Cho Oyu Journal //

Dispatch 9 : 22/09/2005 //

Zed Al Refai summitted Cho Oyu (8201 m) at 13:50 Beijing time. Now, he is in camp 3 and trying to make it to camp 1.


Dispatch 8 : 21/09/2005 //

"We're at high camp (7400 m) and ready for summit push tonight. Inshallah. Team is not feeling very good due to high winds. We expect slight drop later on otherwise a message from top."

Thanks and best regards


Dispatch 7 : 18/09/2005 //

It has been a long time since you heard some news from me.

The human body is not supposed to function at high altitude, let alone my laptop. The highest human settlement is about 5000m in South America and I don't think they have internet connection there. My laptop has been misbehaving and hence, the lack of communication. But thanks to HIMEX backup infrastructure, that allows me to send this journal. We have now finalized our acclimatisation program and are resting at Advanced Base Camp (5700m). I have been suffering from bronchitis, commonly known here as 'khumbu cough', because of the dry air at this altitude. We have been to the 'ice cliff' which is a huge cornice between Camp 1 & 2, at about 7000m. It gave us a sense of the route that lies ahead. The mountain is getting very popular with so many climbers wanting to have an 8000m peak under the belt. Russell estimates that there are about 300 climbers on the mountain. The weather has been cold and miserable as expected, because we are shifting seasons from the monsoon to the winter.

I ran into my old good friend Kinji Kundo, a well known Japanese guide and climber. I climbed Vinson Massif in Antarctica with him 2 years ago. He came over to our tent to use Russell's satellite to send email and he gave us some Japanese treats (which I consumed on the spot, before Russell had the chance to get at them!).

Our members are in great form. However, Francoise our 55 year old female dentist has decided to call it quits, and she will wait for us down here, while we go for the summit.

All big expedition leaders (Alpine Ascents, Henry Todd's, North Face and Us) met here as we celebrated Patrick's 56th birthday. They  all discussed their plans for the summit push 'weather permitting'. Weather forecast favours the 23rd as our summit day "Inshallah". So this means that we head back up the mountain for the final summit push the day after tomorrow (20th Sept). The good news about this plan, is that we will be one of the first teams up, leaving room for the busy crowd to follow our trail (some teams are still arriving, as the case with my Japanese friend Kundo).

Prior to arrival at Camp 1, you have to go up an ugly scree slope over 400 meters which is an exhausting task and mind ***********. It reminds me of my nightmare on Aconcagua. I shared a tent with Phuba Tashi (10 times Everest summit and he's only 34 years old). He is the same Sherpa who short-roped me on my descent from the summit of Everest after going a snow-blind.

Expedition life can really take its toll. We are running out of books to read, and things to talk about. Many miss their loved ones at home. I have to initiate some discussion with my climbing mates to keep things interesting. Topics range from world political views to aboriginal rights in Australia.

It's the waiting game now. If I could invent an acclimatization pill that takes the human body from see level to 8000 peaks, I'd be a rich man! It would save a lot of sitting around.

I hope to send another journal before the summit push, if not I will notify Mr.Zubair at our control centre in Dubai by Sat phone & or text updates of the summit progress.

Till again



Sunday 18 September 2005 Cho Oyu ABC 5700 meters


Dispatch 6 : 04/09/2005 //


Finally, we left Lhasa after the third day of seeing so many temples and monestary's and monks. We headed to Xigatse which is the second largest town in Tibet and it was the former home of an important Lama - Altitude 3860m). The drive was all on paved roads - and even though we criticise the Chinese, they have done an amazing job with the roads, bridges and planting trees all the way. It makes you wonder what they are getting out of Tibet.

The drive to Tingiri was not so great because of the major road works that are taking place. They are building a highway all the way to Everest Base Camp. It took us over 12 hours to drive 300km. It was incredible to see the way they were building the roads all by hand. Very difficult at this altitude.Sadly, we had to say goodbye to the South African team that were travelling with us. They stopped at Zegar (New Tingiri), to head off to climb Lakhpa Ri (7045m). We enjoyed their company, and they were wonderful people that made us change our minds about South Africans! They were nearly all in the medical field, so we had many interesting conversations about the effects of altitude. Personally, I had entertaining conversations with Mike, the vet. He warned me about my two dogs (a german shepard and a staffy). He thinks in less than a year, they will eat each other. I hope not before I get back - as I nearly cancelled the expedition when i heard this news! Nevertheless, all conversations were equally interesting.

We arrived in Tingiri after dark. The altitude here is 4340m. It resembles a small town in the wild west in the 19th Century. One Barber, a brothel, general store, blacksmith, and horse carriages tied up down the street. Today we are resting and acclimatising. Jenny and Francoise went to have their hair washed, and Stewart got his head shaved (with Gillette razor blade). Jan went out for a walk and we haven't seen him since - we'll check the brothel later on :)

Russell and the Sherpas are already at Base Camp, setting up for our arrival tomorrow.

Normally, you can see Everest from Tingiri, but it is now raining heavily (with a bit of hail), and we are all inside resting. Jenny is helping me to type this email, as it would have taken me 3 days in order to finish it!

Next news from Base Camp - Inshallah.


4th September 2005


Dispatch 5 : 04/09/2005 //

Tashi delek ( hello in Tibetan )

It's my third visit to Tibet and it has changed so much that i couldn't recognise many places that i've seen before. China has spent so much money to devolop the Tibetan capital.It is the 40th anniversary of the Tibetan autonomous state. (when China "annexed" Tibet). Celebrations are everywhere and "The POTALA Palace" the Dalai Lama's winter palace is closed due to government officials' ceremony.We managed to snap some pictures of the monastery which was build over 8 centuries ago.

So,instead, we went to another monastery called "DREPUNG" which was build even way before the potala.There were more beggers than i've seen in the previous trips. I guess it was the amount of tourisim and pilgrims alike on the rise, all asked for tips when i started filming and they have tariff list as well.

We were joined by some South African expedition members planning to climb a 7000 meter peak near Changste in Rongbuk Vally ( Everest Region ) called Lhakpa Ri. Both times i visited tibet were in spring and it was so cold and dry.
Potala will be closed tomorrow, so we are planning to hike in the green mountains ( for now ) before we head to Shegatzi on friday Inshallah.


31 August 2005


Dispatch 4 : 28/08/2005 //


Tested communication equipments ( Provided by Inmarsat on behalf of Gillette ) along with Thuraya Sat Phone ( provided by xsat ) which is really confusing,i don't know which wire goes into which socket,however,i managed to text on Thuraya and email the my "AMAC Center" in Dubai after reading the the simple "easy steps"reference manual,Yeppeeeeee.

On the other hand, All this will be put to test when we leave Kathmandu to Lhasa. Altitude effects not only humans but does it to comm. equipments too.So,if you don't hear from me then i will be posting letters thru postmans i guess.

I hope you got this email ( Inshallah )


28 August 2005


Dispatch 3 : 27/08/2005 //

Namaste (Hi in Nepalese),

All well and in order.

I was recieved by the Hon. Umesh K.Singh (Under Secretary Of Ministry Of Culture,Tourism & Civil Aviation) accompanyed by his Section Officer Mr.Rajendra Dev Pandey.

We discussed several matters and plans for future expedition to the Mecca of Mountaineering and heaven to all trekkers & adventurers alike the Kingdom of Nepal.

Mr Bikrum Pandey of Himalaya Expeditions attended the meeting.

All team members arrived. Small group of climbers this time which is un commen for Russell Brice's Expeditions( we wont give him hard time and would be easy to control.


27 August 2005


Dispatch 2 : 26/08/2005 //


Packing equipments and stuffing Gillette's barrels took all night long, 7 weeks trip require lots of stuff,no one wants to run out of tooth paste or toillet rolls half way through the expedition.One thing for sure that we'll not run short of razor blades :) Anyway,all done at the end.

So,no sleep yet,I'll save it all up for the climb we need to acclimitize."As per my climbing tradition"; my hair dyed blond.All batterries charged.

Checked in at Abu Dhabi Airport with more than 150 kg (I took lots of honey,olive oil,and some goodies from home)
Plane nearly empty,due to some electrical problems with no A.C. or entertaiment program(very wierd )they boarded 70 with a capacity of 275 passenger, We all sat in the back of the aircraft and all staff trying hard to keep a smile on thier faces.


26 August 2005


Dispatch 1 : 25/08/2005 //

The more I climb the more I find out I don't know much.

No one ever mention to me or to others that preparing for a climb is much HARDER than the climb it self.

I don't really know where to start. Thanks to Gillette ME & Impact- Porter Novelli PR for helping me out to set up this expedition from clothing to communication stuff etc etc or I would've still be browsing the internet for vacation somewhere like Bora Bora Tahiti I guess

It didn't take awhile to decide on climbing Cho Oyu.

First and mainly ,I GOT SPONSORS :)

Second, timing was perfect ,starting end of summer ( I don't go to school so I don't have to worry going back to it anyway) and ending just with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan,that makes the timing really ideal since you can't climb BIG MOUNTAINS any time you want,it must be in the climbing season for each particular mountain.

Third , Russell Brice is organizing this expedition,and since I climbed with him my successful Everest and my successful Matterhorn ( both I failed on previous attempts with other guides) it gave some kind of confidence and re-assuring that matters would go smooth Inshallah (God's willing in Arabic).

Fourth, I love the out door and the mountain climbing.

Last but not least, my Parents agreed ( I promised mother to quit climbing and lied again). I could take the time off as well ,since starting to set up AMAC ( Arabian Mountaineering & Alpine Climbing Club here ( Middle East ) Which will give me more insider look than before in organizing expedition for the future.

Upon departure to Kathmandu
Dubai 25 August 2005