Oh’s record gets nod from Hawley
Disputes over scaling of Kanchenjunga linger
By Park Si-soo
Climber Oh Eun-sun has been acknowledged as the first woman to scale the world's 14 highest peaks by Elizabeth Hawley, a renowned American mountaineering journalist and historian with a judge-like status in the world of international climbing, according to Oh's agency in Seoul Tuesday.
Nonetheless, Oh's ascent of the 8,586-meter Kanchenjunga last year will continue to remain "disputed" in the American database until Oh's chief rival withdraws allegations that Oh failed to reach the top due to bad weather, said Black Yak, the Korean climber's agency.
In an interview days prior to the ruling, Spanish climber Edurne Pasaban said she would respect Hawley's decision. She was not available for comment.
The 44-year-old Korean conquered the 8,091-meter Annapurna last Tuesday, becoming the first woman to have scaled the world's 14 highest peaks over 8,000 meters.
Immediately afterwards she was embroiled in a climbing scandal involving Kanchenjunga, which was raised by Pasaban.
Starting at 8 p.m. Monday (KST), Hawley interviewed Oh for about one hour at the American journalist's office, the agency said. At the end of the interview Annapurna and Kanchenjunga, according to the agency, Hawley asked Oh whether she had really conquered all the world's 14 highest peaks and Oh answered without hesitation: "Yes, I did." Following the answer, Hawley lauded her feat, saying, "Congratulations," the agency reported.
In an interview with foreign media, she also confirmed the Korean climber as the first woman to win the coveted title among elite climbers.
"Oh will be credited for her climb to Kanchenjunga," Hawley told AFP after the interview. "But the ascent will be marked as disputed."
Hawley said Oh's account was completely different from Pasaban's. "She (Oh) said she had video footage to prove her ascent on Kanchenjunga and that she would send me some still photos," Hawley told AFP.
The controversy surfaced after Oh made public a photo of her she said was taken at the summit of Kanchenjunga, in which Oh was standing on a bare rock. The photo was so blurry that it's unrecognizable as to where exactly it was taken. Adding to the controversy was Pasaban's allegation ― based on testimony from unidentified Sherpas who allegedly accompanied Oh's expedition to Kanchenjunga ― that she did not reach the top.
Oh refuted, "I believe that according to Pasaban, some Sherpas told her that I hadn't climbed Kanchenjunga. But no names of the Sherpas have been mentioned. Why?"
Oh added she has video footage taken by the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) where she can prove her ascent of Kanchenjunga. At that time, KBS accompanied Oh and recorded her climb using TV cameras with long-distance lenses.