[FOUNTAIN]True climbers value ascent as well as topFor some people, mountains can change their fates. Female mountaineer Nam Nan-hui’s life revolves around the mountains. She was so in love with the mountains that she climbed and traveled alone along the Baekdu Daegan, the mountain range along the Korean Peninsula.
She was the first woman to climb Gangapurna in the Himalayas. The goal was to keep on climbing. The Western alpinism is focused on “peak hunting,” and Ms. Nam began to feel empty climbing yet another high mountain. The more she climbed, the bigger her desire grew. Today, Ms. Nam lives by Mount Jiri. After she met a comfortable mountain, she doesn’t have to climb it and is happy just looking at it.
She gave up mountains to win mountains. “I had been ‘climbing’ mountains. But now I am ‘entering’ them.” What sets “entering” and “climbing” apart is the eye to look at the mountains. In the west, mountains are ranked by their height. Higher mountains are always greater, and they talk about who climbed the higher mountain faster. In contrast, Koreans talk about a mountain’s depth.
Deeper mountains are worth entering. The depth of a mountain is ultimately the depth of life. You don’t climb the mountain because it is there, but you enter one because you can be found there. The deeper the mountain you enter, the heavier your eyes get. The “Human Expedition” has set an 80-day campaign to retrieve the remains of Baek Jun-ho, Bak Mu-taek, and Jang Min, who died climbing Everest in May 2004.
Veteran climber Um Hong-gil, who has summited all 14 8,000- meter (24,000-foot) peaks, is leading the expedition. A legend in foreign expeditions in Korea’s mountaineering history, Mr. Hong has left for the Himalayas in search for the remains of the young alpinists. The courage and love of the mountaineers open up a newer and harder way and represent the pinnacle of humanism. Now it is time to say goodbye to the age of peak hunting and breaking records.
Alpinists analyzed that peak hunting is a reflection of the speed-oriented, materialistic collectivism that has become a chronic ailment of Korea. A mountaineer reaching the summit with abundant supplies, perfect safety measures and an easy route is not an alpinist in the truest sense. The true alpinist spirit of adventure and challenge is to value the course and route more than the outcome.
The three mountaineers fell while exploring the unknown world, coping with uncertainty and fear. I hope the “Human Expedition” can return with the humanism of the beautiful mountaineers.
by Chung Jae-suk
The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.