Cholatse is a stunning peak with narrow snow and ice ridges and steep faces. It is on the ridge separating the Gokyo and Khumbu valleys, just north of Taboche and just south of a 5420 meter pass used by Sherpas and trekers alike to go between the Gokyo and Khumbu valleys. Interestingly, there is a lake just below this pass to the east, and in Tibetan 'cho' is lake, 'la' is pass, and 'tse' is peak so Cholatse means literally "lake pass peak". Unlike many mountains, there is no easy way to reach or descend from its summit, so any climb of the mountain is a serious mountaineering undertaking.
Through the 1950's 60's and 70's, Everest, Ama Dablam and the other named peaks of the Khumbu were climbed on by one but no permits were granted for Cholatse, so it remained unclimbed until 1982 when it was infact the last named but unclimbed peak in the Khumbu. In that year, Al Read from Mountain Travel secured a permit for the peak. In April of that year, Vern Clevenger, John Roskelley, Galen Rowell and Bill O'Connor reached the summit via the South West Ridge. The climb was described as some twenty pitches of difficult ice climbing.
Later that same year, a Swiss expedition with Heidi Ludi, Niklause Alpiger and the Nepelese climber Kancha Tamang reached the summit after fixing ropes on much of the South East Ridge. The following year, the startling North East face was climbed by Todd Bibler, Catherine Freer, Penny Jackson and Sandy Stewart. At a slide show, Bibler, who had waltzed up the Eiger's North Face on an earlier European trip implied that the climb was quite scary (VI AI5 5.9 A2). It wasn't until many years later that Tomaz Humar, Aleš Koželj and Janko Oprešnik made the 2nd ascent of the NE face of Cholatse with a new variation on 23 April 2005. Several additional lines have been climbed including the prominent Western Rib of the West Face and the long corniced North West Ridge. During 2005 a number of variations of the North-East and North Face climbs were achieved including the first Winter Ascent of the North Face by the Koreans Park Jung-hun and Choi Kang-sik who were unfortunately both significantly injured by frostbite following an accident on the descent from the summit. Ueli Steck made a solo ascent of the north face including a direct finish in a 37 hour push from base camp with a single bivouac on the face. He reports the difficulty as "rock to F5, ice to 90 degrees, and M6 terrain noting the climb was similar in difficulty to the north face of the Eiger. He was named as one of Europe's three best alpinists by "Climb!" magazine as a result of this climb and that of neighboring Tawoche.
The mountain has not been climbed by commerciGenerally people intending to climb Cholatse fly to Kathmandu where additional supplies and food can be picked up, permits dealt with, and several days of sightseeing can easily fill several days.
Cholatse itself is between the Khumbu and Gokyo valleys, so which valley you go up depends upon the route intended. Some of the routes from the Khumbu side are extreme, while the Gokyo side offers a couple more moderate options. I will describe a possible itinerary to reach the western base camp because that is the one I am more familiar with.
Day 1: Fly to Lukla, walk up the Dudh Kosi gorge for a few hours that afternoon. One observation we found was not to filter the river water as the silt quickly clogs the filter. Use water from a clearer tributary instead.
Day 2: Continue up the gorge, crossing the river a couple times. Eventually, climb a steep hill with the first possible views to Mt. Everest. Finish the day in Namche Bazar. (I am using spellings in the upper towns here as written in the Khumbu Himal 1:50.000 map referenced below.)
Days 3 and 4: Acclimate in Namche. There are some spectacular early morning views of Mt. Everest from the slopes surrounding town. Often by mid morning mists obscure the views, though.
Day 5: Leave Namche on the trail to Mt. Everest. If you are climbing a route on the Eastern or Northern side of the peak you will continue on this trail for several days to the town of Pheriche. To do this, at Sanasa, turn right and descend down to cross the Dudh Kosi River before ascending steeply to Tengpoche. From here it would probably be about two more days up the valley to your base camp. If you are climbing a western route, near the town of Khumjung, take the trail that climbs steeply up and over a 3973 meter shoulder of Khumbui Yul Lha then descends steeply to the small hamlet of Phortse Drangka. There are spectacular views of Ama Dablam this day if the weather is clear.
Day 6: Climb steeply up and out of the trees and lush fields into the higher alpine zone around Dole. Continue along a more level path to Machhermo to spend the night. Legend has it that in the early 1970's, yeti came down into this town and attacked a couple yak, so be on the lookout for this elusive creature. There are also spectacular views of Kyajo Ri on the west side of the valley and the first views of Cholatse to the east side if the weather is clear.
Day 7: Continue up the valley, but instead of going toward Gokyo, take a spur path across the river to Na. From here, work up first trails then open slopes to reach the base camp in the flat fields of the valley above Ganglha. The base camp is on the left side of the valley right where an old lateral moraine dips down into the flat valley floor. This is a beautiful place with clear running water and a spectacular view of Cholatse, the surrounding peaks and a row of sharp spires on the ridge just to the north.
From here, it is recommended to acclimate for 5 - 7 days while you investigate the route on the lower glacier, etc. prior to a summit attempt.
There are a couple other options for approach. There is an airstrip above Namche that some use. This would cut out a day or two of approach but you would want to add the time in acclimating anyways. A third option, and one often used for the bulk of the supplies and equipment is to take a vehicle to Jiri and then walk in through the beautiful Nepalese hill country, over a series of high passes and deep lush valleys to reach Namche. This is a spectacular hike and well worth considering for either going into or coming out of the mountains.
al companies and none of the routes to the summit have been ascended more than a few