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Summitclimb Cho Oyu Expedition 2011: Summit Bid Recap--Part One

Cho Oyu Spring Expedition 2011 Summit Bid Dispatch (17th, 18th, 19th of May) - by Grace McDonald

We left ABC on the 17th of May, 2011 in beautiful sunny weather with just the right amount of cloud. Zoltan and Istvan started out first followed by me, Violetta and Enrico with Max enjoying the last morning in the dining tent before catching up with the rest of the team at Camp 1. Everyone tucked away into their tents and took full advantage of the milk tea on offer from our wonderful Sherpas who were always helping us stay hydrated. Everyone seemed to have a good trip to Camp 1 - it was our third time so it was about time we pulled it off without feeling completely exhausted. We knew we were in for a long trip to Camp 2 the following morning so I kept the ipod playing to a minimum and headed off to bed around 8 p.m. for one last solid night's sleep. We were one of the last two teams on the mountain with a Dutch team setting up to attempt the summit one day after us.
We woke up to another beautiful day - perhaps a bit too beautiful and sunny for climbing. Me and Violetta headed out first  with a few simple goals, stay hydrated, stay energized with snacks and arrive at Camp 2 before the sun went down. Enrico, Zoltan and Istvan followed shortly behind us. A couple of the Dutch team members were also heading part way with us for a night at Camp 1.5. We had already acclimatized  with a night at Camp 2 so we all  surged forward making good time towards the lower ice wall. On the way we met the final Polish team member, Piotro, who was heading back down to ABC to head back to Kathmandu. He shared good news about his summit success during some difficult days of weather.
The sun was making for a pretty hot day of climbing but that would change soon. I took a seat about 100m from the ice wall and waited for other members to arrive. Soon Zoltan and Istvan appeared and continued on to the base of the ice fall while I sat and was joined by Max, our Sherpas, Violetta and Enrico. Having had good energy gel rest I headed over to the ice wall. We'd  been up and down the wall before and most of us found it an easier task this second time around - although the wall is quite icy in the Spring and took a lot of our energy and focus.
Above the ice wall everyone chilled out in the sun across the "football field" (home of Camp 1.5 where the Dutch team would be staying). We were making great time and were sure we would hit Camp 2 before sun down. We just had to get up the ice wall - not so much a wall as a really steep hill strategically placed to steal and and all energy you had left for the day. The only way through this beast was up, slow and steady. The only problem was the weather was about to teach us a lesson about getting fed up with hot, sunny weather. It started as a slight wind but by the time Max was rounding the top corner around to Camp 2 with the rest of us in tow, he was capturing some cool video of snow gusts taking us out sideways and making for a torturous walking into Camp 2. It was like the mountain was taking direct aim at each of us. Me and Violetta would meet our goal of making it to our Camp 2 tent before sun down, but we weren't any warmer than the first time we had arrived post sun down. That said, we were now snow melting, tent cooking pros. Zoltan, Istvan, me and Violetta settled into our tents for the night and Max got his tent warmed up for Enrico's arrival shortly later.
We knew the 19th would present new challenges as we had never made the trip up to Camp 3. After such a long day getting to Camp 2 I don't think any of us had any problems focusing on resting for the day ahead.
The snow gusts subsided during the night but the trail to Camp 3 had disappeared, meaning a tough day of breaking trail up a long, boring steep hill littered with crevasses. Our incredible Sherpas were heavily weighted with loads of gear and it was slow going in the deep snow. We headed out around noon and made slow headway. Thankfully Max noticed how difficult the trail breaking was for our Sherpas and rushed ahead with Zoltan and Istvan in tow to break the trail all the way up to Camp 3. Looking at the trail from below it seemed impossible that it would take so long to reach Camp 3 but everyone arrived in the darkness, frozen to the core and wondering if we would ever get warm. It was a rough climb for everyone, including our Sherpas.  Zoltan and Istvan managed to set their tent and I arrived shortly behind Violetta. I tend to be a bit bossy, demanding and inflexible when I'm freezing and exhausted in the dark and I may have flung my backpack at her head in my mad rush to inform her that there was room enough for two in the vestibule area. I think she was too exhausted to notice. Enrico and Phi Lama were still heading up the trail and we made the call to go three to a tent for the evening and jumped at the chance to have Max join us in our tent - the dude knows how to melt snow and take care of his tent mates, we're no fools and the next day was summit day! A thousand thank you to Max who didn't even unfurl his sleeping back until he had melted us each 2 litres of water each. Unfortunately Violetta would come to regret tenting with me and Max as Camp 3 seemed to bring out the moving and talking sides of us. Apparently we had quite the active night murmuring back and forth and shaking in our sleeping bags - I imagine we came across like huge, dreaming puppy dogs, less than ideal Camp 3 tent mates.
It wasn't too rude of an awakening at 4:00 am and we yelled for Enrico who, last we had heard, was with the Sherpas in the other Camp 3 tent. We weren't getting any response but used the time to melt more snow for the summit bid. As it neared 5:00 a.m. we became more concerned about the lack of response from Enrico.  Over the radio Max learned that Enrico had turned back to Camp 2 the night before and had slept below.  Unfortunately the information been relayed to Max, who had even told Enrico was at Camp 3. While the rest of us were getting ready to make our summit bid, the focus had to quickly shift to Enrico and Max quickly dispatched a Sherpa down to Camp 2 to establish radio contact with Enrico so he could properly assess the situation. 
In the mean time, the sun was rising at Camp 3, we wouldn't be needing our headlamps for the day and we all needed to get going. I was eagerly awaiting my oxygen tank. Breathing at Camp 3 was fine but I had never climbed with oxygen before and was eager to get a feel for it. Violetta was attempting the summit without oxygen as were Zoltan and Istvan. It was a bit of chaotic, rushed departure but we all had our heads in the game and I set off following Jangbu Sherpa who's plan was to take me to the summit.  Behind me came Violetta with Phi Lama.  Zoltan and Istvan followed towards our first obstacle - the rock band. I have to say that seeing this all in the light of day on a sunny morning was very special and much more enjoyable than it would have been in darkness. But the oxygen I was carrying with me was like a cartoon rocket booster and I felt warm, fast and energetic as I hustled up the rack band on Jangbu's heels. It was  a novel feeling, keeping up with a Sherpa (the secret is for you to have oxygen and the Sherpa to not have oxygen).
to be continued...

Also: Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu SummitClimb 2011 expedition.
I'm very sorry for the lack of news during the past few days. We had a busy summit push and an even busier descent.
Grace McDonald, Jangbu Sherpa and myself summited Cho Oyu in about 7 hours on the 20th. Also the same day, Violetta Pontinen and Phai Lama sherpa summited Cho Oyu without oxygen in about 8 hours. Kobra and Istvan unfortunately gave up the summit about 150 metres below it. Enrico turned around on the way camp 3 and couldn’t get to the summit next day. The whole team apart from Violetta, slept at camp 2 between the 20th and 21st.
In the morning of the 21st, a few problems started. Grace have realized to be snow blind due to the position of her sunglasses over the oxygen mask. A few hours of UV light over 8000m were enough to damage her cornea. Violetta also woke up with not so good news. After her summit with no oxygen, she realized her small finger from right hand had froze. It wasn’t a severe case and she moved to ABC the same day.
Grace and I on the other side, had a very difficult time descending to lower camps. Grace was totally blind and needed assistance on the way down. It took us about 9 hours to get to C1 and another 6 hours next day to get to ABC.
The staff have packed and moved ABC and left camp at about 11pm. The whole team and equipment got finally reunited at interim camp at 6pm on the 22nd and started the drive towards Nepal.
Violetta is recovering well from her frostbite and is very happy about her summit. Grace is on her last day of recovery and is even attempting to open her eyes in the morning. We believe she’ll totally recover tomorrow.
We are currently at Nyalam having breakfast and getting ready for the border. I will write you more detail and email photos from Nepal.
Thank you very much for reading the news
Max Kausch
17 May, 2011

Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring Expedition 2011.

We have sad news for you today. Zsombor Tulit and Jozsef Zukos are on their way down to Kathmandu due to health problems. We will miss them very much. It seems that Zsombi and Jozsef became very dehydrated on the last trip to Camp 2 and this caused series of other problems on their bodies. They are now heading to Zhangmu and we believe they'll reach Kathmandu on the 18th. The rest of the team is having breakfast and getting ready for the summit push. Violetta, Grace, Enrico, Istvan, Kobra and myself, will leave ABC today and head to Camp 1 to sleep. Tomorrow the 18th, we'll sleep at Camp 2 and finally touch Camp 3 on the 19th. Our plan is to leave Camp 3 at about 3am Nepali time on the 20th and try to reach the 8201m summit of Cho Oyu. Then we'll try to sleep at Camp 2 on the way down and reach ABC on the 21st. In the meantime we'll call voice dispatches from high camps and hopefully one from the summit. Last night the cooks made us a good luck cake for the summit. Today is Bhudda's Birthday and full moon, so all the sherpas and Tibetans are very happy about today being our first day of summit push. Wish us luck!!!
Best Regards from Cho Oyo ABC
Max Kausch


15 May, 2011
This is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition

We are on our 2nd day rest at ABC. I’m very happy and proud as our entire team has reached camp 2 at 7100m, and completed the acclimatization plan. So many things could have gone wrong up to this point, but our members did it. It took everyone a lot of courage and discipline to pass the 7000m line. Now, we have camp 1 and camp 2 set and fully stocked for the summit push. We are planning to move back to the mountain on may 17th. The plan is to sleep at C1 on the 17th, C2 on the 18th, C3 on the 19th and then leave very early morning on the 20th to tackle the summit. Our weather forecast shows a decrease in winds, then they increase again after may 21st. There’s also a chance we might try to summit on the 21st, but we won’t be able to confirm this until tomorrow. Most of the other expeditions have left ABC and there’s only one expedition remaining here apart from our own. The weather has been clearing slowly and Cho Oyu is now looking drier than before. All our members are doing great but Jombi and Jozsef are trying to recover from severe cases of dehydration acquired during the last push to C2. We really hope they recover fast enough so they can push to the summit with the rest of the team.
Max Kausch

11 May, 2011
Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition. After 2 full rest days at ABC we are heading to C1 today and C2 tomorrow to finalize our acclimatization process. Everyone is healthy and had their batteries fully recharged during the past 2 days. We hope we'll be ready for the summit push in about 5 days from today. The weather forecast looks promising for the next few days. The winds look fairly weak so we hope this will allow us to reach C2 tomorrow with no problems. ABC is almost empty now. There are only 3 expeditions left here. We will call voice dispatches from high camps during the next 2 days.
Max Kausch

10 May, 2011
Hi, this is Grace from the SummitClimb Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition. Yesterday and today have been top notch rest days following our acclimatization sleep at Camp 1 and a short hike up and then back down to ABC. For the most part we all enjoyed a really nice night of sleep at ABC and woke up to warm sunshine. But rest is hard to come by when your dining tent floor resembles a swimming pool, so Max took charge and booted us all from the tent and installed a lovely stone floor - OK, it needs some work but it was a nice treat to be able to hop from stone to stone. I'm sure Zoltan appreciated the new floor when his chair broke later that night. Rocks hurt but a wet bum before bed is a terrible thing. In other news, there's a Bulgarian guy here who had an interesting plan to take a bike up to the summit and ride it for a meter or so - strange but true. Unfortunately we learned that his bike took flight at Camp 1 in the high winds the other night (I'm sure that must be some kind of record for highest flying bike in the world but that's of little comfort to him). Max was on call as the camp doctor again last night. I'm not kidding - there are camp wide referrals to our dining tent for a visit with Dr. Max (although he lacks any formal medical credentials and always makes it clear that he is not a doctor, he's the closest we got here on Cho Oyu and we're glad he's our guide!). We met Alex from the Ukraine about a week ago and marveled at the state of his throat. After a quick consult last night it was clear that Alex would be heading back down tomorrow. The mountain is actually emptying out pretty quickly but we're still in good company with a group from Poland, another group from Holland and a group of French Canadians. Aside from a few sore throats and coughs, the group is doing well. We had a nice long sleep again last night and are enjoying our final rest day. After breakfast we took our official team photo. Today we learned how to light the propane heater in the dining tent ourselves. We feel very empowered - like cavemen discovering fire.  Hopefully we can harness that feeling of empowerment and propel ourselves up to Camp 2 over the next few days. All the best to all our friends and families and thanks for following the expedition.


5 May, 2011
Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition. We were very lucky today to have a clear and warm day. The whole team trekked to Camp 1 at 6400m to acclimatize and our sherpas set a few tents up there. The trek is not very easy. One has to basically trek for about 5km over ice, snow and moraines to get to a place called scree slope at 6050m. From there the "fun" starts. One has to gain 400m in only 2km of trekking. The scree slope is fairly steep and it took the team about 2 hours to overcome this obstacle plus 3 hours to get there. It was an interesting day. We had amazing views on the way up to all the neighboring 7000m peaks and astonishing glaciers. We are all back to ABC and will have a day of rest tomorrow before heading back to C1 to sleep there.
Max Kausch

3 May, 2011
Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition. The weather was pretty miserable yesterday and today so we had to postpone our glacier training and puja (Buddhist ceremony) until tomorrow. We all look forward to having at least one sunny day at ABC so we can dry out our stuff. Today another team arrived in ABC making a total of 7 teams here. We are getting along very well with them and helping each other. All the team members are adapting very well to the altitude. Half of our members took their first shower after 1 week without one. Our staff set up a nice shower tent with a mat to make it comfortable. It is quite amazing to see the amount of commodities we can have up here at 5700 metres. We'll write again tomorrow with photos of the puja and glacier training.

1 May, 2011
This is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition. We made it to ABC!!! From now on, this will be our lowest altitude for the next 3.5 weeks. The approach was very snowy and setting up tents wasn't easy. Now it's about 10pm and everyone is sleeping in their tents. Here at ABC, every member will have their own tents. It took us about 6 hours to get here. Everyone arrived pretty tired but after drinking a few cups of tea and having dinner, we all felt good and I guess we'll all have a good night. From here we can see several mountains and Cho Oyu itself. We can see pretty much the whole route to the summit. It seems a very snowy spring, different than the last one when everything was extremely dry. I hope we can use this to our benefit so the members can have a faster and safer progress on the slopes above Camp 1. There are 5 or 6 other teams over here. We heard that other people already reached Camp 1 and fixed some rope on the way to the ice cliff at 6700m. We will write you with more news tomorrow. Thanks very much for following the news at SummitClimb.com


30 April, 2011
Hi this is Grace McDonald from the Summit Climb Spring Cho Oyu Expedition 2011. We all staggered through the hot sun yesterday from Chinese Base Camp at 4900m to Interim Base Camp at 5300m. Me and Violetta kept hoping the camp would be around the next corner but were continuously disappointed. We kept crossing paths with Jurg and Irish Bob and then Enrico, our resident Italian who continually entertains us with his authentic Italian hand gestures. Jurg and Irish Bob are equally entertaining with their Odd Couple esque sparring. Me and Violetta are just happy to laugh at the non stop entertainment offered by this group. The rest of our group are 4 garlic loving Hungarians Zsombor, Joszef, Istvan and Zoltan. They brought up the rear, but we're sure they were just trying to give us a false sense of confidence. One of them proved his intellectual superiority when a truck went by with all our bags and supplies and Sherpas on it and he hurled his day pack on top. At this altitude there's no way my brain could have come up with that idea on the spot. We all eventually made it into camp and were happy to see our wonderful staff had set up our tents. We all managed to stay warm last night. Today is Violetta's birthday.  We all sang her the Happy Birthday song over breakfast in the dining tent. The fun isn't stopping there, we have a secret birthday cake coming her way tonight and perhaps a few gifts and obviously another rendition of Happy Birthday. I just want to add Happy Birthday wishes to my husband Ilkim - you share the same b-day as the lovely Violetta, I guess it's no wonder I get on with her so well. Thanks for following the news at SummitClimb.com
Grace McDonald

28 April, 2011
This is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition Today we finally met Enrico Cambini, who came all the way from Lhasa and
enjoyed some site seeing on the way. Enrico is teaching us a lot of Italian words so by the end of the expedition we'll probably speak some Italian or at least speak with our hands like Italians do. Now our team is complete and we can start moving up the mountain. Everyone did some light walks in the area to improve their acclimatization. The team is very disciplined with the acclimatization and I'm very proud of them! No one had any altitude problems so far.
At lunch time today we had an interesting challenge: one of our kitchen boys cut his finger with a kitchen knife and I had to sew it up with 6 stitches. Sonam is fine now and very thankful for not having to go all the way to Nyalam to get his finger fixed. We also helped a member from another expedition who didn't acclimatize properly and had serious problems. He is OK now. Tomorrow morning we'll trek about 8km to interim camp which is only 300m higher than here. We'll also spend 2 nights there.
Regards from Tibet,

Max Kausch


27 April, 2011
Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring Expedition 2011. Today we finally saw Cho Oyu for the first time. Everyone woke up feeling well and said goodbye to the North Col and Everest BC teams. They are heading now to Everest and will be there for another 12 days. We all made good friends and will miss them a lot! Good luck guys! Here at Chinese Basecamp it's about -5C and it's snowing right now. We just had a delicious meal made by Dorje and the kitchen boys. They made us pizza! Everyone loved it. So far all our members are adapting very well with the altitude. The cooks are constantly filling the thermos bottles with hot water and this is keeping everyone super hydrated. Up here at 4900m, this is extremely important because of the acclimatization. We all look forward to meeting Enrico Cambini, our last member who has been traveling through Tibet and will join us tomorrow morning. Regards from Tibet, Max Kausch

26 April, 2011
Hi, this is Max Kausch writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu, North Col and Everest Base Camp Expeditions Spring 2011. We left Nyalam yesterday morning and drove for about 4 hours to Tingri. We stopped several times on the way to observe the beautiful landscape and mountains of the Tibetan plateau. As soon as we arrived to Tingri, the CTMA showed us the new hotel they built here. It is quite amazing to be at 4400m and sleep in a comfortable room with large beds and huge windows. The Chinese have invested a lot of money in this place so the climbers and trekkers can be comfortable while acclimatizing. We had Chinese food for lunch and walked around town for a while. Everyone is getting along here. We are 17 people, from 3 different expeditions.Yesterday we figured that between all 17, we can communicate in more than 25 languages!! Our EBC member, Mr Shivesh Ram, speaks Mandarin and often helps us at restaurants so we can get what we want. Our North Col member, Mr. Thomas Sefranek, is a dentist and treated a tooth filling on Mr Jurg Merz, our Cho Oyu member. Like I said, everyone is getting along very well. The EBC and North Col teams will say goodbye to our Cho Oyu team tomorrow as the Cho Oyu expedition is heading to BC. The sherpas already went to Cho Oyu BC to set tents and find a good spot for us. Our amazing Cho Oyu staff are:

    * Lakpa Tendu Sherpa (climbing sherpa)
    * Dawa Jangbu Sherpa (climbing sherpa)
    * Phai Lama Tamang (climbing sherpa)
    * Nima Dorje Lama (cook)
    * Chimmi (kitchen assistant)
    * Sonam (kitchen assistant)

Today we had a sunny morning here in Tingri. After breakfast everyone will trek to a 5000m peak nearby. This will really help on the acclimatization as we'll sleep at 5000m tomorrow. All the members from the 3 teams haven't had altitude problems so this means our acclimatization plan has worked very well. Thank you all for following the news at SummitClimb Regards from Tibet,
Max Kausch

April 24:

Hi! This is Max writing a dispatch for the Cho Oyu Spring 2011 expedition. We made it safely to China! The whole team is healthy and acclimatising well at Nyalam, the second Tibetan city on our trip. We left Kathmandu at 4am this morning and traveled for about 4 hours to the Chinese border. The trip went very well and we had no landslides, protests or earthquakes on the way! At about 11am we crossed the border and got stuck at the traffic in Zhangmu. All the vehicles coming from Tibet kept coming without stopping and part of our team had to wait for over 3 hours. One truck lost its brakes and bumped into one of our cars. The accident caused an even bigger traffic jam, but Jurg and other members lifted and moved the truck out of the way. Thanks to them, the team will sleep in Nyalam today! Thank you guys! We'll spend another night here, then move to Tingri, where we'll have another 2 nights before heading to Cho Oyu. Our acclimatisation process will be very slow so everyone has a chance at getting used to the altitude. Thank you very much for following the news.
Max Kausch



Hi, this is Max Kausch writing the first dispatch for the SummitClimb Cho Oyu Spring 2011 Expedition. Every single member made it safely and is healthy in Kathmandu working on their last minute preparations before starting the expedition to the sixth highest mountain in the world! Kathmandu has been partially cloudy for the last few days and we have had a few thunder storms. Every one looks forward to the expedition ahead. Yesterday we met Ms Elizabeth Hawley, to review our plans for the upcoming expedition. She told us about other teams and wished us good luck! Today we had our briefing so all the members could get to know the details about the expedition, itinerary and other members. Everyone had purchased most of the equipment they need and are now packing up their duffles bags so we can try to cross the Chinese border tomorrow. Below is the team rooster:
    * Mr. Maximo Kausch - UK
    * Mr. Jurg Merz - Switzerland
    * Mr. Robert Mooney - Ireland
    * Ms. Violetta Pöntinen - Poland
    * Ms. Grace McDonald - Canada
    * Mr. Zsombor Tulit - Romania
    * Mr. Jozsef Sukos - Romania
    * Mr. Istvan Toaso - Romania
    * Mr. Zoltan Szabo - Romania
    * Mr. Enrico Cambini - Italy
Best regards from Kathmandu,
Max Kausch


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