Korean climber Oh Eun-sun climbed to the top of Annapurna, one of the most deadly Himalayan peaks, on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to have scaled the world’s 14 highest mountains.
The 44-year-old Oh reached the top of the 8,091m mountain at 6:15 p.m. local time along with two local television crews who broadcast Oh’s final steps live.
Oh left the camp four near 7,000 meters at 5 a.m. to head to the top, and after enduring over 13 hours of life threatening journey, she stood at the top of the mountain which has claimed the lives of dozens of climbers.
The live footage showed the climber planting the Korean national flag on the summit, and waiving to the camera.
“I am so happy and thank you,” Oh said and repeated thanks to her supporters at home.
“I’d like to share this moment with all,” she added.
The Korean climber is said to have carried throughout her journey a photograph of Ko Mi-young, who was also trying to climb the 14 peaks when she died last year while descending from the Nanga Parba.
“If I become the one to have stood on 14 peaks, I will share the moment with Ko,” Oh had said earlier.
Eighteen climbers have conquered all 14 eight-thousanders since Italian Reinhold Messner became the first person to do so in 1986. However, no woman had achieved the feat before Oh.
Oh was once quoted as saying, “I don’t know why no female has managed it. I suppose it is down to women’s position in the world, which is still not the same as men’s.”
Oh’s historical achievement, however, was somewhat dampened by the news that two Korean climbers were missing in Nepal’s Himalayas while three others were hospitalized with frostbite.
The group led by climber Kim Hong-bin suffered an accident due to bad weather conditions while climbing the 8,163m Manaslu on April 24, according Nepal’s Foreign Office.
The search for the missing two climbers -- identified by their last names Yoon, 40, and Park, 27-- has begun, but no signs of them have been found, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Oh’s rival Edurne Pasaban of Spain, who climbed Annapurna last week, is making an assault on her 14th peak, the 8,027 m Shisha Pangma, in Tibet.
The competition between the two climbers has been fierce, forcing both of them to take on rigorous and unsafe schedules.
The two encountered each other at the Annapurna base camp earlier this month and they had a pleasant chat, according to the Spanish climber.
Yet, the 36-year-old Pasaban questioned whether Oh had reached the top of world’s third-highest mountain, Kangchenjunga, which both of them scaled in May 2009.
Critics point out that a photograph of Oh at the summit could not be taken as a proof of having reached the top as the background was so indistinct.
“We had no reason to doubt Oh’s achievement,” said a spokeswoman from Oh’s sponsor, Blakyak, an outdoor clothing company.
“There is no finish line on the mountains, so you could argue everything if you want,” Park Eun-joo of Blackyak said.
“Some people just want to tarnish her reputation,“ she added.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org