Quick Update for Cho Oyu Rapid and Lightning Ascents

Photo: Emily Harrington


The Rapid Ascent Cho Oyu expedition team, with lead guide Zeb Blais, is moving to C3 (24,250′ / 7400m) today, while the “lightning ascent” expedition team, Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington, is moving to C2 (23,290′ / 7100m) today. Given the time difference it is currently Friday the 30th in Tibet (15 hours ahead of PST). The teams will get whatever rest they can Friday afternoon/evening and then do a summit push together Friday night. Which means by this time “tomorrow” in California (PST time zone) both teams will be at the summit, with their skis and ready for the descent.

The plan was to sleep at Camp 3 (C3) on Friday the 30th and go for their summit push on Saturday the 1st, but as with most plans they must remain flexible. Keep in mind Cho Oyu is the 6th tallest mountain in the world (26,906′ / 8200m) and weather is always a strong determining factor for climbers. Weather predictions can be helpful but they are never perfect. The teams have a weather window and they are planning to take advantage of this opportunity.


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Cho Oyu Rapid Ascent and “Lightning Ascent” Updates

Our Rapid Ascent Cho Oyu expedition team, led by Zeb Blais, is currently sleeping at C2 (23,290′ / 7100m) and our “lightning ascent” expedition team, Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington, is currently sleeping at C1 (20,600’ / 6280m). Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow Expedition’s founder, reported this morning that the current focus is on overall weather but also on a weather window for September 30 – October 1. The weather has kept many teams at Camp 2 (C2), many of which were anticipating to summit on September 28 or 29. This is causing the teams to stack up up high as they are waiting for the best conditions for their summit push. There is currently strong wind at the summit of Cho Oyu.

The “lightning ascent” team, and most likely the Rapid Ascent team, will plan for their summit push to be on October 1. It is currently 11:00am PST on September 29 as we write this post, their timezone is 15 hours ahead, which makes it currently 2:00am on September 30 in Tibet. This means that when they wake up on the 30th both teams are planning to continue on up to C3 (24,250′ / 7400m). The plan is to sleep at C3 on September 30 and go for their summit push on October 1.

Adrian reported for Zeb’s team that on their first night at C2 they had a good night sleep, using only half a liter of oxygen, while most people would have used more oxygen to feel that good. We are hoping they have a second night of good sleep and continue …

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Cho Oyu Rapid Ascent Expedition Leaving ABC for C1


Photos: Zeb Blais

Our Rapid Ascent Cho Oyu expedition team is leaving advanced base camp (ABC) at 18,530’ / 5650m for Camp 1 (C1) at 20,600’ / 6280m. Lead guide, Zeb Blais, reported this morning that they’ve been discussing weather, snowpack and other climbing teams over the last couple days. There are a few other teams that are looking to push up in front of them, which should be good to have the route to themselves on their summit day and through technical sections that can be slow, such as the ice cliff above C1 around 22,500′ / 6850m. All of these elements add to the puzzle and also require ongoing monitoring and flexibility.


Zeb said they have confidence in the snowpack from tests he did to the lower pack during their rotation and also from what they heard yesterday from the rope fixing teams. The ropes have been fixed through the yellow band which is a major hurdle in getting to the summit. The fact these teams were able to get the ropes fixed without signs of instability in the snow pack is generally a good sign. Alpenglow’s industry leading forecasting looks good for their weather window. Stoke level is high!!


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Cho Oyu Rapid Ascent Update

Photo: Zeb Blais

Our Rapid Ascent Cho Oyu expedition team is back in advanced base camp (ABC) at 18,530’ / 5650m. Lead guide, Zeb Blais, reported this morning that they are feeling good after a few rotations but they are ready for some rest days before the final push. Zeb said they got in some more skiing yesterday before arriving in ABC. The skiing and snow conditions are variable with a little bit of everything. He said there has also been a variety of weather as well, including some wind, new snow, and more precipitation coming in the next couple days.

Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington have been in contact with Zeb and they are currently en route to Cho Oyu where they will meet up at ABC. They are all quite happy that there is a weather window in the forecast! Make sure to follow along on their expeditions via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat for even more updates and photos!


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Cho Oyu Expedition Updates

Our Rapid Ascent Cho Oyu expedition team is still feeling strong and currently enjoying a good night sleep at C1 (20,600’ / 6280m). Tomorrow they will continue on to C2 (23,290′ / 7100m) and cache skis, sleep one more night at C1, and then back down to advanced base camp (18,530’ / 5650m) the next day. We look forward to further updates and more photos when they reach ABC again.

On this morning’s check-in, Zeb reported that he and Brooks are feeling strong, have good appetites with no headaches or nausea. He said the weather has been a bit challenging but it looks like a weather window is coming. The snowpack is a little interesting with multiple crust/ facet combos, but Zeb feels pretty good about it after some digging. They avoided the steeper rollovers on yesterday’s ski and enjoyed some great turns coming down from the ice cliff.


In other news, we have another team headed to Cho Oyu… tomorrow! Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington are packed up and ready to depart for their two week climbing expedition on Cho Oyu. In case you haven’t heard these two are attempting to climb the sixth tallest mountain in the world in just two weeks, doorstep to doorstep, which is obviously both very exciting and challenging. They have have been preparing extensively for this endeavor at home. Check out their story here. Adrian and Emily depart for the mountain this Wednesday!


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Cho Oyu Expedition update from Advanced Base Camp

Photos: Zeb Blais

Our Rapid Ascent Cho Oyu expedition team is currently well situated and comfortable in advanced base camp (18,530’ / 5650m). Lead guide Zeb Blais has been reporting on a daily basis, relaying that everyone is feeling great. There has been some weather coming through and the forecast looks to be a bit challenging in the coming days showing more precipitation before dry but windy conditions will return.

Resting, organizing and heading up:

After getting to ABC they rested and spent the time sorting gear, setting up tents and getting comfortable. Yesterday they went for an acclimatization cycle and climbed up to c1 (20,600’ / 6280m), taxing their bodies so that they can recover lower and build the ever crucial red blood cells.

The team woke to 1 centimeter of new snow on the ground before heading out and the weather was overcast and snowing. They walked through miles of moraine and dirt covered glacier until they reached lake camp. There they were greeted with a 1000’ high scree slope that would deliver them to c1.

The trail proved to be difficult and steep and was challenging given the fact that this was the highest they have been so far. Camp 1 was completely obscured by cloud cover. During the descent the clouds parted a bit and they got some views of Pasang Llama Chuli peak and the glacier leading back to ABC, bringing some beauty to a difficult day.

Our amazing Sherpa team has been cranking …

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Cho Oyu Team Arrives in Tibet

Text and photos: Zeb Blais



Since the vast majority of my expedition shopping was completed in Kathmandu, I spent the day exploring Lhasa. I’m meeting Brooks, my ski client, at the Lhasa airport tomorrow. We’ll head straight to Shigatse from there, then Cho Oyu Base Camp on the 13th if all goes as planned.

The highlight of the day was dropping in on a random restaurant from one of the tiny side streets in old part of town. My Chinese is horrible (I can usually get a hello and thank you across) and I was lucky to stumble upon a restaurant with an English speaking owner. He informed me that his buildings were erected over three hundred years ago (old by most standards, but only mid range in Lhasa!).

The spicy chicken chili with naan bread was delicious and it was fun to enjoy a taste of the local spice a little off the beaten path.

But enough of this city stuff already- Let’s get to the mountains!

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Adventures in Bolivia

Words and images from guide Esteban “Topo” Mena

“Yeah!” Is the best word to describe all the fun we had last week!

Our adventure started with the summit of Pico Austria (5350m), from there we enjoyed awesome views of the rest of the cordillera and started visualizing the next days. On the following day, after an early alpine start we climbed the highlight of this part of the trip: Pequeño Alpamayo, a beautiful 5450m peak that offers a little bit of everything: stunning glaciers, knife-edge ridges and breath taking views of the cordillera. Although the mountain’s conditions were drier than other years, that allowed the team to learn and practice the techniques to climb on moderate icy terrain.

A well deserved rest day allowed us to taste some local wine and do our best efforts trying to catch trout in a lake near base camp. For our last day in the valley we did an ice climbing class on a Water Ice formation near base camp… Yes! Water Ice! Our climbers got a chance to experience ice climbing on vertical terrain! None of them were expecting that, so that little surprise became their favorite part of the trip… so far.

Yesterday we drove back to La Paz and today is all about recovering for Huayna Potosí, although technically will be easier than Pequeño Alpamayo this will be the first time for our climbers on a 6000m peak.

Stay tuned! …

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Bolivia Expedition Underway

Bolivia is wild. Our expedition to the adventurous and beautiful country is off to a great start with the team spending a little time in the high elevation city of La Paz before heading on to lake Titicaca. Here’s a first hand report from lead guide Topo Mena.

“Enjoying blue bird skies we left La Paz and headed to the Titicaca Lake. La Paz and its surroundings is at 4000m

(13,000′) so we want to take the first days easy. On the way to Copacabana, a beautiful lakeside town on Titicaca, we visited the ruins of Tiwanaku: the remains of an ancient culture that celebrated rituals to the sun and the moon. The atmosphere in this place filled our minds with questions about “how” they did such amazing architectural work with very limited tools. I guess that just like how a climber sometimes finds energy in an exhausted body and mind, when a human being pursues a dream: Everything is possible. Today we are exploring lake Titicaca and enjoying our last cervezas before we head to the Mountains. More coming soon…”

Good luck to the team! We’re looking forward to more updates! …

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Vodka & Caviar – Elbrus Expedition Underway

Taking in the culture.

The port city of St. Petersberg in Russia has welcomed our 2016 team with open arms. With such a rich history and beautiful architecture, the team of Chad, George, Henry and Fred spent today exploring the city while doing the all important work of getting over jet lag.

Chad wrote in this morning saying they spent time soaking in the culture visiting the great halls, museums and tombs of Russia’s most famous Czars. “Crazy history and amazing mansions of incredible wealth… makes you understand why the people revolted!”, Chad wrote. “Our city tour also had brought us some amazing restaurants and local cuisine… yup, we ate caviar with vodka last night.”

Sounds like the guys are diving headlong into the culture of Russia! They have one last night in St. Petersburg and tomorrow they will fly out to Mineralny Voldy (translates to Mineral Waters) where they will begin their drive to the Caucasus Mountains and Elbrus.

“Nazdravia” – the guys sampling the local potato juice.

The team getting some good luck from Peter the great. …

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