Confessions of a Scaredy Cat on Top of Cho La Pass
Is crossing Cho La Pass dangerous ? You bet it is.That’s me with the worried look on my face on top of Cho La Pass (5368metres / 17,611 feet). I’d made it to the top with a lot of help from our porter guide, I was still anxious. And scared. All I wanted was to get off the top and safely to our lodge in Dzongla for the night before weather set in. I could include a bucket load of expletives here but I haven’t, I’ll just let you imagine them. Lots of them.
My husband took the photo and managed to get a smile out of me eventually. I wasn’t feeling too charitable towards him and had told him so earlier in the morning after we walked out of Thangnak. Just before I had my first ever panic attack. Not bad since it wasn’t the first time he had taken me out of my comfort zone. This time took the cake.
Saying I worry too much is a bit of an understatement. From a young age I had a keen sense of my own mortality. As a child, being in a head on car collision and later a narrow miss with a runaway speed boat didn’t help the cause. For me it spelt out “it can happen to you too.”
It was my husband’s idea to trek in Nepal. He had trekked the apple pie circuit in the Anna Purna area in Nepal the 1980s. He loved it and had talked about taking our daughters as young children.This never happened.Then in 2013 the plan was to trek with them as adults but it improved impossible to coordinate everyone’s various work commitments to find dates when everyone was available. In the end my husband decided to go anyway and I didn’t want to get left home worrying about him, so I went even though I was really scared about it.
Just what was I scared about?
I was terrified I would die somehow. I was worried I would
- fly to Lukla and crash into the side of a mountain and die,
- get lost and freeze to death,
- break an ankle on the side of the mountain, be stranded and freeze to death,
- get robbed and killed,
- get knocked off the side of the mountain by a yak and die
- fall off the side of the mountain and die
- be caught in a rock fall and die
so what did happen on the way to base camp?
On our first trek in 2013 I got a rash. Yes a rash. Because I thought the rash was cellulitis (a bacterial skin infection which can kill you) we turned back at Shomare or Somare. Had we been trekking with a porter guide instead of totally independently things may have turned out differently. We decided to return in 2015 and try again and this time we made it to EBC and Kala Patthar. I wasn’t worried about any of the things on the list above. I had a different list with just two dot points. Landslides and another earthquake.
Last year in September/October 2018 my husband wanted to trek to Gokyo a destination I was happy about. But he also wanted to go over Cho La Pass which I was definitely not happy about. I tried to talk him out of the idea. This time bullet points number two and number seven were high on my worry list. Rock falls at Cho La Pass are a real possibility as is freezing to death on top if the weather comes in.
what is the climb like to the top of cho la pass?
The next photo below really puts a bit of perspective on the climb. Click on the photo and it will open up so you can see people climbing about a third of the way up. Every picture tells a story as they say.
Climbing this area was down right dangerous. Anyone who tells you differently is in denial. Climbing Cho La Pass made going to Everest Base Camp and climbing Kala Patthar put together seem like a picnic. And the thing is you don’t have a choice. If you start out you need to keep going. You just want to get over the Pass and down on the other side which is also dangerous and make it safely to your lodge to sleep. We trekked for ten and half hours on that day. We stopped for the briefest lunch on top of the Pass as it is so cold up there.
A woman recently asked me whether I was really scared because I went anyway. Yes I was scared about the idea of climbing over Cho La Pass. Really scared. Why did I go? I would follow that Trainer anywhere. Well almost. And clearly, I didn’t get my She – Lion on enough before we left Australia, when I argued constantly that I did not want to climb Cho La Pass because it sounded dangerous. I should have bared my teeth a bit more.
And yes we made it all the way safely and now I’m back home in Melbourne, writing about our third trek in the Everest Base Camp region. I can tell you we won’t be climbing Cho La Pass again nor trying our luck with Renjo and definitely not Kong Ma the other two of the three passes in the region either. However our love affair with trekking in Nepal continues and a fourth trek to another region is on the cards. We are addicted to Nepal.
Does anyone know the name of the animal on the side of the stupa?
My next post will be Day 1 and 2 from Lukla to Namche Bazaar as we trekked with our porter guide. I will revisit this climb and the whole of Day 10 as it unfolded from Thangnak, over Cho La Pass and to Dzongla in detail in another post but in order of the days as we trekked. Hope this is taster for you to following our journey.
- 5 October 2018
- Cho La Height : 5368metres / 17,611 feet