CHO OYU (8201 M) – TIBET – 1998
Expedition: participation in a large commercial expedition by Snow Leopard Adventures, without O2
Climbing team: 20 Nederlandse klimmers + 3 Nepalese Sherpa’s
Route: normal route (West Ridge + West Wall)
Top: 20 May 1998, directly from the camp at 7,100 m, with Sherpa Nawang. Later in May, another 6 teammembers reached the summit.
For Katja Staartjes, this was the first expedition to a mountain over eight thousand metres high. At 8,201 m, Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world, although it is among the ‘easier’ of the eight-thousanders (to the extent you can talk of any of them being easy…) in terms of technical difficulty. In short, Cho Oyu – the Goddess of Turquoise – is an ideal challenge if you want to find out what it’s like to climb above 8,000 metres.
The adventure actually began in 1995, when Katja went on a hiking trip with Snow Leopard Adventures to Mera Peak (6500 m) by way of the beautiful Makalu base camp and East- & Westcol route. A spectacular trip, which rendered Katja euphoric. As on the previous year’s climb to the Damphus Peak (6,000 m), Katja was physically strong and adapted well to altitude. When tourleader René de Bos, an expert on Nepal and an Everest mountaineer, asked whether Katja might be interested in an expedition to Cho Oyu, this was her introduction to expedition climbing.
In the end, expedition leader René de Bos joined forces with the Dutch mountain guide Robert Steenmeijer (both men had apparently independently planned to take a team to Cho Oyu) for a large-scale expedition of 21 climbers, plus two climbing Sherpas. The weather was favourable on this expedition. The team arrived at base camp on 3rd May, and on 20 May, Katja and Sherpa Nawang reached the summit. In the following days, another six climbers reached the summit, including the strong climber Hans van der Meulen, who joined the Dutch expedition after climbing to the subsidiary peak (the central summit) of Shisha Pangma.