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...
...as 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;)
...it'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.
...it 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 adventure...at 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.
...now, 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.
I've been here, I saw that: TIBET IS A COUNTRY UNDER COMMUNIST OCCUPATION. TIBETANS ARE SLOWLY LOOSING THEIR IDENTITY AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT CHINESE TRY TO DO. TIBETANS ARE TREATED AS SUB-HUMAN RACE IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY. IF ONE SPEAKS OR WEARS UPON A DALAI LAMA PORTRAIT, ONE IS JAILED.
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)
Finally! Cho Oyu, 8201m
Summit Bid Starting Tomorrow
Storm has finally stopped on the evening of september 25th but I
still remained in ABC since the snow did not settled yet and the
slopes on Cho Oyu were still under huge avalanche hazard. I'm talking
about the section above the ice fall and the huge slope above camp
I am planning to do my summit bid starting tomorrow morning. According
to my weather forecast there will be fairly good summit days on
october 1st and october 2nd, although with some high winds (I'll find
out there what high winds means into the Himalayas:) . But of course,
the forecast might be wrong ...
If all the things will go smoothly, The Godess permitting, I will
most probably be on the summit in the morning of October the 2nd.
I have not decided yet whether to make the final push to the summit
from camp two, or to also establish a light camp three at 7600m
altitude. I will make this decision when I will reach camp two,
depending on the mountain conditions and the way I will feel. The
ideea is to spend as few time as possible in the "death zone", at over
7500m. That's way ideally it will be to start from camp two at 9 in
the evening and make a continuously 14 hours ascent to be able to
reach the summit in the very next morning and have the time to come
back in camp two on daylight. But I don't know if I will have the
physical strenght to do that and that's why I am also considering the
option of a higher camp three.
...."plans, plans...situations, situations", as my Russian friend
Anatoly used to tell me in one cold 2004 September evening in our ice
cave biviuac at 5900m in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakstan."If man
will have no desires, he will be not called anymore a man", used
Anatoly to finish the phrase...
...so, let's see what the next days will bring, and looking forward
with sheer joy and hope to it...
I deeply wish to stand atop The Turquoise Godess and I will do
whatever in my power to do that.
But...playing safety will be the name of the game. Coming back will be
the succes, summitting will be just the bonus.
I hope She will accept me. I hope She will be kind with me.
PS: On September 30th my close friends and partners from Zitec, Alex
Lapusan and Simona Tase are getting married ...hourray!!!!!!!!:)))))
...just have a cup of good wine for me, guys;))) I'll be thinking of
you up there;) (ALEX)
(Sergiu's monster, second part)
But all I knew was that I HAVE to go down no matter what, so I started
packing up my down sleeping bag and my down suit in case I can't make
it so I had a warm shelter in my sleeping bag .From my tent to the
ridge before the killer slope it was about 30 meters to walk up,took
me 15 minutes to walk.Those were problably the hardest 30 m in my life
and after that VoILA The Killer Slope.
I said hello ,verry respectfull and started just like before step by
step easyly descending. After roughly about 3o min I have descended a
quarter of the slope and I stopped to take a sip of water, drinking
the water I noticed that the mountain that stood across Cho Oyu begin
to turn red in a very curious way...! Just like when somebody smacked
him in the head and blood started to gush out off his highest point
and leeking down on him! Fuuuuck!!! Whatta buZzz! It's the IT again
,can't be, IT is !!! Than I started walkin' again towards the lower
part of the mountain hopeing i'll lose IT!
I don't know how much took me to outrun The Killer Slope ... I don't
she was making the same steps as I would ,and turning when I was...
Just like IT's sister! Finnaly I passed her and I was now onto the
moraine being happy that I Have Defeted Them HA !
Than I Took the phone and call Cosmina to tell her that I'm ok as I
was doing it all the time.
She answers and in that very momment the fuckin' subway comes along
...and desapears to...
I had my share of talking to my pair soul and calmed myself down
,for a while , at least. As soon as I hung up the phone ,the subway
comes again, and I suddenly fall down and make a really nasty cut to
my little finger of my left hand but for some reason I was captivated
by the tube and by the fact that I was in romana sqare ;yeah I know IT
is back again ,but despite of this fact I'm still lookin' for the
subway card so I can catch it ,and I could hear the voice from the
subway saying next station ABC with descending onto the right side.
I have snaped into it again and stared at one of the sharp ridges
poppin up ,hoping to get away of the halucination again ,but instead
of that all I got was a weird look from one off the oldish guys from
the subway! That' seemed pretty fucked up to me at that momment; hmm.
Don't matter I just went ahead towards ABC station on foot ,falling I
don't know how many times, but that I know to tell you because second
day I was soar all over .
After walking for I don't know how long ,and meeting on the way Horia
Brenciu jogging, with a sort of silly bandana on his head I have
convinced myself that I do need my hadlamp because it was getting dark
and I couldn't see the track . Once the light on all the rocks were
glowing ; strangely!. I tried not to mind that aswell and keep going
towards my target but they were glowing stronger ,and that's when I
decided to stop for 10 minutes and have a rest, I set down at the base
off a big rock and I kinda slided on my left side ... It felt soo good
,I was walkin' for 9 hours on the mountain,morains, it felt great!
I picked a spot and my eyes stuck onto . I was listening to my right
lung easyly gurgheling and just thining that I might get away with
Two little lights were chaseing in the dark ,and I kinda tried to
accept the fact that IT came back again, who in this world would walk
onto the glacier at 9 pm in the night....... IT was defenetly back,
but not for long .
One off the lights just popped out Namaste sir , the other one Tashi
Delek ,I didn't know what to say ,I just lied there ... The lights
asked me if I'm fine and I think I said that I feel bad and I'd like
them ''lights'' to help me to get to ABC.
And one of them just said you come with us sir ,comeon . The lights
were actually two porters going back to ABC
I got up happy that I was not hallucinateing and I have started
walkin' with them,but I was looseing ground behind them, I was
fallin' back and they were not going slower they looked smaller and
I couldn't keep up with them and they weren't waiting for me . You
just can't keep up with them especially when you are half beaten up by
the mountain and half nearly in coma .
They turned into two little stars and vanished.
I stood there for a while stareing at them disappearing in the
darknes and between the glowing rocks and after they dissapeard I just
,...start walking again towards my target.
After another 1 hour I was reaching the ABC ,still breathing and the
danish doctor Pierre give me a quick consultation and confirmed me
that I did had an pulmonary oedema and that the fact that I CAME DOWN
all the way it was a miracle and that is the only thing that actually
kept me alive so I can say this story. (SERGIU)
Stucked in Advanced Base Camp
It already snows for 5 continuous days here in the very core of the
himalayas. No stop. No signs for the better. Just the hope. The
weather forecasts from khatmandu, beijing and europe are
contradictory. We cannot see the mountain, we canot even see more
than few dozen meters. All the teams are back in abc waiting for the
good weather. Last night only added 35cm more to the snowpack. My tent
is now a snowdome hardly recognizing it from the whiteness. The snow
is wet and heavy. Two tents near mine didn't support the weight
overnight and collapsed over their occupants. I woke up many times in
the night only to be sure that I keep the roof relatively free of snow
and the vents opened not to suffocate. Not too much things are
happening here during this time. People socializing in mess tents and
some of them playing cards; not an activity I enjoy very much. Beside
that, endless discutions about women and climbing, women vs.
Climbing...and count my word, this is a sensitive topic for all of us
here in abc.
On september 20th, while climbing towards camp two, just under the ice
fall, Sergiu felt bad and decided to come back to camp one. It was
something what later proved to be high altitude pulmonary oedema-HAPE
( I wrote more about altitude illnesses in one of my previous
dispatches). He literally did a superhuman effort to get down in one
piece almost one thousand meters in altitude difference . Now he is
completely out of any danger but I cannot really stress enough how
delicate the whole situation was. One can die soooooo easily into
these high altitudes:((( Thanks God everything is ok now but the price
paid is that for Sergiu the expedition is over now. The only wise
thing in these extreme cases is to stop any further ascent...
Meantime, I succeeded in establishing camp two at 7200m altitude and
sleep one night there for acclimatisation. The way to camp two is
veeery long and strenous with some short sustained technical sections
implying a bit of ice climbing. They are equipped with fixed ropes but
at those altitudes they are quite demanding. From camp two the
landscape is totally totally overwhelming, cloudclimbing is the way
to be and the cold at night makes you think to some incendiary hot
summer days in bucharest when you get crazy because of it. Just to
make you feel warmer. Drop-dead gorgeous;)...but I was dreaming so
much time to those moments...
I was happy I had no headeaques expected for that altitude.
While I was there, still no teams had their tents got pitched in camp three.
One avalanche stopped few dozen meters from the tents in camp two.
As the days goes by we have to keep up our morale here in ABC. Some
sherpa of the bigger teams say that they haven't seen so much snow up
the mountain for ten years and there is a himalayan pattern as for
every ten years the fall season to bring this horrible weather. They
say there is a sudden transition between the monsoon time and the
winter. I do hope they are very wrong.
From one point of view, himalayan mountaineering is a game of the tuff
nerves, of waiting and of patience. In those moments when all you have
to do is to wait and wait and wait for the good weather to come and
for the fresh snow to settle in a safe pack, you either get crazy or
just become a more peacefull man.
After all the acclimatisation program I had I am now physically fit
for the final summit push. Since Sergiu cannot resume the climb
anymore I have to adjust my climbing strategy accordingly. Anyway ,
till then, all I need is just to be given a chance, one sole chance to
try the summit. As all the climbers alike in the ABC...
...if it is to accept defeat and to get back, I prefer to do this
forced by my own weaknesses somewhere up the mountain rather than be
forever stucked by bad weather here in ABC...that's why I am asking
The Godess for just few days of good weather.
Still...I am quite optimistical for the time to come :) (ALEX)
...So we have sleept through the night and second day we went back on
ABC. After two dayz of R&R we started our way back to the C1 and with
the thought that we will install the second camp at 7200, well nothin'
much happened over the night so I'll tell U what happened when we
wanted to go to camp two.
We departed late already before we left at 10:30 ,an hour established
by Alex because of the tent's condenation. Tents which give us a lot
of hustle ,three Very expensive pieces of Shit Mountain Hardwear EV 2
,remember this Never Buy Them. So me beeing a bit of a rushy guy
started my way up the Icefall in a verry sustained pace knowing is
late to get up there install the tent and come back down in C1.
Took me an hour and Twenty min to get to the Icefall which I think it
was fkin fast and problably the record of the season on that bloody
section off ascent . Well ,when I got to the icefall I stopped to wait
for Alex ,about 45 min an hour ... And the monster grew within my
right lung meanwhile without giving me any signs ,when Alex arrived
we stood there for a half an hour more and then we started towards the
When I got nearly finished with the vertical ascent and wanted to
pass my safety lock on the horizontal section ,a goofy fkin us boy
upsails down the icefall and tangles his legs badly in the ropes...
Whatta mess he was!
I helped him out and by the time I have finished the monster within
me started to take over my whole body.
Oedema,Pulmonary Oedema it was the name of the Monster ,nice to meet U
I said after the snow arround turned green for a while and I didn't
know why the Cows are not there to eat it!
Then Alex voice in the back off my head goes Sergiu! Sergiu! Are U
allright? And I shouted that i'm not a 100% and that I'm a bit
I started to desced on to a kookoo upsail as fast as the skin of my
hand allowed me to and as soon as I got off the wall I tried to pickup
speed down the mountain but suddenly I have lost my sight.
Than i've stopped and tried to see what is going on with my
glasses,but was nothin wrong with them! I started to see again it was
my brain that got affected in order to the lack of oxigen coz my right
lung was flooded with plasma. The monster was inside of my body and it
was trying to take over in it's own manners.
I started easyly to step down that ridge and to wqatch for the
monster's next charge over my body and my brain. Two mountaniers
playing pool on the side of a corniche they were pretty calm about the
situation and gave me a strange look ,maybe too calm for the situation
they were in, they were playn' pool onto that cracly corniche
overhanging maybe 500 m not me!
Fuckin' hell this sport is full with fools!
Ok ,where are they gone!?
Fuk ! Guys! I yelled . It was the monster again , it wanted to get me!
It knew that I will try to help them like I helped the american
guy,wich tangled his legs.
It knew ,but this time he was wrong ,I have snapped into the real
time,my real time not It's.
It was gone at list for now ,and I started to walk again towards C1
swinging my walking sticks.
After 2.5 hours I got to the C1 took me an hour more than climbing
this section,Lars a Danish guy saw me and he knew that I was bad, and
he called for Dock . Dock came and he asked me how I feel ,and if I
hear It ?
I told him that I feel it too and I really need to loose altitude
otherwise It will be stronger than I and it will take me to the
Than Dock gave me a small pill and told me that will help chase It
away, and he told me that I should stay, it's a long and tracherous
way to ABC for a guy with a pulmonary oedema.
But all I knew was that I HAVE to go down no matter what, so I
started packing up my down sleeping bag and my down suit in case I
can't make it so I had a warm shelter . (SERGIU)
Camp 1 (6,400m)
Advanced Base Camp (5,700m)
Yaks are nasty animals. And so the yak herders. Sometimes to get with
all your gear to the base of a climb can be a real challenge by
itself...We got from BC into ABC in two days with a middle camp in
between at 5400m.
It was still in the very morning of september 8th when our yak herders
were starting a riot. They didn't want to carry our gear anylonger as
they were saying the luggage is not the same as the day before and
they were claiming more money for doing it. Of course, more amounts
of gear catapulted in the middle of nowhere could just magically
appear overnight only in some of their heads full of pot...it has
been as in a psycho bad movie with us having our tent just near some
tibetans smoking marihuana almost all night and myself couldn't get a
decent sleep because of that...
Finally after being told they'll get no money if not resume the load
carrying they made a "lottery " with small pieces of paper written in
tibetan and "luck" decided whoever will take our four barrels:))
The way till ABC was over heavily glaciated terrain and the yaks
discarded the loads several times on the way.
Moonson is not over yet so we had snow ever since our arrival in ABC
three days ago. Our tents are merely small yellow dots lost in the
immensity of the Gyabrag Glacier.
Just in front of us, Cho oyu rises on the main range of the himalayas
to the east of the deeply cut pass nangpa la-5716m and 30km west of
In the XVI century the whole tribe of the sherpas moved from eastern
tibet through nangpa la, to the valleys of the southern side of the
himalayas. Since then every year numerous caravans cross this pass,
sometimes even in winter.
...back to our mountain, the massif is made up mainly of crystalline
schists with numerous, sometimes thick, intrusions of pegmatite rocks.
The summit dome, more exactly the very summit, is built of limestome
Regarding the name, Cho Oyu-"The Turquoise Godess", today it finally
become clear to me why turquoise: in the morning light the ice
irisations on the mountain are having the turquoise colour, giving the
climber a surreal sight.
The mountain has been climbed for the first time by an austrian
expedition led by herbert tichy back in 1954. It was an amazing feat
for that time since the expedition wasn't employing the military
expedition style of the epoque but a lightweight approach and very few
climbers in the party.
For our climb, we will approximately follow their initial route, on
what it is called now the northwest ridge route.
In the next weeks, we will set up three high altitude camps on the
mountain at approximately 6400, 7200 and 7600 meters, depending on the
snow's condition...meanwhile, in the next three weeks we will complete
our acclimatisation process and prepare the route for the final push
from camp 3 to the summit.
But what is all that fuss about acclimatisation, high camps etc. and
why one cannot just simply climb to the top of a high mountain?
The human body functions at its best at sea level (0 meters) when the
atmospheric pressure is measured at 1 atmosphere. This is because the
hemoglobin (the red pigment in red blood cells) is saturated with
oxygen (nearly 100 %) at that air pressure. Oxygen is required for
every bodily process.
As humans go higher, the air pressure drops and so does the amount of
available oxygen. At 5,000 m, the altitude of cho oyu base camp, the
amount of oxygen is only half that of sea level's availability. At
8201m, the summit of cho oyu, only a little more than one third is
available. When the amount of oxygen pressure drops, the human body
tries to compensate by a process known as altitude acclimatization.
Additional red blood cells are manufactured, the heart beats faster,
non-essential body functions are temporarily shut down, and one
breathes more deeply and more frequently. However, acclimatization
cannot take place immediately - in fact, it takes place over a period
of days or even weeks. Failure to acclimatize may result in altitude
sickness, including pulmonary edema or cerebral edema.
At extreme altitudes (above 7,500 m), breathing bottled oxygen becomes
almost mandatory for 99% of climbers. This is because at that height,
available oxygen becomes so low that one can hardly function without
supplementary oxygen. Sleeping becomes very difficult, digesting food
is impossible (the body shuts the digestive system down), and hosts of
other problems manifest without additional oxygen.
Finally, at the "death zone," 8,000 m and higher, no human body can
acclimatize. Staying longer than necessary will result in
deterioration of body functions, loss of consciousness, and,
Altitude acclimatisation is the process of adjusting to decreasing
oxygen levels at higher elevations, in order to avoid altitude
sickness. Once above approximately 3,000 metres, most climbers follow
the "golden rule" - climb high, sleep low. For high altitude climbers,
a typical acclimatisation regime might be to stay a few days at a base
camp, climb up to a higher camp (slowly), then return to base camp. A
subsequent climb to the higher camp would then include an overnight
stay. This process is then repeated a few times, each time extending
the time spent at higher altitudes to let the body "get used" to the
oxygen level there, a process that involves the production of
additional red blood cells. Once the climber has acclimatised to a
given altitude, the process is repeated with camps placed at
progressively higher elevations. The general rule of thumb is to not
ascend more than 300 metres per day to sleep. That is, one can climb
from 3,000 to 4,500 metres in one day, but one should then descend
back to 3,300 metres to sleep. This process cannot safely be rushed,
and this explains why climbers need to spend days (or even weeks at
times) acclimatising before attempting to climb a high peak.
What can happen to you if not acclimatised is called altitude sickness.
Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a
pathological condition that is caused by acute exposure to high
altitudes. It commonly occurs above 3,500 metres. The most serious
symptoms of altitude sickness are due to edema (fluid accumulation in
the tissues of the body). At very high altitude, humans can get either
high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), or high altitude cerebral edema
(HACE). These syndromes are potentially fatal.
...it has been many days since starting to write this dispatch and due
some technical problems with the internet we couldn't send in time
text and pictures; that's why those written above might appear a
little bit out of the time frame...or it might just be the altitude
and the lack of oxigen determining me to jump from one topic to the
Anyway...tomorrow September 14th we will spend our first night at Camp
1 at 6400m. The day before yestersay we pitched our tent there and
descended back to the ABC for further acclimatisation. It was a
looooong himalayan working day. Both Sergiu and myself felt very tired
but in the same time felt very very motivated by our job. The way from
ABC to C1 over the glacier is very long and strenuos and the final
part is a real killer slope especially if you are still acclimatising.
We'll try to resume asap our pictures updates since Tingri continuing
to all the ones to C1.
...I must have my beauty sleep now :) since tomorrow it will be again
a loooong endless day of getting to C1 with heavy loads to make
everything set for further establishing C2 at about 7200m...(ALEX)
I started my acclimatisation tour shortly after the breakfast and got
up to 5500m and I felt good and pumped up,and I have passed by a
slovak mountanieer which apparently gave me the looks .
Some people are just idiots ,he thinks I'm his obstacle or what! And
after one hour later he came and answer me if I didn't saw his Nepali
cap... And this after he hasn't talk with nobody from the two romanian
expedition a basc country one and a danish expedition. How's that a
little respect wouldn't hurt afterall. Jackass!
7,th Tomorrow we will head for the middle BC to ABC and closer to
the Cho Oyu's sillouethe shade. For now all we had to to is be good
boys and mind the acclimatisation.
There we go 9 am and we already packed the tents and shootin' for
middle camp. That's 4 hours of walking with a 25 kg backpack and the
camera hanging over my chest and a scorching sun, there I was stomping
the rocky way to middle base camp. I was running for it coz Ram told
me the tents r going to b there and wanted to sleep after those
gruellin' 3.5 hours.After I got there with Catalin, the same slovak
team was already there but they took a tractor to the middle camp and
they were there just a half an hour earlyer than us , as soon as they
saw us theyr faces went really Long ,if U knowmy But I was to find out
that the tents are gonna' b 7 hours later.
I was sweet in off by that time coz i've eaten 4 noodles bowls and
two of them spicy as hell and made me sweat my ass.
As I was tellin' u 7 hours later there we go first Yacks red eye
effect at about 70m in the dark and my heart start beating a bit
harder and my first reaction was to wack the yack hearder right
between his eyes and ask him to drop down and give me 30 pushups.
So after we recovered our gear we gladly started to pitch the
sillyest new age tent ,but I ain't gonna say its name and go to sleep.
But when I was about to close my eyes a strong smell of weed came
into our tent and swiched my curiosity on. What it waas , the
neibourghing tent was a tibetan family and they were going hard out on
some old dryed buds off marijuana .well looks like we have to get
wacked aswell ,honestly the smell was very intense.
The second day we took of to ABC but this time we left the yacks go
first and after an hour we left aswell.
The first part of the way my backpack was about 25kg but after
another 3 hrs on the way it just became 1 tone .
I took my own rithm and left Alex behind because he was stopping for
pictures to often . The sun was burning through my lips and nose
despite the fact I have used the sun screen and when the backpack was
getting heavyer I stumbled over a fucked up waterstream just in off
wide so I can't jump over with my light weight pack but my luck was
Two tibetans were comin' from the ABC Jeeesus!!!. When they saw my
face and they offered to help weee I was bouncein' arround like crazy
After they crossed me and my bagpack I just realised I got no cash to
give them some cash,but than they asked me for some food and happylly
I had my lunch. And I gave them my lunch... Happy that I didn't have
to wet my toes I started to walk high towards the ABC, but
allofasudden that funky ,anoing sensation that gives u headaches
HUNGER.... And 2 to 3 hours of hiking with that pack... Awwwww whatta
fucked up fellin' to have when u don't know how much you still have to
When I got closer to ABC the weather turned funky too; they just
keept comin'... Finally a hope off better I saw Zsolt sitting on a big
stone and I asked him how much do we have till ABC and he answered
with a half a mouth 30 min , and why half a mouth coz his pack was 5
kg heavier than mine and he started an hour before me.
Finally we got to ABfkinC broke in half and on a shitty weather the
tents were no way near pitched...(SERGIU)
Cho Oyu Base Camp (5,000m)
It is big.it is really big. it is impressive...it is Huge!...and I
love it:)). I had the first glimpse of Cho Oyu yesterday morning
(September 4th) while in Tingri, a tipical Tibetan village at 4300m
The 245 km travel between Nyalam and Tingri got us literall high up
into the Tibetan plateau, one of the most isolated regions in the
world. To the south, the 2500 km long Himalaya has four of the world's
10 highest mountains, including Everest and Cho Oyu, straddling
Tibet's border. The West has the Karakorum and the North, the Kunlun
and the Altyn Tagh ranges.
With an average altitude of 4000m and big areas of the country well
above 5000m, this huge plateau nearly the size of Western Europe, it
is the "roof of the world", even if this has become a clichee.
Nortwestern Tibet is the most remote and least explored wilderness
left on earth, outside the polar regions. Much of it can be described
as a high altitude desert.
I first had this "cat on
the roof feeling" while crossing La Lung La pass at 5124m with
Himalayas in the back and the endlesss Tibet ahead.
Prayer flags were strung up there to purify the air and pacify the
gods. When they were fluttering, prayers were thought to be released
to the heavens. The colours are highly symbolic-red, green, yellow,
blue and white represent fire, wood, earth, water and iron.
...we got into this magic land hoping in a good karma but the
destroyed tibetan monasteries on the way, following Chinese
"liberation" in the fifties and the "cultural revolution" in the mid
sixties showed us that karma is a slippery concept. According with the
buddhist concepts, and tibet being the most buddhist among the
buddhist nations (please excuse this blasphemy), life is a cycle of
rebirths and all beings pass through the same cycle of rebirths.
Though, karma is often related to a seed that reepens into a fruit:
thus a human reborn as an insect is harvesting the fruits of a
previous immoral existence. So if Tibetans become to be less numerous
in their own country than the actual Han Chinese population is it
because a whole nation simply had bad karma?!...
...The Tibetan children or women asking for money immediately they see
you are miles away from Harrer's "Seven Years in Tibet"...
We've stayed in tingri for two days, the second finding sergiu and
myself on a 4900m "hill" making our acclimatisation go further. After
an afternoon storm we went again outside our lodge for a prolongued
photo session, as the light was excellent for good photography. A few
hundred meters from the road I met a small tibetan boy dressed very
badly herding his sheep. I tried not to intimidate him and took his
portrait. When I look through the viewfinder of my nikon I saw
something I haven't noticed few moments ago: he was wearing a badge
portraying the Dalai Lama. This small thing, supposing it was
discovered by the chinese authorities, would have been enough to jail
his parents. In a country where the dalai lama is considered a public
enemy and banned all over, this little boy's small gesture simbolized
the hope and the faith of a nation. Moments later, the same boy was
hiding the badge in front of Sergiu's camera, maybe aware of his lack
...this morning (September 5th), while having a green tea, just
before leaving for the base camp, I had one sight i'll never forget:
the clouds parted and as in a childhood dream I saw everest and it's
mighty north ridge and north face...I never thought that my first
glimpse of everest will be in so an ordinary context :)
Almost all the way to the base camp we had this magnificent site of
Everest and Cho Oyu (just 30 km distance between those two giants),
making me speechless...
Today, September 6th, we had our third acclimatization trek, walking
up a 5400m "hill", all the time the Godess winking on us...
We could see the upper part of the mountain and clearly recognize our
route between Camp 2 and the summit. It has been an excellent
training, especially for our morale. By the time being we both feel
fairly acclimatized for the current elevation.
Into the last 4 days I also could determine a pattern into the
weather, even if the monsoon is not over yet : the sky is almost
crystal clear by aproximatelly 2,30 pm. when a curtain of clouds
starts covering the summit.
If this remark will also prove being true in the following weeks, we
shall start our summit push from Camp 3 at around 3 in the morning
with a turnaround time at 1,30 in the afternoon to allow us enough
time to safely come back on good weather.
We will proceed for the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 5700 m the day
after tomorrow, while tomorrow (September 7th) we will prepare the
loads for the yaks. Each yak cannot carry more than 50 kg so we will
have some headaches transfering the weight between the barrels. We
will reach ABC on September 9th.
...while I'm writing this I see outside my tent a wonderful bright
full moon sending a magic light upon the summit, 3200 vertical meters
above us...so close but yet still so far...(ALEX)
By this time we all were pretty fed up with the road to Tingri despite
the fact we took a lot off pictures noticeing for the first time the
hughness of the landscape, it is soo enormus...apparently all the
peaks look close but they are miles away.
Just when we thought that in off is in off we have reached Tingri
.4300 above sea level and a terrible hunger sensation just grabbed
Zolt and me .
Ram the B.C. Mannager send us straight away for the lunch and we've
eaten like a bunch of Robbin Hoods .
After the lunch Alex and me went foor a short nap so we can go out
later and have some nice shotting.
...so I took my camera and went around snappin' some shots with tibetans.
The tibetans are letting you take shots with them but shortly after u
took first two pics with them they start asking for money,and I got so
fed up with it, that once i've left a kid watch some pics on the
display of my photo camera and I have started asking him for some
money... And he didn't liked it also. What I have found out today
about the chinese policies regarding the expeditions really has put me
off . They r not allowing the expeditions to live from the base camp
straight up to ABC because chinese soldiers and gofficers ,or
...members of chinese army are takeing the money from the yak hearders
for themselves and theyr interest is to keep all the expeditions as
far of ABC as possible so they can take more money from the yak
hearders . And this is what I call stealing from the poor to favour
the once that already have. There's no Tibet anymore, there are not
tibetans ,there is sadness ,poverty,and no man's land in places it
used to be hollyness. (SERGIU)
Chinese Base Camp (5,000m)
...we got a little bit slower as the air got a little bit thinner here in Nyalam, at 3700m since our acclimatisation process hardly begun. Now is September 2nd and we are having a day rest since yesterday we had our first acclimatisation trek on a 4200m unnamed peak near Nyalam. While climbing it we had the fist glimpse over Tibet, just enough to excite us at the maximum for the days to come. From place to place on the mountain, including the top, were Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the wind the sacred mantra "om mani padhme hum". They are humbly practicing their religion on the holy summits as I am humbly practicing in the same places my very own: mountaineering. And maybe all this, one day might meet in a single place, at the top, within myself, or somewhere I can't even imagine while writing this dispatch.
...we left Khatmandu in the very morning of August 31st. We started a 6 day trip to reach the Chinese Base Camp in Tibet at around 5500m alt.
We spent the first night in the border town of Zhangmu at 2300m altitude at a strange hotel having the reception at the last floor (4th). Same as Nyalam, Zhangmu is a strategic Chinese town to securise their shouthern border after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 50's.
Despite what one might think, Himalayas, the mightiest mountains on earth, are not an uninterupted range but fragmented in few places by deep valleys that make possible their crossing from south to north. One of this places is the deep valley of Sun Kosi River and had been our gateway into Tibet.
30 km far from Zhangmu, almost on the other side of the mountains, is the one street town of Nyalam, our actual location. There is only one place in town where you can make a decent shower in the real sense of the word and this is not located in our Hotel (Snow Land Hotel, considered by Lonely Planet the best place to stay here:)))), but 40m down the street, "positioned" to foreigners as ZA place to bath:)
Tomorrow, September 3rd we will reach Tingri,the first authentic Tibetan settlement on the way, at an elevation of 4390m. We'll spend here two more days for further acclimatisation, second day climbing in the sorrounding mountains of Tingri one summit close to 5000m. (ALEX)
...than we went in the room (Khatmandu, August 30th) and finished packin' the barrels and stuffed the camera and the sat phone deep in the barrels , otherwise we had to pay some cash to the chinese customs, 700 for the sat phone and 5000 for the camera ,and these number beeing associated with us Dollars!
Not that I was cheatting or something but, since those money are not going to Lama's people what's the point.And anyway the custom officer has deleted two pics with Alex and me from our hp camera just because they were made 50 meters away of the border check and you couldn't see nothing anyway coz were made in the oposite direction. He wanted to delete the all pics
but Alex just popped out 'c'mon maan, this is not 'and the guy just gave up the camera . What a RELIEFF... This one was pretty close to the edge!.
This happened after we reached Zangmu gates.
So here we go heading closer Cho Oyu through another world.
Different worlds with different kind of perspective on life. Places are named just like in fairy tales. Nyalam for instance a little strange place that was build by the chinese aministration just to have a buffer area between Nepal and China, soldiers running on the main street of Nyalam in the morning setting on the alarms of the equipment trucks, well the name of the city Nyalam means Hell's Gate.
I thought Nyalam was supposed to be a wonderfull place ... Well it is for passenger tourists just like me and all other mountanieers, but for the people living in this places is the real Hell on earth. Looks like They have been abandoned by they're Gods Shrynes of prayers rising up to 4200 meters in the sky asking for changing winds.
Yesterday we went for an acclimatisation ascent from 3700 m alt up to 4200 m to start having a little advantage on the process. I took my camera with me and the tripod aswell so I can take a few shoots with the surroundings of Hell's Gate .
Once I started shootin' the scenary become clear, shrouds of clouds embraceing the rough rock ridges that we are walking on;the sun's games launching sharp beams through the clouds and finally drawing the snowy ridges of the higher mountains.
There's only one play for this show , no directors or actors ,and if you get to see a little part of this huge spectacle ,you can say the World was at you're feet . (SERGIU)
Well, tomorrow morning we will begin our 6 days trip to reach the Chinese Base Camp in Tibet at around 5000m altitude and after 4 more days Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 5700. Meanwhile, we will spend time at intermediate altitudes in order our bodies adjust accordingly with the lack of oxigen concentration from the air...still some barrels to pack so I must say to you NAMASTE for the moment and let you see some of the today's photos. (ALEX)
...soooo here we were wonderin' around just few streets away of Manang hotel and start doin' few pictures here and there with the first nepali faces and havi'n the first real sniff of the street...freaky faces whispering MARIJUANAAa , hmm ...TEMPTING ayy!? Just a puff and all my rucksak problems are going to
be just a funny story floating away . Damn that
bastard who missplaced my backpack ,it wasn't small or
stinky... . he was not doin' he's job proprelly ,i'll
hopefully get it .
The next thing we've done was finding some medium size
barrels for our gear so we can put it on the yacks. We
actually have found a shop, but we had a lot of work
to do in terms off convinceing the guy that he's price
wasn't the right one,and actually our sugestion is the
right price for the barrels . But you know... . he
wanted 1200 nepali rupees per barrel!. wich would
actually make our pockets thiner with 4800 nepali
rupees, not a lot, but in off to make us negotiate
till we got one barrel for 1000 rupees,and that is;
the right price. I can guarrantee that; and you'll
just have to trust me.
While we were on the battlefields of medieval comerce,
Ram, our base camp manager, calls and tells me that
the backpack has arrived in Kathmandu airport and we
have to go and take it.
Shit!!! .That was my first reaction; hope is not just
a''fake call'' coz i'll smack Ram....we just took a
cab and shoot for the airport ,filled in a slimy piece
of paper just vomittin' some info. about myself , and
I just rushed to the luggage line ; I was right next
to the hole that's civered with the flimsy bits off
rubber,and after 5 minutes VOILA the pain in the ass
,was gone like it was never there. Thank God for that!
As soon as I got out of the airport's arrival door I
just let the bagpack fall to the ground; Alex was as
happy as I was and filming me aswell... .I tell you
that felt reeal good m8!
We got back to the hotel and start doing some pictures
with the sponsor's flags and all the gear that we need
for this light round. (SERGIU)
...we're already for three days in the city and it was
so much to do and prepare in terms of having
everything set for our departure that we hardly had
the time to explore the city; but we did it as we were
shopping for last remaining things: we still need it
some snow pegs, the gas canisters for our Optimus
stoves, a full bag of batteries for the headlamps and
cameras, the barrels for storing all the stuff while
"yak carring":) etc. And the big chunk of tibetan yak
cheese we took for 350 rupiess per kilo is
amaizing:)))We pretty much negotiated everithing and
we had some quite good deals on all of them. For the
Nepali, bargaining on every product they sell is a
cultural thing and also a way to socialize. I think we
already made some good friends in "The Holly Land
Mountain Store" after the negociations story. Sergiu
improvised an antisnow sistem for his Camp crampons
adapting an antisnow from an old pair of Grivel we
found in the same shop we took the barrels. he was
quite proud about his crafty job and I was quite
impressed about it:))
Some thought at a glance about Khatmandu: definelty a
very very crazy city! BUT I love it:) In the most part
of the city there is no road rules sistem implemented
to respect. Pedestrians, cars, bikes, richsa's
appearantly have no sense of direction, but meanwhile
everyone find his way to the destination. They simply
walk/drive in the street and the only accepted
"covention" seems to be the continuos "Tooooot!!!!"
(car horn)of everyone for you to pay attention they
are there. Here everyone uses the "Toot!!)) but no one
gets angry...contrary to Bucharest...so... an
amazingly noisy city but this happens till around 10
in the evening when you'll find almost no one in the
street. The second is the smell.....from horrible to
nice asian scents in places where you would probably
not expect. Third, is the extreme polutiion of the
city...policemen in the street wear face masks while
That's now for the time being. We have to finish
everything for our departure cause we want the 2 days
left to also have a look at the soft/spiritual side of
Khatmandu. Pashupatinath, Durbar, Sadhu people etc.:)
August 26th, 15,30 pm
KHATMANDU, Manang Hotel
...we have just arrived in a noisier and much more disorganised place than bucharest in what is regarding the traffic, it's called Khathmandu. And this after a pretty nasty trip with not a lot of happy stories to tell.
For the beginning I don't have my main gear down suit,gore shell,my all polar layers, med kit and my sleeping bag.
This sucks and i'm pretty anoyed at this time because all this are missing and I can't do nothing about it. After a lot off chattin with the new delhi airport authoryties they reashured me that i'll have all my stuff in kathmandu in time for the expedition, but after 36 hours of non sleep I can't even trust myself. I'm happy though that I mannaged to call cosmina-my wife- and hear her,that really felt so good.
Alex is hi as a kite and keeps yellin' namaste, namaste and dabur amol silky black shampoo from the shower and tryes to cheer me up coz i'm still fumeing about my gear... He was very excited about the chaotic lifestile of kathmandu ,but he'll be cool after a few days when he will start takeing photos with the neigbourhoods of our hotel.
...we finally got yesterday to Khatmandu after changing three planes and Sergiu is still missing his rucksack containing almost all his altitude gear. Got lost by Austrian Airlines somwhere between Vienna and New Delhi.
Althought they haven't kept the promise of being send to us by today, I'm pretty confident he'll get it but if not, then we'll have quite a challenge...
We'll head for Tibet on August 31st and we'll reach the Base Camp after about 6 days, meantime spending time at different altitudes to help with acclimatisation. Till then shopping around for the remaining gear necessary.
The first photos from the city attached. More to come...