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Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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May 14, 2018

Cho Oyu - In the Land of the Heights, the Goddess of Turquoise Dwells (1)

It has been two and a half years since I last walked among the majestic giants of the Himalayas, and drank tea and ate dal bhat with the friendly, hardy, and incredible strong people for whom this is home.

Then, after endless days of incredible scenery and intense effort on some truly awesome (in all senses of the word) terrain, I stood atop the incomparably beautiful and inspiring Ama Dablam with Lam Babu Sherpa, the two of us alone on the windless summit for nearly an hour. Around us the range spread out as far as the eye could see, made even more real and *big* seeing the giant monastery at Tengboche and the trekker-worn trails of the Khumbu Valley as tiny, barely discernible features far below us.

From there I stared at the impossible-looking Lhotse wall, rising steeply up three thousand metres above the valleys below, and the jet stream-blasted summit of Mount Everest peeking out from behind. Standing in front of this wall, and 600m below me, Imja Tse (Island Peak) looked like a mere bump in the landscape, a giant anywhere else in the world. At nearly seven thousand metres altitude, I felt like I was on top of a little more than a foothill, surrounded by eight-thousanders: Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, even Kangchenjunga clearly visible over 100km away.

And there I set eyes upon the massive peak for which, unbeknownst to me at the time, I would return to the range to set foot upon.

Translated (roughly, and with some debate) as the Goddess of Turquiose, Cho Oyu lies just 30km northwest of Everest on the border of China and Nepal. It is considered one of the "easiest" of the eight-thousanders by its normal route, and is also one of the safest. But at 8,200m (nearly 27,000 feet) altitude, it is the sixth-highest mountain the world, and in this realm nothing comes easily.

Cho Oyu can be climbed from either Nepal or China. The most commonly ascended route, and where I will be headed in late August, is the Northwest Ridge-Northwest Face route, climbed from China (Tibet). Although it is still four months away, I am deep into training; the time will go by quickly!

Attached image: The giant and fearsome southeast face of Cho Oyu seen from the summit of Ama Dablam on November 7, 2015 10:29 NPT. The normal climbing route is not visible, on the opposite side of the mountain. This side is rarely climbed (for visibly obvious reasons).

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-Alex B.