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The Big Mountain Game

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Apologies for the slightly confusing sequence of blogs, but between late night/early morning check-ins and time differences, and emails that come through the Chinese system with severe delays, it’s been a little confusing to keep up! This one is from, let’s call it, 36 hours ago:
It’s been an eventful week on Cho Oyu, and hard to believe we have only been here for 10 days! After a few days acclimatizing around Advanced Base Camp (already high at 19,000 feet / 5700 meters) we moved up the hill for a 5-day rotation. During those five days we slept as high as 22,300 feet (6,800 meters) and skied from as high as 24,000 feet (7200 meters). The skiing has been a highlight of the trip so far, just as we expected. Every day we wake up from whichever camp we are in, drink coffee, turn on our beacons, strap La Sportiva GT skis to our packs, and climb. When our labored breathing and lightheadedness tell us we’ve gone high enough, we tighten boots, throw on helmets and goggles, and ski! As our confidence has grown in the strengthening snowpack, we have been progressively getting onto steeper terrain and further away from the climbing lines. While the snow has been consistently variable, with lots of wind effect and crusts, every descent has also left us with huge grins and stoke about repeating the process the next day.
But after almost a week of simple camp food and instant coffee, it was time to descend to ABC for some real food and rest. Descending the 2500 feet to ABC, lots of it on scree and talus, my quads reminded me that we have actually been charging really hard the past week. I am tired! And now, here at ABC, the game begins. A lot of work remains to put fixed lines in on the upper mountain, and which teams will contribute what in terms of Sherpa, guides, rope, anchors, and money for bonuses, is an open question. With good weather forecast for the next few days, we are hoping to rally a strong effort and open Cho Oyu for the season!
-Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow Expeditions