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Climbers to Challenge Everest`s Deadly Western Cliff

Posted May. 09, 2009 17:31,   


“I will conquer the peak at any cost.”

Park Young-seok, 46, head of a Korean expedition team about to climb Mount Everest, has expressed a strong commitment to success. His contingent developed a Korean route on the southwestern wall of the world’s tallest mountain April 29. The team became the first from Korea to step on the southwestern cliff of Everest after developing a new route on the southwestern wall, a vertical cliff which is 2,000 meters tall.

The sole remaining task for the expedition is to conquer the peak. Park said he had a special feeling. He said, “When I saw the southwestern wall of Mount Everest for the first time in 1991, I pledged to myself that I will conquer the mountain via the southeastern wall without fail in the future. I attained the Adventure Grand Slam (scaling 14 mountains of the Himalayas, the highest mountains on the seven continents, and visiting the North and South Pole) in 2005, but the southwestern wall has remained an unfinished agenda.”

He said he feels ashamed whenever he climbs a mountain in the Himalayas. “I climbed mountains only through routes developed by other climbers. I only focused on conquering peaks because I had this goal of achieving the Adventure Grand Slam,” he said.

He has had a bad relationship with the southwestern wall of Everest. He attempted in vain to climb it in 1991 and 1993 with other teams and in 2007 as the head of an expedition team. In the process, his colleagues Nam Won-woo and Ahn Jin-sup were killed in 1993, and Oh Hee-joon and Lee Hyeon-jo suffered the same fate in 2007.

Park also ruptured a calf in his left leg while trying to develop a route at a point 7,600 meters above sea level April 25. He put on a plaster bandage and waited the day to take up the challenge again.

“I`ll climb up even if my calf is ruptured,” Park said. “I`ve been waiting since 2007. I`ve built a good and bad relationship with the southwestern wall. It`s about time I concluded the relationship.

The expedition team departed from the base camp (5,364 meters high) and reached Camp 2 (6,500 meters) Wednesday. After resting a day, four expedition team members and a Sherpa moved to Camp 3 (7,350 meters) and Camp 4 (7,800 meters). The team will move up to Camp 5 (8,400 meters) today before climbing to the peak around dawn tomorrow.

If the expedition proceeds smoothly, the team will likely reach Everest`s peak at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Members opened a path on the southwestern wall, but must pass through the western cliff to get to the top. The western cliff is quite a challenge to climb, however.

Only two expedition teams have conquered the peak via the western cliff -- one from Yugoslavia in 1979 and the other from Russia in 1982. Most members of the two teams, however, had their legs amputated due to frostbite.

The Korean contingent has taken on a challenge to overcome the “hellish” track for the first time in decades. “The western cliff is an uncharted route,” Park said.

“We can conquer the peak in five hours from Camp 5, or the trip could take as long as 12 hours. Whatever happens, we won`t back down.”