We did it!!! Up until today we have been questioning our ability to get our bodies and backpacks over Cho La pass. Every guide we have talked to along the way to Gokyo raised their eyebrows when we said we were doing the trip without a guide and porter. Their reactions to our plan kind of freaked us both out but we also saw a few pairs of travelers pass us going the opposite direction who completed the pass without guides and porters. So we decided to take the risk and challenge and now we are sitting in a warm lodge in the village of Dzongla (4830 m/15,842') with an incredible view of Ama Dablam (6856 m/22,487').
We left this morning very early because this section of our trek is long and doesn't have any tea houses along the way for help or food. The temperature was well below freezing making it hard to stay warm even though we were climbing. We followed many snow cocks which are birds that remind me of Colorado's ptarmigan but larger.
We summited a "minor" pass which gave us a good look at the real deal pass we needed to haul our butts up! We actually were dumbfounded by what we were looking at because it looked impassible! So we looked at our map thinking we were looking at the wrong saddle but we soon realized that somehow we had to get up what looked like a vertical wall of rock. As we approached the wall we started to see contours of rockslabs and boulders. So we decided that instead of taking the entire pass on all at once, we were going to take it on by segments and just worry about getting from one cairn to the next before looking further on. We climbed on steep rock slabs, scree (really loose small rocks), and huge boulders. Balance and tenacity were essential!
After about four hours of climbing we gained the pass. Wow! It was an entirely new view of mountains and the glacier we needed to cross.
The hard work was not done because we had to get on the glacier (which is steep) and then cross it without crampons. Then we had to start the painful journey down a similarly steep rock face we climbed on the way up. You may think I am crazy but I would rather climb a mountain twice than go down once. My 90 year old right knee screams at me with every step but luckily I am well equipped with Aleve and hiking poles!
The views of Cholatse and Ama Dablam were incredibly dramatic and made it hard to keep an eye on our footing. It's best to stop to gaze at the memorizing peaks!
A few hours later we were sitting at our lodge sipping a hot cup of milk tea with panoramic views of a ton of new peaks including Cholhatse and Ama Dablam!
Our one step at a time approach really paid off just like taking small bites of a steak! That kind of works for pretty much everything in life!