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Hawley`s Comments on Disputed Alpinist Feat Unchanged

Posted September. 04, 2010 12:07,   


“Photos of the peak on Kanchenjunga can be taken anywhere. It could’ve been taken on the outskirts of Katmandu.” Investigating Documentaries of SBS TV Aug. 21.

“We construe all records of climbing under dispute as successful climbing.” News report filed Friday by Yonhap News Agency of Korea.

Elizabeth Hawley recently made these comments on the lingering dispute surrounding Korean alpinist Oh Eun-sun, whose claim to have conquered Kanchenjunga is under attack.

Hawley, 86, a retired American alpinist who has compiled records on the scaling of Himalayan mountains, says mounting hiking records enjoys high credibility among alpinists. In this regard, what she told two Korean news organizations sounds inconsistent and seems to add to the confusion.

Hawley has never changed her position, however. Her comment that “photos of the peak on Kanchenjunga can be taken anywhere” might have struck a chord with the producers of SBS TV`s Investigating Documentaries. She merely made the comments metaphorically, however, by mentioning the obvious that her pictures on the peak are obscure.

Her saying “under controversy” also does not suggest a change in her position.

Hawley’s climbing records on the Himalayas not only note “under controversy,” but also construe people who are recorded as “false” in the “true/false” section as having conquered the Himalayan peaks.

In Nepal May 3, Hawley told a Dong-A Ilbo reporter, “I marked the record as being ‘under controversy’ only because it is under controversy. Unless the party who raised the suspicion withdraws it, I don’t plan on deleting the label ‘under controversy.’”

The report that she recognized Oh as having conquered Kanchenjunga is known to be inaccurate. The claim that Hawley recognized Oh’s record began to spread from May, when Oh conquered Annapurna.

At the time, these alleged comments began to spread after news outlets erroneously cited Hawley’s congratulations of Oh for conquering the 14 Himalayan peaks in their headlines as recognition of Oh’s claim.

Oh also apparently made a mistake by making it seem that she earned Hawley’s endorsement.

Strictly speaking, Hawley’s comments were meant to congratulate Oh only if she did conquer the 14 peaks. Moreover, what Hawley said in her news conference and what the SBS TV program covered was said before she started looking into the dispute over Oh’s conquest of Kanchenjunga.

Critics question the practice of the hiking community of generally relying on Hawley, asking who gave her such authority. The American, however, has never claimed to have that authority and just says she is “a note taker.”

Rather, it was alpinists and the media that gave Hawley the authority and raised questions over her authority at the same time. Attempting to interpret what she says to accommodate their interests will not help resolve this dispute.