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Thread: Cho La

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Cho La

    We hope this thread doesn't make a duplicate, but it seemed to not exist yet.

    On some other pages we have followed nice guides, in Swedish though, on the proceedings on different parts of the Cho La pass and how to navigate this tricky bit of trekking/light mountaineering safely and by yourself.

    We will be there in a few months, regretfully during the monsoon, but thats when we have the time so we will make the best of it. Last summer we did some nice treks in the Garwhal and had a smashing time. Usually the weather is pretty good once you get the altitude.

    We wanted to start a thread on how to pass the Cho La. Please note, we will be travelling on our own, with no guides or porters.

    The reasons for this is purely for the challenge. we spend all we can on the resturants and so forth and are very generous to the local economy.

    We will also be equipped with the regular gear such as mountaineering tent, iceaxes, lightweight rope, down sacks, stove, food and so forth. This worked very well on glaciers in India, so we feel confident about challenging the Cho La on our own. Otherwise, you can always turn back.

    So, who has done it?! And who has done it without a guide? Anyone feel like taking a stab at creating a "how to guide" step by step for the Cho La pass, given the equipement we will be carrying.
    Would for example be great with compass bearings, gps points and so forth.

    Naturally nobody should head up high without the proper gear, training and food for several days.

    Uppsala, Sweden

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Wales, UK

    Default GPS info

    Hello yhello,

    I can't help with first hand information, sorry. But I can point you in the direction of a decent GPS track/log (sort of).

    Have a look at the "Google Earth" thread in the "News and Views" forum. My latest post includes Lars' (detailed) GPS track of his route over Cho La from November 2003.

    During the peak season it is a fairly well used trail - it would usually be possible to follow other trekkers/guides, but if you are crossing during the monsoon season you might be the only people up there.

    I'll also be very interested to read other more authoritative info.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Smile Advice on this sort of thing depends on the trekker's experience

    Advice on how difficult or easy someone might find a high pass is very dependant on the experience of the person trying to cross it.

    If you are generally happy walking on rough trails and in the mountains, and I don't mean anything hardcore, climbing or mountaineering, just being a competent hiker then I think the Cho La is pretty straightforward. I crossed it in March 2004 and I really can't remember anything difficult about it at all. I didn't have to use my hands at any point - perhaps only once or twice a the most just to drop down over a boulder. 99% of it, if my recollection is correct, is nothing but walking. Steep in parts yes but not climbing or mountaineering or even scrambling.

    I remember thinking about it before I went and heard about it being steep, that maybe there was an icefall to negotiate and it being quite tricky. To be honest with you I didn't find it like that at all.

    I went from Gokyo to Lobuche and on the way up to the top of the pass it was a just a zig zag path that lead up to some boulders, steep so it made you breathless but not steep so you would fall off it. At the top we just walked round about 5m up to the snow and walked down it. At the end of the glacier we rejoined the path and followed it and had to clamber over some boulders, again nothing you could fall off of or where you would suffer any exposure.

    We did it without a guide and we found the way no problem. There was a clear trail all the way. We did have good weather though, and there was no snow on the ground. The hardest thing about it was carrying 25kgs of climbing kit over it (none of which was for tackling the pass), it was really hard work getting to the top and it being a long day. We went from Gokyo to Dingboche on that day. It was a very tiring day and my memory might be quite hazy, but that is how I remember it. 4 of our group crossed it in trainers too.

    Now don't get me wrong. I have trekked with people who struggled in snow on the flat and didn't know how to walk on it. There are people who go to Nepal to do their first ever hikes, I wouldn't recommend that they tackle the Cho La on their own, but with a guide they should be fine. But people with a little mountain sense and who have spent some time in the hills home and abroad aren't going to find the Cho La very technically challenging. Physically hard and at a decent altitude sure, but not really mountaineering.

    As for taking several days food up with you for somewhere like the Cho La then no I think that is wrong. There a lodges either side of the Cho La. If someone has a problem then they should go down as fast as possible. If they can't then someone should go get help. There is no problem that I can think of that would need someone to stay up there long enough to consume that amount of food. If the weather turns bad you go down. If the weather is so bad that you can't then to be honest you are going to die well before several days of food is going to save you. If someone gets AMS then you go down. If someone has an injury, again, you must help them to go down.

    In my opinion speed and lightweight equals safety. If you are carrying so much kit that you move too slowly then you run the risk of being benighted, the weather changing or not being able to get down quick enough if something happens. It should only take a couple of hours to get down to the lodges from either side. If you aren't loaded up with too much stuff that is.

    Of course if you just like camping and want to camp instead of staying in lodges, then why not it is a lot of fun. But I do hear alot that people take huge piles of gear to make them safer when in fact it is all that gear that is making you unsafe. I don't know what your experience is so the following comments aren't necessarily directed at you but I feel it is important to try and explain the reality of these places. So don't take this the wrong way . After all this is a public forum and anyone can read this!

    I'll paint two scenarios for you:-

    1) This is the way I would do it. I wouldn't take any food (other than some chocolate bars). In addition to my normal trekking gear I might take an axe, crampons and a very short length of rope, there were no crevasses and the rope really is only of any use to steady someone who is inconfident. Apart from protecting against a crevasse a rope with out any placed gear is more dangerous than both parties soloing. If you are tied together if one person comes off you both do, it is extremely hard to stop another's fall with no protection and moving together. If as a pair one is more confident than the other then they can lead and and sit down at the top for the other to follow. If you are both equally confident then I wouldn't bother with a rope. 20m of 7mm rope is all you will need. I would probably take a bivvy/bothy/survival bag, they weigh nothing and you should be able to fit two people into one in an emergency. I wouldn't take a tent, a stove, several days of food.

    I would set off very early, and as I am not carrying very much stuff I can move reasonably fast. If all goes well I won't need my axes and crampons as the snow is easy enough to walk on. I will be fresh enough and fast enough to make it down the other side, safely in time for the early afternoon.

    If the weather turns bad or I get to the top and find that it is too difficult for my level of experience then I would make a quick decision to turn around and go down. Again as I am reasonably fresh and not loaded down, even if the weather closes in really fast, I am able to get down quickly and safely well before it gets anywhere near nightfall.

    If someone suffers AMS or an injury I am able to carry thier pack and help them down to safety, again because I am not so tired and I don't have too much stuff. And as I was moving fast I have plenty of daylight to get down in safety even though it takes a lot longer to help a fellow trekker get down.

    2) In this scenario I take everything I could possibly need to cover every possible eventuality. I carry 5 days of food, a stove, gas, a tent, sleeping mats, ice axes, crampons. My pack weighs something like 25-30kgs. As it is so heavy I can only move quite slowly and it is very, very tiring it takes so long to get to the top and I am so knackered that I hope nothing goes wrong. In good weather there may not be a problem. It will just be a long and tiring day. However if the weather closes in, someone gets AMS or an injury then will you have enough time and energy to get yourself safely out of the situation? What happens if you become benighted? You then have to use all of the gear you lugged up there to be safe and warm. What if the weather turns nasty, that you get a metre of powder overnight that obliterates the trail and makes it very difficult and dangerous to get down safely, especially when carrrying 25-30kgs of gear. Now the risk of injury and frostbite and someone getting AMS are increased and your ability to deal with these situtaions are much diminished.

    In good conditions high passes can be a benign challenge. But yes of course, in bad conditions they can be very dangerous places. The safest way to deal with bad conditions is to be fit enough, have enough surplus energy and the good sense to get down from these places as quickly as you can. Moving through these places as quickly and as lightly as you can is how to do this. Stopping somewhere when conditions deteriorate should only ever be a LAST RESORT. Mountaineers will do everything they possibly can to GET DOWN as quickly as they can. They only stop if it is preplanned or , as I said, there is no other choice. If things get bad enough that you feel like stopping then generally, unless you are very lucky they will get a lot worse. You must do everything you can to get down. Most deaths and acccidents happen because people get stuck somewhere and run out of supplies. And remember AMS can kick in up to 72 hours later. If you have to camp at say 5100m but are acclimatised to 4750m and someone becomes very ill in the middle of the night in a storm, what are you going to do?

    Watch the weather, leave early, look after each other, keep hydrated, eat your snacks and never have too much pride to turn around.

    Sorry this sounds like a lecture I only want people to be safe. But it is a common misconception that you are safer if you carry all the kit you'll need to cope with all situations. In such places it isn't. Speed, common sense, ability to read the weather, caution, mountain sense, enough energy and ability to get down before things turn really bad is how you make yourself safe. If you do not feel competent to make these decisions then always err on the side of caution and make decisions early, don't weigh yourself down with too much stuff or invariably you WILL end up using it all.

    Pictures from when I crossed the Cho La:-


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    thanks oli. we have been trying to contact Lars here in Sweden to no avail.

    Well, aas you mentioned the gps coordinates are there, but that still only gives a position. We would probably need info on how to cross the glacier once on top of Cho La. which side, dangers, and so forth.

    Google earth is a great resource though!

    We have also thought about that we will probably be there all by ourselves. probably for 5-7 days.

    we wiöö probably camp just below Cho La and take our time finding a good route. the tricky part is the glacier.

    ideas anyone?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Default Chugyima la

    I agree with Escher especially about pack weights.
    The thing to remember about Cho La is it is a fair distance between villages from the East to the West and if you have a heavy pack you may struggle to get from one side to the other easily.
    It is a long and tiring day with a 20kg pack and the village on the other side of the pass, Dzongla, in my opinion is not a great place to stay so that means you have to head to Dingboche or Lobuche. I kept going to Lobuche and it is the hardest day trekking in my life. I was busted once I got there.

    As for the glacier on Cho la, there were no crevasses both times I was there, it was simple snow walk on flat terrain and it was very beautiful, like a Fairyland.
    Other than the distances the hardest part for me were clambering over the icy rocks on the way to the top whilst keeping an eye on the slab of snow and ice that was attached to the cliffs above.

    But hey, you guys are gonna camp so you shouldn't have any problems with the distance thing.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    Escher. You have given some wonderful advice. We are of the exact same opinion. We spent about six months practicing here in Sweden last winter before we set off to Tapoban last summer. The reason? To trim weight : )

    We will have all that gear, inkl tent, stove, rope, food and down bags. (no crampons though) Total weight is 25 kilos. For both of us toghether

    After lots of trying and testing, we now have packs which weigh less than 11kg before food!

    Now, we would like to emphasise that we have spent years (me in the military) learning how to minimize weight and still be safe.

    With modern materials and techniques there is now hindrancce for staying well below 13 kg though.

    Fantastic description of the pass. It sounds like we have done more challanging things last summer and will hopefully cope.

    We concurr about the rope. We find that a 7 or 8mm does give a nice safety net though when crossing ridges and fatigue sets in. Since we are only 2 to the "group" , we move in alternating movements while one secures. THis is a nice technique on steep slopes as well.

    How did you find your way around the glacier on top of cho la? eyeballing ? This is our prime concern.

    IF anyone wants a list of our equipment, please let us know. Anything to help lighten peoples loads. As Escher said. LIGHT IS SAFE!

    Thanks again for the great feeback!
    Last edited by yhello; 18th January 2006 at 05:13 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Default Getting onto the glacier

    You guys obviously know what you are doing. And that being the case I can't see that you will have any issues on the Cho La (or more properly Chhugyuma La). As you know there are some people who think having all the gear (but with no knowledge on how to use it correctly), means that you are well prepared. I trekked with some people over the Thorung La who carried 22kgs each of trekking gear and wore crampons because they thought that was what you were supposed to do. In fact their crampons were poorly fitted and came off, balled up a lot and obviously added considerable weight to their feet. They also kept catching them on the legs of their trousers. Crampons were totally unnecessary on that day and in fact were a liability, they would have been far safer without them. Sound judgement and knowledge of where and when to use things is much more important than having all the gear.

    As for getting up to and onto the glacier, when I was there it was very, very easy. As before, this was from the Gokyo side in good conditions in March 2004.

    In this picture behind the guy on the left there is a short 30 degree slope, only a few metres long, where you go up to the get to the top of the glacier. The top of the snow in the middle of the picture is the top of the glacier where the gentle slope in the next picture begins. There were no crevasses of any significance whatsoever. Of any they were an inch or two wide. There is nowhere here, in those conditions, where I would have used a rope, crampons or axe or needed to. The only problem I had was negelecting to put enough sun block on my face and frying my nose 30 seconds after stepping onto the glacier!

    From here you just follow the glacier down on a gentle slope, almost straight down the middle. Just aim a little left of the gap where the trail goes (as in where it leaves the glacier and aims towards Ama Dablam) on the flat part of the snow towards the bottom end of the nearest ridge coming down from the left. I am sure you can work out where you should go from that picture. We just walked in a straight line from where we are in that picture until the end. It was all very obvious on that day. From memory the glacier was only 500-750m long.

    Please add your gear list to this thread You should be commended for getting that amount of gear down to that total weight. That is quite impressive and speaks volumes on the experience that you obviously have.

    I think all who have contributed the hints and tips thread to it have provided some very useful information . Does anyone know if there is any way we could make this a sticky thread or add it to an FAQ section?


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Default Cho la pass

    Thought id put my pennys worth in as i have done the cho la pass!!

    We did it from periche, the time of year mid April 04. From Periche, it was a fairly long day mostly up hill in the fog to a lodge, cant remember the name of the lodge but it felt very remote. we camped there.

    I had a bit of an experience with a suspected monster/alien here!

    During the night i got woken up by a loud growling noise and what sounded like thunder just outside the tent, i laid there for a bit listnening, my heart beating really fast as i was so scared of whatever it was trampling on me in the night. I wanted to look out to see what it was, but was too scared in case it was the Yeti, it sounded so ferocious... I asked John to go and have a look but he wouldnt and turned over and went back to sleep, i just couldnt believe that he did that. After a bit i must of gone back to sleep, but when i got out of the tent in the morning the mess everywhere, you just wouldnt believe it. Bodies everywhere.... no actually just rubbish where the stupid Yaks had been diving into the provisions most of the night!!!!

    I have detoured here a bit so back to the trek!

    This day was the day to go over the pass, it was a very hot day so needed to drink even more, the walk itself was not too bad, stopped and had rests on the way, but not for too long as it was a long day ahead of us. Got to the up hill bit which included a bit of a scramble but nothing major, have done lots worse. Got to the glacier at the top, and you needed your sunglasses at the top that was for sure, it was so bright, the snow was melting and there was nothing hard about it, not that i remember anyway.

    The other side was a bit of a challenge for your knees, it took me ages to get to the bottom, the rocks were enormous and it looked a long way down, on the way down i felt really tired and thought what am i doing i hate this place, but it was just exhaustion getting to me.

    When we finally got to the bottom we were very lucky that our crew had lunch ready and so i ate that and laid there for about 1 hour to recover. I actually thought we were going to camp there the night and when i found out we were carrying on up over the top and back down to the next valley i thought, oh god, as by this time it was 2.30pm.

    It was a slog up that next hill, not that it was particulary steep, but we had already been walking 6 hours, we got down in to the next valley and lodge at about 5pm absolutley shattered, and that night our cook who was cooking for us in the lodge was drunk and the dinner was... well we couldnt eat it, so had coconut biscuits instead, and i wanted to eat as well!

    Then of course it was over the glacier to Gokyo, that was amazing, really good, the best place ever. Actually while we were there it snowed for 3 days, and people coming over the Cho lo pass got into some real difficulties. So you know, if i can do the Cho la pass, then im sure most people can. My pack was actually quite heavy as i carried a bit more water as there were no tea houses on the way.

    Id do it again, and probably enjoy it more as i know what to expect. Apprehension always makes u a bit tense, which can in itself make you tired.

    Just hope you dont get lots of snow, because your feet can get pretty wet and cold if you dont have the right foot wear. Hope you enjoy it.


  9. #9

    Default reply to yHello

    Reading your posting it sounds like you plan to take way too much equipment with you to do Cho La. No need for tents, ice axes, ropes, food, etc. The trail is great even in heavy snow. If you are any kind of an experienced mountaineer you'd have no problem. Being teahouse trekking there are lodges and food all along the way on a very decent path. Why would you want to lug a tent? Especially at that altitude. Have fun, happy trails to you but seriously consider forgetting a lot of equipment you think you need to drag up to a high alttitude situation. It will get real heavy after a week or so.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    ha ha. you are missing the point. We WANT to use the tent. Why sleep in a drafty lodge? It's what we love doing in the mountains.

    We will hopefully be spending several days far away from the trails. THEN cross Cho La. Plus, during monsoon we heard many of the lodges up high are closed.

    We camped all last summer in the Indian Himalayas. I must say that it is the only way to see the mountains. Find your own spot, set up camp, and fall asleep knowing you are at the mercy of nature and your own knowledge. Slowly waking up at 4500m with the sun caressing the icecrystals off your tent or a thunderstorm waking you up in the middle of the night letting you hear life in true stereo! Sometimes sticking your head out and starting tea, only to realize your "exotic off the path spot" is right behind an outpost you didn't see the night before.

    It's the same reason people climb mountains. Not because they have to, just because it's there. Sure you can use all the fascilities and porters and guides and so forth. But then it sort of loses its appeal to me. We love being on our own. But you make a good point for those who want to see the sights with the least bit of hassle. It's not like we make it easier


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