Cho Oyu expedition

Saturday, October 7, 2006 - 21:00

Kathmandu, Nepal

15 hours in the "Death Zone": Alex Gavan summits alone Cho Oyu and makes it safely back to Advanced Base Camp. 

On October 2nd I was finding myself high up on camp 2 ready for my summit bid. I choose to start the summit push from here and not having another camp three to avoid a longer exposure to the extreme altitude. My intent was to make a light and fast ascent and to go down as soon as possible.

I left my tent at around 1,30 am and because of the perfect atmospheric conditions above me, I could see the headlamps of the climbers starting from camp three. Orion constelation was at that moment just above the top of Cho Oyu and the climbers far above me were like merging themselves into the stars. It was a sight from fairytales, with me humble witnessing it, something that tells you about God and men. 

It was bloody cold, and by the time I reach the altitude of camp three I could see in the first glimpse of the morning the curvature of the Earth over the Himalayas. It was again one of those moments 

The rockband was technically easy but at that altitude it felt quite demanding and took me some time to overcome it entirely. 

When I was close to the summit plateau and the technical difficulties were over, I decided to lighten myself more. I secured my small backpack in the snow with the iceaxe and filled it with the climbing harness, the headlamp and the remaining food and the water I had. I just took with me the HP Photosmart R927 camera for the summit photos (the Nikon, even with the 50mm lens would have been way too heavy and would have dragged me back).

From the moment you think you have reached the top you still have around three more hours to go to the TRUE summit (wich you discover after, of course). The summit plateau is huge and, in case of bad weather is virtually impossible to have a true guess on wich is the real summit. 

Because of the thin air and my extreme tiredness I felt asleep on the frozen snow two times along the way, a habbit not so strong reccomended to anyone at that altitude, two times being closer to the sky than ever before:)))). I just had some flashbacks as from a previous life, a life that seemed now so far from myself ; and so strange was that life, was it mine?! 

...some internal fighting..."wake up bastard"!!!!!!!!...and found the strenght to get up and resume the climb. I don't know where did it came from...but I'm glad it did... 

...suddenly I saw something above the snow and knew that in a hundred meters I'll be on the top; but there has been the longest hundred meters in my life; and the happiest; and... in a chilhood dream I saw Everest on the other side, and knew then that I was on the true summit of Cho Oyu and had no other higher place to go. At least not now;)'s around 5,30pm and I am for almost 15 hours in the "death zone", without using supplementary oxigen, my brain starving for it, alone on the summit...ON THE SUMMIT!!!!...or maybe not alone, but with all the friends that believed in me and encouraged me in pursuing this ideea and helped me in this endeavor...I wished Sergiu to be up here also... 

The wind is strong and cold and is very painfully to make the summit photos (I'll find out later that my fingers got a bit frosbitten because of that). 

It's already evening and Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Pumori...all are in warm colours...what an incredible sight and feeling to be in such a place and at a such an hour, alone... 

I have a strong sense of humility when climbing big mountains; they make me more humble, they are my churchgoing... 

But now I have to go back, it's already a late hour to be on a top of an eight-thousander...although, a deep sense of tranquility makes me not to worry. took me almost 5 endless hours to get back to the safety of my tent in camp two; I was very close to start an epic when I was not about to find my rucksack left behind containing my abseiling gear and my headlamp; the many lights and shadows over the snow (it was almost full moon time) were so tricky that almost every small dark spot seemed my rucksack. I say an epic because without that gear the descent would have become quite an around 22 my headlamp was lighting the reflective fabric of my tent.

.............One thing I noticed on Cho Oyu is that about 95% of the summiters are successful because they are using supplementary oxigen and sherpa support. Otherwise, their number will be way smaller. I had the misconception Cho Oyu is usually climbed without oxigen. Well, this climbing season's reality showed me a different thing.......

15 hours within Her grasp using no supplementary oxigen for just a moment of grace could have been too much for a mere human to handle...but SHE was indeed kind with me., I can breath again:))), and it feels soooo goood:) 

PS 1: in the same summit day our friends from the other Romanian team achieved summit succes: Cristi Tzecu and Catalin Neacsu made it to the top; I met them on their descent, about one hour from the summit; unfortunatelly Zsolt Torok had to retreat. 

PS 2: While I was up the mountain, pursuing my personal dream, other people were trying to pursue theirs...some 80 tibetan people were trying to cross NangpaLa into Nepal and from there to Dharamsala, India to a pilgrimage to see Dalai Lama. They were men, women and children, barely wearing decent winter clothes. After a real hunt, 8 of them has not seen their dream fulfilled.They have been killed with cold blood by the Chinese militia after they had a snitch beetween them. This in front of dozen expedition people. The dead were simply burried onto the glacier and left there without any commemoration symbol. 

Big expedition organizers, like Himex, Jagged Globe, Adventure Consultants or Alpine Ascents will never speak about that. Otherwise they will be banned from the Tibetan side of the Himalayas. And this will mean no more bucks for them anymore. And they don't want that, of course. It has indeed nothing to do with the spirit of mountaineering (wich has been lost in those commercial outfits) but with the basic human values.

China, a country to organize the Olympic Games in 2008, is masacrating its citizens. 


Bellow is Sergiu's account of what he has withnessed, of what he has risked and of what he has done to help a Tibetan reffugee to escape Chinese terror and death. (ALEX) 

Under "Death Zone", still in death zone: Chinese militia cold bloded killings of 8 Tibetan refugees in NangpaLa. 

... Just when I thought it's all uselless and was no more entretaintment in this morning (October the 1st) I heard machinegun bursts ,I was having my black tea in the chicken tent .

It was actually the chinese militias hunting tibetans onto the glacier... Nice the season it's open, they were shooting them like rats,dogs,rabbits you name it.

80 tibetans were crossing Nang Pa La to Nepal and than to India to see Dalai Lama , for them is just like for christians going to Vatican to see the Pope . Count 8 that will never see the Pope again and among them 2 teenangers ,and other 20 jailed for the same reason and 7 kids... Whatta good capture for this season . Some big chinese cunt is going to have sallary rise on this hunting season.

And if you think the fun part of this power display was over you are wrong !The bodyes of the eight tibetans were not send home to the familly , were burried on the glacier .

And all this is happening in a place that NOBODY would thought of it and in the presence of a lot of climbers, and other people ,like no one was here to see it. 

Later that afternoon the kitchen boy came and told the BC mannager that a refugee is hiding in our toilet.

I rushed in to see that with my eyes ,he fkin was there thank God he was fine, I took him some food and told him to stay put '' don't think he understood something'' ,but he somehow did what I told him.

After few hours of me tring to convince the Monterosa stuff that we should get him out or he will freeze to death, they gave up and agreed on that.

I took him into our mess tent and gave him one skin polar and a pair of socks that Cosmina bought em for me I don't know why I didn't film that but doesn't seemed relevant for me then, all that I was thinking off was to see him passing Nang Pa La without becoming target practiceing for the chinese blood thirsted boys. 

I went again in the tent and gave him some milk and cornflakes and after that I told him that he will better go coz the militia started to be on the prowl after two missing tibetans and they will search the camps for him. 

Thirty minutes later I was showing him the shortest way across the glacier and he went towards what they call spiritual father.

The second day I have found out that he made it across at arrount 2 am. (SERGIU)



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