Oh Completes Record 14-Peak Climb
First Woman Alpinist to Scale World's Highest Mountains
By Park Si-soo
Climber Oh Eun-sun became the first woman to scale the world's 14 highest peaks after conquering the summit of 8,091-meter Annapurna, Tuesday (KST).
She stood atop the summit at 6:20 p.m. after a nearly 13-hour painful struggle with raging winds and snowstorms.
It has taken 13 years for the 44-year-old climber to set the new mountaineering record since she reached her first mountain summit over 8,000 meters without supplementary oxygen on July 13, 1997 - the 8,035-meter Gasherbrum II.
KBS TV showed live coverage of Oh reaching the summit and affixing a South Korean flag to the peak.
With the summit just a couple of meters above, Oh, who was wearing red-and-black climbing gear and holding a shining metallic pole, quicken her steps on the near-vertical and snow-covered surface.
Upon arrival, she pulled out a South Korean national flag from her jumper and waved it. "Thank you so much," she said on the top. "Thank you fellow Koreans for being with me throughout the whole expedition... Thank you..." She put together her two hands in black gloves and bowed to the camera.
Delaying the summit attempt for two days due to bad weather, Oh left the fourth camp established at 7,200-meter high on the mountain around 5 a.m. Tuesday, Park Eun-joo, a spokeswoman for Black Yak, an outerwear maker in Seoul that is supporting Oh's historic expedition said.
Oh took painful steps one by one toward the top along with six companions. The sound of her rough and painful breathing, due to the sparse density of oxygen in the air, was delivered live to the small screen.
"Oh stood atop Annapurna at last. She made history," said Park.
Near the summit of mountains that are at 8,000 meters or higher, the density of oxygen in the air is often one-third of that at sea level.
As she finally stood atop the mountain braving a snowstorm, people flocked before TV sets in public spaces applauded.
"I'm proud of being Korean," a citizen who was watching the historic scene at Seoul Station shouted.
Returning to camp, Oh stayed there one night before starting out for a lower camp at 5,100 meters, where her support crew and reporters from around the world are eagerly awaiting her appearance Thursday.
This is Oh's second attempt to scale Annapurna. Last October, she was forced to give up due to a raging blizzard and thick fog, with its summit just 500 meters away, a distance that takes about two hours to cover.
Born in 1966, Oh majored in engineering at the University of Suwon in Gyeonggi Province. She first drew attention in 1997 by climbing to the top of the 8,035-meter Gasherbrum II.
In 2004, Oh became the first Asian woman to conquer the world's highest peak, the 8,848-meter Mt. Everest. She scaled the 8,027-meter Shisha Pangma without supplementary oxygen in October 2006. In 2007, the 8,201-meter Cho Oyu and the 8,611-meter K2 were put under her belt.
Between 2008 and 2009, she scaled eight more peaks over 8,000 meters in the Himalayas - Makalu (8,463 meters), Lhotes (8,516 meters), Broad Peak (8,047 meters), Manaslu (8,163 meters), Kanchenjunga (8,586 meters), Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters), Nanga Parbat (8,126 meters) and Gasherbrum (8,068 meters).
The first climber to top all 14 of the world's highest peaks was Reinhold Messner of Italy in 1986. Three male Korean climbers ― Park Young-seok, Eum Hong-gil and Han Wang-yong ― have also achieved the feat.
In a February interview with The Korea Times, she said the adventurous and sometimes life-threatening sport was a sort of "addiction, which is much stronger than any drug."
She added after winning the coveted honor, she would move to a graduate school here to share her knowledge and experiences with promising climbers, and also plans to engage in charity work.
But the record could be disputed because of some doubts over her ascent of Kanchenjunga on May 6 last year. Some climbers at home and abroad have raised question about her claim to have conquered the mountain.
The controversy originated from a photo she allegedly took at the top. The background of the photo, which is the only visible evidence from the summit to prove her success, is so blurry that it's difficult to confirm where she stands. She has denied the suspicions.
"All suspicions about it were completely wrong. I really conquered the mountain," she said in a media briefing last December.
Elizabeth Hawley, who leads the team that compiles the Himalayan Database, said Oh's Kanchenjunga ascent will continue to be acknowledged, AFP reported, but would describe it as "disputed" in future editions.
여성 최초 히말라야 14좌 완등
산악인 오은선이 27일 오후 6시 15분 여성 최초로 히말라야 8000m 급 14좌 완등에 성공했다.
지난 25일 정상에 오르려다 기상 여건이 좋지 않아 도전을 미룬 오 대장은 10시간이 넘는 강행군 끝에 캠프4에 도달했다.
휴식을 취한 등정대는 27일 오전 3시께 등정에 나서 16시간 만에 정상 등정에 성공했다.
오 대장은 애초 캠프를 전진시키면서 정상에 접근하는 등산 방식인 극지법으로 오르려고 했으나 기상 악화로 일정이 늦어지자 캠프를 건너뛰며 속공으로 정상을 공략하기로 계획을 수정했다.
강한 체력과 폐활량이 뒷받침돼야 할 수 있는 일이다.
한편 여성 최초 14좌 완등 타이틀을 놓고 오 대장과 경쟁하던 에두르네 파사반(36.스페인)은 지난 17일 안나푸르나 등정 후 최근 네팔에서 티베트로 넘어갔다.
14좌 완등에 시샤팡마(8천27m)만 남겨 둔 파사반은 시샤팡마 베이스캠프에 머물며 등정 시점을 논의 중인 것으로 알려졌다.