A view from Annapurna’s peak

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A view from Annapurna’s peak


히말라야 14좌 완등의 위업을 이룬 오은선 대장이 외국 원정대의 구조를 돕기 위해 하산을 일시 중지하며 산악인의 의리를 보여줬다. 사진은 오 대장이 22일 베이스캠프 출발에 앞서 라마 제단 앞에 서 있는 모습. [안나푸르나=연합뉴스]

Mountaineer Oh Eun-sun’s triumph as the first woman ever to scale all 14 eight-thousanders - mountains that rise more than 8,000 meters (26,246 feet) above sea level - has brought attention to what is, by its nature, a lonely sport.

With public curiosity at great heights, the JoongAng Ilbo answers some questions about what really went on near the ceiling of the world.

Q. Did Oh reach the very top of Annapurna?

A. Oh stopped a few meters short of the crest as she planted the Korean flag and waved to the camera. While normally climbers scale the very top of a mountain, the same rules don’t apply when there’s no room to stand.

“It’s dangerous to climb any further. If she slips from that point, it’s a 3,000-meter free fall,” explained Um Hong-gil, who climbed Annapurna in 1999.

“If the place is not stable enough to support one person, it’s not necessary to climb to the top. It looks far on television screen, but the actual distance is merely two to three meters.”

How long was she at the top?

Oh stayed on top of Annapurna for 15 minutes before she began the long descent at 6:30 p.m. (Korean time).

That 15-minute stay was earned with days of labor. Oh departed base camp on April 22 and reached Camp 3 (6,400 meters) the next day, but strong winds forced a retreat to Camp 1 (5,100 meters). She started her climb again on Sunday and reached Camp 4 before she was grounded by bad weather. Oh began her final assault on the summit Tuesday morning.

Oh was seen drinking water. Did she eat anything during her climb?

Thin air at high altitudes kills climbers’ appetites, and Oh didn’t eat any food during her 891-meter trek from Camp 4 (7,200) to the peak. Oh left Camp 4 at 3 a.m. Tuesday (Korean time) and returned to the camp yesterday at 12:45 a.m., which means she went at least 21 hours and 45 minutes without food.

Even after regaining Camp 4, climbers usually replenish their bodies with just a cup of tea.

How many climbers accompanied Oh?

A team of five people reached the peak of Annapurna on Tuesday. Accompanying Oh were Na Kwan-ju; Jung Ha-young, a 44-year-old cameraman for KBS, who broadcast the event live in a television first; and three Sherpas.

Jung, an experienced mountaineer, has filmed seven Himalayan expeditions in the past.

How much did it cost?

Oh’s sponsor, Black Yak, a Korean adventure gear manufacturer, paid for all expenses except the travel costs and the satellite phone expenses of the KBS film crew. The average cost of one of Oh’s four expeditions in 2008 was 30 million won ($26,820), but her first attempt to scale Annapurna in October 2009 cost 500 million won.

By Kim Young-joo, Sohn Min-ho [jason@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

스페인팀 SOS에 한때 하산 중단

오은선, 여성 첫 히말라야 14좌 완등오은선(44·블랙야크) 대장이 안나푸르나 등정 쾌거를 이룬 27일. 베이스캠프는 축제 분위기였으나 저녁이 되면서 분위기가 반전됐다. 어둠이 내리고 달이 떠올라도 오 대장 팀이 4캠프(7200m)에 도착하지 않은 것이다.

베이스캠프에서는 애타게 오 대장을 불렀으나 오후 9시(현지시간)가 되도록 무전이 없었다. 이때 스페인팀 의사가 우리 캠프로 찾아와 후아니토 팀의 조난을 알리며 도움을 요청했다.

긴박한 상황에서 오후 9시30분쯤 오 대장이 무사히 4캠프에 도착했다는 무전을 보내왔다. 그날 오전 1시45분 출발해 정상까지 왕복에 걸린 시간이 무려 20시간이 넘었다. 음식은커녕 물 한 잔 제대로 못 마신 일행은 거의 초주검 상태였다. 안타깝지만 외국팀의 구조 요청을 받아줄 상황이 아니었다.

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