THE VIRGIN SOUTH-WEST face of Cho-Oyu (8201 m) and the distinctive, unclimbed central gully on the south face of Shishapangma (8046 m) rising directly up to its middle summit, were the objectives of the small, 3-men Swiss-Polish team consisting of Jean Troillet (Swiss), Erhard Loretan (Swiss), and Wojtek Kurtyka (Polish and formal leader). Both faces are 2000 m high from their bases, or 2500 m high from their respective base camps. Our first objective was the south west face of Cho Oyu. This face however easily accessible from the traditional base camp, remained a kind of engima within climbing circles. It's located in a deep western cwm hidden from view by the Polish ridge. It offered one of the most beautiful and at the same time reasonably safe virgin potentialities existing on 8000 m peaks.
On 24 August we entered Tibet from Nepal at the Kodari-Khasa border crossing, and on 25 August we arrived by jeep and truck to the place called Chinese BC at 4600 m shortly before the abandoned village of Kyetrak. Here began the series of dizzy days affected by extremely rapid altitude gain. On 27 August we started our short, 2-day approach march to the proper BC, with 8 yaks carrying 16 loads. The next day, we set up the BC at 5700 m, just opposite Nangpa la, across the Gyabrak glacier. It seems to be the highest and the quickest to gain high altitude known BC in the Himalaya. In just 4 days we made it from Kathmandu upto 5700 m. I consider arriving to the BC as quite a dangerous part of this trip. In the BC we discovered, some of our loads were smartly and truly professionally looted by the Tibetan yak drivers, who played our best friends. What was even worse, Jean fell ill for a short period but luckily his strong body recovered quickly and soon he was fitter than ever. The weather for one month seemed to be still affected by the monsoon. The daily weather pattern regularly established for a couple of weeks was made up by afternoon snowfalls and occasional night or morning clearances. We hardly had a chance to locate our wall and to make an eye inspection of it. On 7 September we made in poor weather a rapid one day acclimatizing trip upto 7000 m on the normal route and after spending the following night here we descended next day to BC. We decided to attempt the face in a single, non-stop, one night and day ascent, hoping for night clearance and not too dangerous snowfall the next day.On 19 september all 3 of us set our from the BC at 11 a.m. after 3 hours we reached the foot of the wall. Here we stopped in the expected snow shower for a couple of hours to have a meal and a rest. At 6 p.m. still lightly snowing. We moved into the wall. We carred only 30 m of double 7 mm, the couple of pitons and nuts and the gas stove. The personal gear included apart from ice-tools, the small personal bivi sacks, 200 gm or 300 gm of sweets, head lamps and spare socks gloves. During the nighthours we clibembed the easy lower gully. In its middle section we faced a dangerous snow slide. We could hardly stand it fixed to our ice-tools. Towards midnight the light snow shower finally ceased and the moonless sky cleared. Just before lawn we climbed the first serious obstacle, the very steep, snow and lock barrier, furrowed by the curving lines of steeply rising soft snow-edges and gullies (at least 60°). In the morning hours, after traversing the very airy and sharp piece of the ridge and tackling another short rock barrier (IV, UIAA), we continued to move up along the connected snowfields I* m kcd by the rock barriers. Towards midday we climbed the last major obstacle, the pretty steep rock barrier (IV, UIAA), that gave the access to ihe oblique snowfield, emerging finally onto the southwest ridge some l00 m below the summit. We arrived at the summit ridge in the evening hours with all Khumbu and BC area carpeted with the thick and black layer of clouds. Just at dusk, some 50 m below the summit, after a moment of hesitation we decided to avoid roaming about in darkness [On the huge summit plateau in search of the descent route and rather In -.pend the" night in the cosy nest under the boulder at 8150 m. I In- night was surprisingly warm. (Or was it Jean and Erhard between whom I was sandwiched?). The next morning, 21 September after half an hour we reached the summit at 8.30 a:tn. At 6 p.m. after 8.5 hours descent on the normal route we got back to BC for dinner with the friendly Italian-Spanish expedition. To our surprise we were told that the BC was covered last night with 15 cm of fresh snow. The faces of people in BC showed the distress of endless waiting for the good weather.
11. Shisha Pangma (8046 m), Swiss-Polish route 1990, south face. Article 6 (W. Kurtyka)
12. Cho Oyu (8201 m), Swiss-Polish route 1990, southwest face.
13. Panch Chuli II (6904 m), route of the second ascent, via the northeast ridge, from Sona glacier. Article 7 (N.B. Gurung)
Our doings on Cho Oyu stumbled over all possible obstacles. Turning towards Shishapangma felt like stepping into friendly land. On the 28th we set out with 3 yaks towards the south face, which I knew well from my former visit to the area with my wife Halinka in October 1987 and from the pictures I received from Doug Scott. On 30 September in the morning hours we set up BC over a peaceful lake at 5400 m. Now everything seemed to favour us. The weather was finally perfect, the full moon was just at hand. The slopes carpeted with moss and dry grass gave a cosy comfort to the BC. The big boulders made a good shelter from the wind. Even the south face ominously bound in heavy snow proved to be in perfect condition. After just a day of rest, on 2 October at 9 a.m. we set out from BC and reached the foot of the south face at 2.30 p.m. Here after examining our objective we decided to reduce more of our scarce equipment. We left behind all bivi equipment and even the harnesses. We took only 30 m of 7 mm rope and 4 pitons. We had no food except 3 or 4 chocolate bars and a bottle of drink per head. We started at 6 p.m. with the last sun rays on the upper part of the wall. Shortly after midnight we mistakenly took a wrong branch couloir but quickly resumed the proper line. In the morning we approached the summit ridge. Jean and Erhard reached the middle summit at 10 a.m. 3 October, after 16 hours of climbing. Wojtek's arrival on the summit was delayed due to some miscalculation. Shortly before the ridge he lagged behind 1 hour, however due to the concave and curving shape of couloir he couldn't see the leading pair. Wondering which way they took through the summit wall, he decided to abandon the couloir and to take the direct but risky short-cut through the rock barrier to the right. This however proved too difficult and only few tens of meters before the summit and after wasting almost 2 hours, Wojtek had to descend back to the couloir almost 150 m. At this time Jean and Erhard showed up again on their way down from the summit. It was noon. After the futile attempt, Wojtek moved up the couloir alone and reached the middle summit in very strong wind shortly before 4 p.m. At dusk he descended back to the couloir at 7800 m. In the meantime Jean and Erhard moved down very quickly and reached the base of the wall before the darkness, thus completing their climb in 24 hours. Wojtek decided to take 2 or 3 hours rest till the moon should show in the couloir, however very sleepy and finding the night pleasently warm he slept away all night sitting comfortably in a snow arm chair. Next day extremely dehydrated he descended down to the foot of the wall.
Swiss-Polish route on the southwest face of Cho Oyu.
There is a remark worth mentioning regarding the new line on Shishapangma. The couloir we have climbed is the shortest and the quickest existing line to the 8000 m peak. It goes up directly to the middle summit on the comforting snow slope varying around 45° and rarely exceeding 50° of steepnes. For a busy man* always short of ti
New routes on Cho Oyu (8201 m) and Shishapangma (8046 m) climbed on 21 September 1990 and 3 October 1990 respectively. Three members climbed steep routes, fast and with spartan equipment.