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A Friendship Forms at 7,000 Meters High

Posted July. 30, 2005 03:06,   


People are finding the struggle of the Korean expedition to the Rupal Wall on Nanga Parbat to rescue a wounded team member touching and dramatic.

The expedition has succeeded in conquering the summit of the Rupal Wall (4500m) on Nanga Parbat (8125m) in the Himalayas for the first time in 35 years on July 14. The summit is at such a height that it is considered to be beyond the reach of humans. When they arrived at Incheon International Airport in the morning on July 29, their story of having desperately struggled to save an injured member of their team was finally known.

The members of the expedition made their first attempt to reach the top of the Rupal Wall at 11:00 a.m. on June 26. Four summit attackers on the team, including Kim Mi-gon (33), Song Hyeong-geun (33) and Joo Woo-pyeong (33) finished putting fix ropes up to the 7,550m point. It was about 500m away from the peak. Then a huge boulder rolled down along the slope from the peak. Kim, who was closest to the summit among the four, was hit on the top of his left foot and right shoulder by the boulder, though the other three managed to escape the danger. The top of Kim’s left foot was broken and his right shoulder was numb after the accident. It was very hard for him to move.

Kim recalled the critical moment, saying, “I couldn’t move my left leg and right arm. So I thought I would never make it. And I didn’t want to put other expedition members in danger when another boulder might come down. I tried to untie myself from the seil.”

At that moment, Song Hyeong-geun, who was tied to Kim, shouted, “We are here together and we are going down together,” to stop Kim from cutting his rope. Other climbers joined their hands to rescue Kim.

First, they had to retreat to the nearest camp, Camp Four (7,150m). But it was a challenge to climb down the 70-degree icy slope, reportedly the steepest in the world, with a nearly immobilized person. The expedition team tied Kim to the seil and slowly lifted him down. It took six hours to move 400m.

After getting to the camp site, there was another problem of transferring Kim to a safe place. Kim Ju-hyeong, Park Sang-hun and Kim Chang-ho, the expedition’s second attack group who were staying at Camp Two (6,090m) heard about Kim’s injuries and climbed up to Camp Four to help. After three days, Kim was able to reach Camp One (4,900m). He was sent to the base camp (3,560m) and then to a hospital in a nearby city by car.

Lee Sung-won (45), the expedition leader, said, “We put saving our team member before the expedition. I am happy that the expedition was successful.”

Sung-Kyu Kim kimsk@donga.com