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Rejection of Mountaineer’s `Record`

Posted August. 28, 2010 12:38,   


Korean mountaineers have rejected the record claimed by Oh Eun-sun as the world’s first woman to conquer the 14 highest Himalayan peaks in April. This is what seven Korean climbers who conquered the peak of Kanchenjunga (8,586 meters) concluded in their joint review. They say they could not see Kanchenjunga in the picture that Oh said she took atop the peak, adding her explanation on how she conquered the mountain lacks credibility. Oh’s feat has been recognized, however, by Italian climber Reinhold Messner, 66, who was the first person to conquer the 14 peaks; Elizabeth Holy of the U.S., 86, known as the de facto certifier of Himalayan hiking records; and Spanish alpinist Edurne Pasaban, 36, who conquered the 14 peaks in May after competing against Oh to become the world’s first woman to do so.

Even excluding Oh, Korea has three climbers who have conquered the 14 peaks, the most in the world. The country has made astonishing strides in global mountaineering due to “ruthless competition” among Korean climbers. Eom Hong-gil became the first Korean to scale the 14 peaks in 2000, barely beating his younger rival Park Wang-seok. Eom, however, climbed Lotze and Shishapangma again in 2001 due to doubts over whether he properly scaled the peaks. Certain critics say, however, that Eom is the second Korean to achieve the feat and Park the first.

Messner set out to conquer a mountain 8,000 meters above sea level with his younger brother in 1970. When his brother fell behind in their descent, he left the brother behind. The body of his sibling was discovered frozen 35 years later, earning Messner the nickname “coldblooded man.” He achieved a world first in 1978, however, by conquering Mount Everest without an oxygen mask and then scaled all 14 Himalayan peaks in 1986. Since then, the challenge to conquer the 14 peaks has turned into a competition of who can climb them the fastest and without oxygen assistance. This has created a merciless race in which people seek to challenge nature through manual efforts only without the assistance of the proper climbing gear and equipment. To directly take on nature one-on-one, certain expedition members have even cut off ropes linking themselves.

Korean mountaineers have focused on conquering the 14 peaks, but European climbers have set a trend of attempting to climb vertical or ice cliffs on a mountain 8,000 meters above sea level amid low oxygen density. Climbing high mountains has increasingly shifted into a “struggle of extremes” that pose great risk to a climber’s life. Determined alpinists are those who challenge nature, not humans. Because her Korean colleagues do not recognize her record, Oh might decide to scale Kanchenjunga again. After all, she is a climber who chose to scale mountains because she loves them so much.

Editorial Writer Lee Jeong-hoon (hoon@donga.com)