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A Brief History of Cho Oyu

Saddling the border between Nepal and Tibet in the Himalayas, Cho Oyu stands at a towering 26,906′ /8201m. As the world’s sixth-tallest mountain, Cho Oyu boasts a rich and storied climbing history, with its first ascents in the mid-20th century taking multiple months to the modern era, where we’ve seen door-to-door ascents in just 14 days by Alpenglow founder Adrian Ballinger using our Rapid Ascent program.

The name “Cho Oyu” translates to “Turquoise Goddess” in Tibetan, and is situated just a few kilometers from Nangpa La pass, a high point on a centuries-old trade route used by Tibetans and the Sherpa people of the Khumbu Valley. Due to its proximity to this pass and the generally easygoing slope angle of the northwest ridge, Cho Oyu was the fifth 8000-meter peak to be summited and is often regarded as the ‘easiest’ 8000er.

The recorded history of Cho Oyu dates back to the early 20th century when British surveyors first began mapping the region. However, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the mountain truly captured the attention of the international climbing community.

In 1952, a Swiss expedition led by Raymond Lambert and Tenzing Norgay (who made the first ascent of Everest a year later with Sir Edmund Hillary) ventured to Cho Oyu hoping to make the first ascent. While they fell short of their ultimate objective, reaching an altitude of 24,934’/7,600m, their expedition marked the beginning of Cho Oyu’s entry into mountaineering lore.

Two years later, in 1954, an Austrian team led by Herbert Tichy successfully reached the summit of Cho Oyu, making history as the first to do so. Since then, Cho Oyu has continued to captivate and challenge adventurers as an opportunity to break into the world of climbing at 8,000 meters without added burdens of extreme technical climbing or exposure to unmitigated risks.

Interested in making your own foray into climbing above 8,000 meters? Cho is the perfect stepping stone into climbing 8,000ers, and we’re starting to fill our team for 2025. Reach out to us today to see if you qualify for our Autumn expedition to Cho Oyu.