp 3 is not our destination for the day,
we're supposed to go all the way down to Camp 2. After
packing up Camp 3 we begin the arduous plod down to
Camp 2. What appeared to be no more than a gentle
cruise back to the home of a few days ago becomes a
slog from hell. To ease the pain we try glissading
(sliding down on our butts) through the snow. This
provides some amusement, but Camp 2 only gets
Finally we get back to Camp 2,
snuggle into our sleeping bags, barely generate enough
energy to have a hot drink, and rejoice in the fact
that we've all made it through summit day!
Nine Pictures: September
Here is the end of
climb team photo (note Pemba's cake).
Top row, L-R:
Tap, Joe, Phunuru, Greg
Front Row: John, Kami,
Also, a shot from the top, with
Ten: Final Thoughts by Tap
Richards leader of the IMG Autumn Cho Oyu 200
been almost three weeks since we turned our backs to
Cho Oyu and returned to " normal" life and
the "real" world. The first few days
back home, I am consumed by thoughts of the mountain
and the tight knit group with whom we've shared our
experiences. I'm struck with serious jet lag and
find myself wide awake at 4:30 AM, sitting on
the doorstep of Starbucks, waiting for that sublime
first sip of coffee.
this morning, I blend in with all the people
frantically running off to work, but my mind wanders
back to the Himalaya and the sights and sounds of
early morning, there: Just a week ago, I lie in
my sleeping bag at 23,000ft.; we've just summited the
sixth highest mountain in the world. Our summit
day was harder than I had previously remembered, and
our post-monsoon experience was dramatically different
from my, pre-monsoon Cho Oyu trips.
late August when our plane touches down in Lhasa.
The Tibetan plateau has taken on a whole new look:
hill-sides blanketed in green, the Tibetans are
harvesting barley and potatoes, and the irrigation
systems are raging with water. In the
spring season, farming appears to be a far fetched
concept, now it is reality. Remember our epic
story (see dispatches below - August 2000): a sixteen
hour jeep ride, through deep mud, water levels above
the doors, driving down the middle of the river
(photo). I check my notes from a previous trip,
that spring the same drive took a mere eight hours, we
battled with dust and were parched by the surrounding
all instances, our equipment trucks and Sherpas reach
Base Camp overland from Kathmandu. This time the
roads are washed out in several places and we're
forced to hire porters to schlep our gear - adding two
days to the trip from KDU. Upon arriving at Base
Camp, we rendez-vous with the Sherpas and all of our
equipment. Half the battle is over, we still
have yet to see the mountain, but we are all there and
in tact. After one week, the clouds part and we
get our first views of Cho Oyu and the surrounding
peaks: laden with snow and equally as beautiful,
although a completely different look . The rock
terraces that make up the upper mountain, are buried
under a season's snow. Warmer temperatures are visibly
obvious, rivers have thawed out and streams run with
fervor, cutting deeper in to the crust of the plateau,
not that it feels any warmer. We are able to
camp along side streams and tap them for water.
The yaks graze on small shrubs, making them noticeably
stronger, but no less ornery. Our first morning
at Advanced Base Camp, we wake up to a foot of new
snow - the monsoon season has yet to abate.
long scree slope to Camp 1 is clear of snow and we are
successful in avoiding the big snow storms, most of
the really bad weather seems to come during the night.
The route between Camps 1 and 2 is not yet established
and looks difficult, due to all the new snow.
We're actually hoping for some strong winds to blow
some snow off the broad ridge we'll be climbing.
Although we've been out of the USA for almost two
weeks, it's still early in the trip. We find
ourselves chomping at the bit to get high on the
mountain, but acclimatization is crucial and I know
that soon we'll be looking forward to each and ever
hour of rest.
our team is in position to push for Camp 2, two other
teams join forces; in three days time, they've got a
route kicked in. We follow close behind
and find avalanche danger surprisingly minimal, the
climbing is still arduous, as nightly storms fill the
trail with unconsolidated snow. Within two weeks
time, Camp 2 is established, we're becoming well
acclimatized, but the monsoons rage on. On
one of the last carries to Camp 2, our Sherpas had a
close call when an avalanche came within ten meters of
the camp. On our climb last spring, all required
good cramponing skills on icy surfaces, we found
falling more of a concern and put more energy towards
our high camps place, we'll wait for the monsoons to
taper off, then make a push for the summit. In
the spring, you wait for the winds to stop and you try
and squeak in a summit bid before the monsoons arrive.
Now, we'll wait for the monsoons to stop dumping large
amounts of snow, meanwhile trying to beat the winds
that blow the monsoons out and bring the winter
season. The weather is improving and we can
start to feel the bite of the cold winter air.
The sherpas tell me that, in the last few days of
September, they commonly see a last monsoon snow
coupled with the first winter-like storm. It's
September 20th and we're in position to go for the
top. Timing is everything and I spend sleepless
nights wondering what the next few days weather will
bring. We decided to team up with another large
commercial team, taking turns breaking trail in hopes
of tagging the summit.
now 5:30 AM, Starbucks is brewing 10 cups of coffee
per minute, I've wasted a good hour of the
"normal" life in the "real"
the team Members
the MARCONI CHO OYU 2000