Climbing Mt. Cho Oyu-Interview with mountaineer Azim Afif on his Cho Oyu Climbing Expedition

Azim Afif

Azim Afif is a mountaineer and climbed Cho Oyu in late 2014. This year he is planning for Mt. Everest. Climbing is his passion. We were so fortunate to have a talk with him regarding climbing in general and climbing Cho Oyu.

1. How did you start climbing and what inspired you to first give it a try?
I fell in love with hiking and climbing during my studies. I started out with Mt. Kinabalu (4,095 m) in Sabah, Malaysia. I decided that much more should come, as Kinabalu was a fantastic experience.

Climbing helps me to get to know myself also in extreme situations. It is not the mountain that I conquer when climbing. It is myself I conquer.

2. When did you climb Cho Oyu and what made you climb Cho Oyu?
I climbed Cho Oyu from August till October 2014. I summited Cho Oyu on 28 September 2014. I decided to climb Cho Oyu as very few Malaysian people have summited that mountain, compared with e.g. Mt. Everest. Climbing Cho Oyu was thus an attempt to inspire more Malaysians to climb new mountains.

3. Per our data 43 people have so far died on Cho Oyu. What is it that makes you want to climb despite all the risks associated with climbing?
I believe death is the nearest things to all humans whether on the mountain or in a shopping mall. I choose to climb because I like it. Death might as well occur in the shopping mall, as on the mountain.

4. What is considered the hardest part of climbing Cho Oyu, and when was your hardest moment at the mountain?
When reading about climbing Cho Oyu you can find that it is one of the easier +8.000 meter mountains to climb. However, do not be mistaken, no +8,000 meter mountains are easy.
When climbing a mountain you move up and down the mountain to get higher, and to acclimatize. The camp sites are not close to each other. The days of getting from one campsite to another are thus extremely tough.

One of the hardest moments faced on the mountain was being hit by a second degree frostbite on one of my fingers and several toes. Frostbites hurts like H*ll and I was only treated for it at Camp 3, high up the mountain (Azim has fortunately today fully recovered from the frostbites he sustained).

5. Any advice to when (experience and learning-wise) a person can attempt climbing Cho Oyu? How much experience is required?
All climbers need to know everything about climbing, including knowledge on frostbites, snow blindness and emergency situations. People need to have summited +6,000 meter mountains before attempting higher mountains. On every climbing expedition you acquire new learning. Every piece of new learning will help you to ultimately climb a +8,000 meter mountain. I’d also always recommend to attend professional climbing courses also.


7. What do people misunderstand most in terms of climbing?
For sure, what most people misunderstand when it comes to climbing is that they think they HAVE to reach the peak. That is wrong. Reaching the summit and the peak is optional. Going down again is, however, CUMPULSORY. Not getting this right might make the mountain conquer you. Safety first. Fun and excitement afterwards.

8. Everest has been so frequently climbed, commercialized, and, some would even say, turned into a circus. Is Everest worth it anymore for a serious climber?
In this world, most people will only want and see the highest and tallest. Despite some climbers already having climbed K2 (which is far harder and much more dangerous than Mt. Everest!!!), people still ask them, so when will you climb Mt. Everest?
For me personally, Everest has its own beauty and despite all its commercialization, it’s still worth climbing for a serious climber.

I believe in that its worthwhile summiting Mt. Everest only after having summited another +8,000 mountain. This will enhance the experience and reinforce the impression that you are not another ‘rich tourist’ climbing the mountain.

9. What are the first things mountaineers usually do after a monumental climb?
For me, the first things I do is to thank God at the peak. Western people have champagne and celebrate. For me, as a Muslim, I have cake and eat all I possibly can ☺

10. Any new climbing plans in 2015?
I will be back March till June 2014 to climb Mt. Everest. 2014 was a dark you for that mountain, me 2015 be our in your favour.

Azim Afif, 26 years old.

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