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While most expeditions on the mountain start in Tibet, Gelje will attempt to scale it without crossing into Chinese territory by following a more challenging route on the southeastern Nepalese face. The mountaineer hopes that this route will be used by future commercial expeditions.
“We believe in us, we dream CHO OYU route from Nepal and we will set commercial route to the summit from Nepal,” Gelje wrote on Instagram. “Even we are miles away from our targeted amount in fundraising of GOFUNDME but CHO OYU Nepal team really want to thank each and every 182 donors who believed us.”
The expedition will kick off on January 20. Gelje will lead a team of 14, nine of whom will ascend the mountain. The attempt is part of his project to become the youngest person to scale the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000 meters (26,246 feet). That record is currently held by Mingma Gyabu “David” Sherpa of Nepal, who completed the challenge in 2019 at age 30 years and five months. Both David Sherpa and Gelje Sherpa worked as crew members on Nirmal Purja’s record-setting project that year to scale the 14 mountains in just six months.
A successful ascent could help mountaineers sidestep access problems on the mountain. China currently maintains stiff border restrictions due to COVID-19, and the mountaineering site Explorersweb reports that the country is likely to forbid foreign climbers from crossing its borders in 2022. Mountaineers faced permitting challenges prior to the pandemic, and in 2019 China raised the fee for climbing Cho Oyu from $7,400 to $9,300.
Cho Oyu is world’s sixth-highest peak, and for years it was considered one of the easiest to climb above 8,000 meters. But that reputation is tied to the Chinese route.
Summiting the mountain from Nepal presents a greater challenge, due to the technical nature of the route. The first ascent of Cho Oyu from Nepal was in 1978, and since then fewer than 20 people have reached the peak from that side.
While the Nepal Mountaineering Association has funded other expeditions on Cho Oyu, Gelje said he has not received funding from the NMA for this expedition and is instead covering costs via a GoFundMe page and personal loans.
“It would be great if I could get part of that budget, but I don’t expect it, which is why I’m willing to take personal loans from banks to fulfill my lifelong dream,” he told Nepalese media.