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Hikers Embrace Mother Nature

Posted October. 18, 2008 09:12,   


Mountains have allowed me to discover my talent. Had I not met mountains, I would not have been able to meet many of the precious people who have showered me with encouragement and support.

Climbers say, “I do the rock,” rather than, “I climb the rock,” because for them, rock climbing makes them one with the mountain.

Alpine climbing is no different. They see it as an opportunity to embrace Mother Nature rather than to conquer the highest peak.

Oct. 12. After departing from Camp 2, we head for Camp 4 via Camp 3. Breathing is hoarse, legs feel like lead, and my heart is about to burst. But I like this feeling.

We are 7,400 meters above sea level. The wind picks up even more as it gets darker. Oct. 13, 3:40 a.m. I, Captain Kim Jae-su, and three Sherpas walk out of a tent at Camp 4, which is the last one. The wind is fierce.

My fingers are numb as I attach climbing irons to my triple-layer hiking boots. My hands, fingers and nose are freezing at 7,600 meters above sea level. It is unbearable. I have to turn back as I don’t want to harm my precious body given to me by my parents. As I return to Camp 4, the blasting wind relentlessly hits our tent as if desperate to tear it apart. For the whole day, all we eat is hot water as we forgot to bring instant soup and tea.

Oct. 14, 7:10 a.m. One Sherpa feels sick so he heads for his village. We and two Sherpas set out against the gust.

No matter how much technology has advanced, no device can completely protect hikers from coldness at a height exceeding 7,000 meters above sea level. Every time I take a break, I clap my hands and hit my thighs. But it doesn’t help much. The sun is high up the sky, but it is overwhelmingly freezing. The only food I have is some candy. I calculate how long it will take for us to reach the peak as I melt the last piece of candy in my mouth. It will take about an hour. The summit is right in front of my eyes, but we cannot move any faster.

We have not brought oxygen for this expedition. I open the mouth as much as possible to get more air. As I gasp for air, I feel like a fish flapping on the ground. At this height, the amount of oxygen in the air decreases to 30 percent of that on the sea surface. I am out of breath. I cannot walk more than five steps at once.

2:40 p.m. Finally I reach the peak. I greet Captain Kim, who arrived there before me. I have to say something to the camcorder, but I cannot open my mouth. I barely manage to say, “This is the peak of Manaslu. It’s really splendid.” I was curious what would come across my mind if I set my feet on the peak before climbing the mountain. But now, all I can think of is “I want to go down as soon as possible.”

I start to climb down the peak after burying the pictures of my fellow hikers who died on K2 this summer. The joy of climbing to the top is too short. Above the clouds, other peaks floats like islands. It is magnificent and beautiful. Finally, it is time to take a rest and it is blissful.