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The Practical Path: Climb Cho Oyu Before Everest

A climber stands on a mountain path with Cho Oyu in the background.
Two climbers sit in the snow beneath the summit of Cho Oyu.
A climber stands on a mountain path with Cho Oyu in the background.

For ambitious mountaineers eyeing the world’s tallest peaks, the decision to tackle Everest is a monumental one. At Alpenglow Expeditions, we require that our Everest team members have prior experience on at least one 8,000-meter peak before joining an Everest expedition, and we almost always recommend Cho Oyu as a stepping stone. Here’s why climbing Cho Oyu first makes practical sense.

Understanding Altitude’s Impact

Altitude sickness is a real concern for climbers ascending high peaks like Everest. At extreme elevations, the air becomes thinner, resulting in decreased oxygen levels. This lack of oxygen can lead to a range of symptoms, from headaches and nausea to more severe conditions like pulmonary or cerebral edema (HAPE and HACE).

By climbing Cho Oyu first, we can acclimatize to high altitudes more gradually than on Everest, and build a personal understanding of how our bodies work at extreme altitudes. This process helps mitigate the risk of altitude sickness and improves their chances of a successful ascent on Everest.

Cho Oyu’s Altitude Advantage

Standing at 26,864’/8,188m, Cho Oyu is the sixth tallest mountain in the world. While still a formidable challenge, it offers climbers an opportunity to experience extreme altitude without the same level of technical difficulty as Everest. This makes it an ideal training ground for honing essential high-altitude mountaineering skills and building confidence at high elevations.

Historical Precedent

The practice of climbing Cho Oyu before Everest is not a new concept. Many seasoned mountaineers and expedition leaders recommend this approach as part of a comprehensive training regimen. Over the years, numerous successful Everest climbers have credited their Cho Oyu ascent with helping them prepare mentally and physically for the demands of the world’s highest peak. Check out our blog about the first expeditions to Cho Oyu to learn more. 

Personalized Understanding of Altitude

Every climber’s body reacts differently to altitude, making it essential to develop a personalized understanding of its effects. Climbing Cho Oyu allows individuals to gain valuable insights into how their bodies respond to extreme elevations and identify any potential challenges they may face on Everest.

For mountaineers with their sights set on Everest, climbing Cho Oyu first offers a strategic advantage. By gradually acclimatizing to high altitudes, gaining valuable experience, and developing a deeper understanding of their bodies’ responses, climbers can significantly increase their chances of success on the world’s tallest peak. So before taking on Everest, consider the practical path and make Cho Oyu your first step towards the summit. Click HERE for our Cho Oyu Rapid Ascent Expedition Overview and learn how we climb Cho Oyu in just 30 days! Click HERE to schedule a call with our team.

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