Obstacles remain for Oh

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Obstacles remain for Oh

Oh Eun-sun safely returned to the base camp of Annapurna yesterday morning after reaching its peak on Tuesday, but she’s got one last obstacle to face: her skeptics.

Oh was recognized by the Nepal Mountaineering Association as the first female climber to successfully climb all 14 eight-thousanders on Wednesday. Founded in 1973, the NMA is the only national association authorized to issue climbing permits for 33 Nepalese mountain peaks.

However, if Oh wants the blessing of the international climbing community, she must gain the approval of Elizabeth Hawley, head of The Himalyan Database. Since the 1960s, Hawley has compiled records of all the expeditions in the Nepalese Himalayas, along the way earning considerable clout within the climbing community.

Oh’s ascent of Kangchenjunga in 2009 has been challenged by Spain’s Edurne Pasaban, and Hawley records that climb as “disputed.” Pasaban is currently in Tibet preparing to scale Shishapangma, her 14th and final eight-thousander.

If Pasaban manages to scale Shishapangma before Oh’s status on Kangchenjunga is upgraded to “recognized,” Pasaban would be recognized in Hawley’s record books as the world’s first female climber to successfully complete all 14 eight-thousanders.

Oh was scheduled to return to base camp earlier but her descent was delayed on Wednesday as an emergency befell another climbing team. Oh and her crew had returned to Camp 4 (7,200 meters, or 23,622 feet) at 12:45 a.m. on April 28 and were scheduled to begin their descent toward Camp 1 in the morning hours of April 28. “We arrived in Camp 4 safely. We’re exhausted but the weather is not too bad,” Oh had radioed her colleagues at base camp upon returning to Camp 4.

But her descent was delayed by seven-and-a-half hours when a request from a Spanish climbing team led by Juanito Oiarzabal came through in the early hours of April 28.

Team member Tolo Calafat, who had suffered a cerebral edema on his way down from the peak, collapsed in an area roughly six to seven hours away from Camp 4. Oh allegedly urged her crew to help the Spanish team. But embarking on a support mission was ruled out of the question, as Oh’s team was coming off an exhaustive climb with little rest.

According to news reports, Calafat died yesterday on Annapurna, and Oiarzabal was quoted as saying that Oh “did nothing” to try and help his team.

By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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