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Stewart Green

Did Oh Eun-Sun Actually Climb Kangchenjunga Last Year?

By April 21, 2010

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Europe is buzzing right now with revelations that Oh Eun-Sun, the South Korean woman climber who is poised to climb Annapurna in a few days and become the first woman to summit all fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, did not actually reach the top of Kanghenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world.

In an interview with the Spanish daily newspaper Diario Vasco, Edurne Pasaban, who just climbed Annapurna and is tied with Oh with thirteen 8,000-meter peaks, said there are "many doubts" that Oh summited Kangchenjunga last year. Apparently the Koreans took a photograph of Oh Eun-Sun on the summit, but that point was not actually the summit. Other climbers who have been there pointed out that it was not a summit shot.

The Koreans then held a news conference and brought one of the expedition's Sherpas to Korea to verify the ascent. They admitted that the photo was not taken on Kanghenjunga's summit but that after taking the photo they had continued to the top where conditions were too bad to make more photographs.  

Last February the Spanish climbing magazine Desnivel asked Oh, who was traveling in the United States at the time, about the summit photos. Her response was: "My summit photo was taken a few meters below the summit of Kangchenjunga because my Sherpa and I were under the threat of high winds and weather conditions could cause an accident with my equipment at the time we reached the summit."

Other Sherpas have now stepped forward and disputed Oh's ascent. They will be going to visit Elizabeth Hawley, the official Himalayan expedition record-keeper for the past 50 years, in Katmandu and will give her official statements about the legitimacy of the ascent.

Climbing, whether it's ascending big mountains or short boulder problems, has always relied on honesty. If you say you did the climb, you did the climb. That ethic, however, flies out the window when first ascents, money, and nationalism are involved as it is in this absurd race to be the first woman to ascend the 8,000ers. If Oh Eun-Sun stopped a few meters below the actual summit of Kangchenjunga, then she did not climb the mountain in its entirety. Simple as that. She needs to go back and stand on the tippy-top to say "I was there." Only she...and her Sherpa...know for sure. And who knows how much money he might be paid to shut up.

If this scenario is true, then it's cheating and perverts the essence of climbing. The great Spanish mountaineer Oyarzábal Juanito, who has reached more 8,000-meter summits than anyone else, told the Spanish newspaper El Diario, "There are possibilities for cheating and you can fool many people, but not yourself." Last year the UIAA agreed on a climbing code of ethics that made clear that reports of an ascent should be detailed and accurate and that it relies on the "honesty and integrity of a climber unless there is incriminating evidence."

Is this story about cheating on the high mountains or a bad case of sour grapes? Stay tuned. I'll report more about this strange unfolding story as more details emerge and after the Sherpas speak with Elizabeth Hawley.

Photograph above: The disputed photo of Oh Eun-Sun below the summit of Kangchenjunga on May 6, 2009. Photograph courtesy Desnivel

Comments

April 22, 2010 at 5:52 am
(1) Jordi says:

It is funny that it is only white European climbers who doubt that Oh reached Kangchenjunga’s peak. I wonder if they would have the same doubts if Oh was white and had a Western surname.

April 23, 2010 at 12:36 pm
(2) JWH says:

Well, this article seems to have double standards. It sounds like there is no reason to believe that this claim against Ms Oh is true either- If you mostly rely on the climbers’ honesty, why question one particular climber only? And based on circumstantial evidence, not a concrete one?

Just to make my point, I could also say things like…:
Both Ms Pasaban and Ms Oh climbed the peak in question May last year. Why only bring up doubts now, near the time when Ms P may ‘lose the race’ (absurd, I agree)?

‘who knows how much money he might be paid to shut up’? Well a person is entitled to have his own opinion, although a much biased one. What if I said ‘who knows how much money he might be paid to raise doubts’? What proof is there for the author to say that money was involved? In addition- all the sources at least within this article seems to be Spanish, who knows how much nationalism is involved in this.

April 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm
(3) CCP says:

Ms Hawley herself considers now Ms Oh’s Kanghenjunga summit “disputed” . It means there is a reasonable doubt about this.
Not only white European climbers doubt it. Actually it was another Korean expedition who started the accusations.

Anyway, the real hero for me is Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. The austrian alpinist is the only woman about to summit the 14 8,000 without using oxygen.

April 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm
(4) climbing says:

Thanks for all your comments. I’m reporting what I’ve read and translated and injected some opinion. I don’t think race is involved in this situation. It wouldn’t matter what race or color the climber was, if they didn’t do it then they didn’t do it.

This situation was brought up last year, long before Ms Pasaban climbed Annapurna. It does smack a bit of sour grapes to be talking about it all now though. And yes, all the sources that I found were Spanish and yes, they would have a vested interest it would seem in the outcome.

I looked extensively for rebuttals and reportage in Korean newspapers and blogs and came up empty. It is, however, a developing story. I hope the accusation is not true and that Ms Oh did indeed stand on Kangchengjunga’s summit.

Lastly, I do agree with CCP…Gerlinde, if she does climb Everest and K2 this year or next…will have truly done the 8000ers by fair means and without oxygen.

April 23, 2010 at 11:02 pm
(5) Mark Nyman says:

Unfortunately Oh-Eun-sun probably didn’t make it
In the photo she is still tied to the green fixed line, which ended 200m below the summit. The photo also shows that there is not much wind. Gloves hanging down and her open down hood is symmetrical, not wind blown. She didn’t mark the summit in her GPS. and did the last 200m vertical up and back in amazing time. No evidence she made it, lots that she did not. Plus the Sherpas say she didn’t

April 25, 2010 at 9:17 pm
(6) Lee eunha says:

I’m a Korean. But I dont’s want to be stand by Oh eunsun if she didn’t reach the top of Kanghenjunga. The truth could be proved by just Ms Oh. coz’ these was lots of situations when she got the peak of the Kanghenjunga. But this much is true. She did get the record much higher than Kanghenjunga. So, she doesn’t have to say false.

April 26, 2010 at 9:47 am
(7) ron says:

hi lee,

it´s cool that you are corean but try to write in a language that we can understand. yes you are right: the reality is only in miss oh´s hands. but i have to say that even if she gets the record she is not the record holder for me. getting to the base camps with a heli and flying to other basecamps with a heli is not worth a record. she has done 4 summits (or 3 who knows) in 2009. that is not possible if you are climbing it by your own. There are also a lot of persons who prepare the mountain for her. she is not the record holder for me. she is just a woman sponsored by south korea to get the record.

April 26, 2010 at 10:49 am
(8) biscaygo says:
April 27, 2010 at 8:19 am
(9) finn says:

From the outside, it’s really impossible to know what’s true. Could be, Miss Oh didn’t reach the summit – by some misunderstanding or ’cause it was too hard. Or, she was really not used to producing this ‘western style bullet proof’ kind of evidence. – It is hard to believe that she didn’t know what the standards for good evidence are in the mountaineering community (like using a GPS), but it’s as hard to believe that – if she was really into cheating – she wouldn’t have found a better way (like giving her GPS to a sherpa, who then really goes on top instead of her or faking a pic that looks ‘on top’). And then, the korean mountaineer and the 2 sherpas, who dispute her story: three males who are super critical on a female climber or three climbers who strive for truth? Bottom line is, when people make a competition out of mountaineering (stupid enough), they should agree on the rules of the game beforehand.

April 27, 2010 at 8:40 am
(10) Tom G says:

@ CCP
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has only summitted 12 of the 14 8000ers

As regards the Oh Eun Sun controversy, I feel that Edburne Pasaban knew about all these accusations for some time and deliberately chose to strike on the eve of the summit bid. It’s interesting that this article posts a partially blocked out photo. Does this mean there may be some truth to the notion that the summit picture is not actually on the summit. Pasaban mentions a green rope which was 200m below the summit – this is what Miss Oh is clipped in to in the image here. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out. Either way, it was a nasty turn by Pasaban to only mention this when Miss Oh was out of earshot and on course for the summit of Annapurna.

April 27, 2010 at 10:46 am
(11) tha girly girl says:

I think Edurne is sour, she’s noble and from euskadi and all but just a bad loser. She has been trashing Oh for a while now in Spanish media, but actually they both use the same methods (lots fo sherpas and porters and climbers around preparing them the way……..) so… they are the same, just the Korean finised first.

April 27, 2010 at 11:32 am
(12) Sam Sneed says:

Hi Ron,

It’s cool that you are encouraging Lee Eunha to write legibly but you need to work on your grammar, buddy. Try Grammar Smart by the Princeton Review. Then maybe you won’t come off as such a tool.

April 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm
(13) Finn says:

@Tom G
yeah, gerlinde has 12 of 14 without oxygen and plans to do remaining 2 without oxygen, as well, like nives meroi (she has 11). Miss oh and edurne both used o2 at some point. And got dragged and carried at some point. Who cares, who of them is first. That’s a question of money and timing, not of skill. What miss oh and edurne do is like using a ladder instead of freeclimbing the crux in a 9a route.

April 28, 2010 at 3:05 am
(14) ron says:

Hi Sam Sneed,

I like your comment! but finally my comment was at least comprehensive for all of you even if the grammar is not my strong point. I will test grammar smart! are u a software developer? ;-) (ironic)

April 28, 2010 at 3:07 am
(15) David says:

We doubt beacause there are sherpas that were in the journy who said Miss Oh didn’t get to the peak.
No Sherpa has ever doubted Miss Pasaban.

That’s the difference

May 2, 2010 at 2:15 am
(16) James says:

I’ve always thought because mountaineering a solitary sports, it involves some sort of testing oneself against mountains, the nature, overcoming oneself, and all that good stuff. My guess from seeing all the commotion surrounding Oh’s climbs is that there’s a big load of money involved in this sports. It’s pretty sad to see Pa$aban accusing Oh of cheating. You have to wonder if Pa$aban is really happy and proud of herself with her conduct. The evidence indicates Oh was standing 200 meters below the summit. Having gone that far — well over 8000 meters — it makes no sense that she would have given up just 200 meters from the top.

May 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm
(17) Y. Lee(Korean-Canadian) says:

Oh was carrying a Korean flag to the summit. It was found by the next climbers to scale Kanchenjunga ― Norwegian climber Jon Gangdal, and his Swedish climbing partner ― weighted down by four stones, about 50-60 meters below the summit. Oh’s aides say Oh mislaid the flag during the climb. The fact that it was found above 8,350 meters is “clear counter evidence” that helps to rebut the suggestion she stopped 200 meters below the summit, they say. -> At least she didn’t give up 200 meters below the top.

David// On the way to summit of Annapurna(Oh’s last summit), Oh accompanied two sherpas out of the three sherpas she had accompanied at Kangchenjunga and one of the sherpas accused Pasaban of telling a lie.

Pasaban refused to give the names of the two sherpas who, she claimed, had told her Oh has not been to the summit of Kangchenjunga.

It’s quite weird.

I think we can’t be sure about who is right, Oh or Pasaban. I don’t think either of them is telling a lie. I think either of them has made an mistake or misunderstood. (Lawyers are used to this kind of situation.)

By the way, I’m never proud of Oh’s accomplishment at all. It’s just a big game of business, a monetary game, and a game of nonsense to me.

But I still don’t understand why Oh didn’t carry GPS. It doesn’t make a sense.

This is a game of ‘not-making-a-sense’(For both Oh and Pasaban). Whoever becomes a winner, I’ll not praise her.

May 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm
(18) Rasuli says:

The point is: if you refuse to use GPS you raise doubts; if you show a picture claiming it´s a summit pic and then you are forced to admit it´s not, you raise more doubts. If you only climb for your own you can´t fool yourself, as Oiarzabal said, but if you climb for a record to be recognized, you can´t raise so many doubts, because people would think you are trying to fool them.

And for the record, Pasaban said that last year, but repeated it now cause she recently found the sherpas and spoke to them about it.

May 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm
(19) Rasuli says:

Just one more thing; please think about this. You are over 8.000, very tired, trying to reach the summit 200 meters higher in a very bad day, so bad that you say you only stood at that summit for a minute, and you stop and pose for a picture like that? Why? What for? What is the meaning or the interest of that picture? “Picture 200 mt before summit showing an ad”?????

And for all of you who said Pasaban didn´t tell the names of the two sherpas, she has just said both names and five more names of other sherpas at Oh´s party that told the same story. Let´s see what happens now.

May 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm
(20) kevin says:

What evidence does Pasadan have to prove? “Disputed” simply means someone is not convinced Ms. Oh climb. “Dispute” does not mean Pasadan has any evidence… Was Pasadan there when Ms. Oh reached the peak. Also personal opinions by Ms. Pasadan should not be considered serious when the sherpas that was there with Ms Oh on the peak states Mr. Oh reached the peak. Does common sense means anything or is Ms. Pasadan acting like a coward with poor sportsmanship. Looks like sour loser here, throwing water over others achievement w/o knowing the full truth. Showing little character might help this sport abit. I am not sure the pictures showing Ms. Pasadan at peak is real, consider Pasadan “distputed” as sour loser…

June 20, 2010 at 8:52 pm
(21) Randy Ban says:

Well, i’m a novice climber and respect the nature. despite the fact that people are trying to accuse Ms. Oh’s claims, i still respect Ms. Oh and mountaineers. however, there are many climbers out there, trying to gain money and fame by climbing. furthermore, some mountaineers will do anything to achieve their goals such as sacrificing Sherpas and fellow climbers (death and loosing limbs). if Ms. Oh has reached the summit of Kanchenjunga, i’m happy for her. if she didn’t, she will be one to know… and regret for a long time. after all, she is a mountaineer.

Ms. Oh used oxygen tanks for 3 out of 14 highest peaks. what i want to see is a climber without oxygen tanks and set the record. that will be the true accomplishment for the modern day climbing.

August 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm
(22) Randy Ban says:

i’ve viewed a SBS’ (Seoul Broadcasting Company)documentary on Ms. Oh climb on Kanchenjunga tongight. as all we know, Ms. Oh has became a national hero for S. Koreans since her accomplishment of reaching 14 highest peaks of the world. Yet, by viewing this documentary, it is clear that why many people still doubt that she never reached the summit of Kanchenjunga. first, one of the sherpa still claims that they did turned around about 2 hours before reaching the summit. second, one of 3 photos which Ms. Oh released showed that she still has the flag (her school flag) inside of her jacket, which later found about 2 hours before the summit. third, there was a special hearing (Deccember 2009) about her Kanchenjunga climb along with 7other S. Korean climbers who has reached the summit (kanchunjunga) prior to Ms. Oh’s attempt. during the hearing, Ms. Oh couldn’t answer vital question about the terrain of the summit area and about the way up. fourth, she claims that Ms. Elizabeth Holly (non official record keeper on Himalayan mountains)confirmed and congratulated her on her reached of world’s 14 highest peaks, yet on SBS’ interview, Ms. Holly never recognize nor congratulated Ms. Oh. fifth, the timing of her climb to the summit doesn’t make sense to many international climbers. The climbers say that it is impossible to reach the summit in such time (too soon, from a point when Ms. Oh disappeared from a scope due to a whiteout), it is virtually impossible to reach the summit even for men.

like some of you mentioned earlier, it is a big deal for the S. Koreans to have a such hero. furthermore, just like any other chance to make money and to gain fame, Ms. Oh is involve with so many opportunities to grab and make money from her accomplishment. Cause I would too…???

I’m a Korean/American who is living in S. Korea at the moment. yet, Ms. Oh’s claim can’t convince me to believe that she has achieved such record. Some of the S. Korean climber said that the truth will surface soon. When it does, it will be a huge dissapointment for S. Korean medias, climbers, and most of all, to Ms. Oh.

seems to me that people of S. Korea also cannot stand by Ms. Oh’s side any longer. The public is tilting against Ms. Oh’s claim.

August 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm
(23) Randy Ban says:

i’ve viewed a SBS’ (Seoul Broadcasting Company)documentary on Ms. Oh climb on Kanchenjunga tongight. as all we know, Ms. Oh has became a national hero for S. Koreans since her accomplishment of reaching 14 highest peaks of the world. Yet, by viewing this documentary, it is clear that why many people still doubt that she never reached the summit of Kanchenjunga. first, one of the sherpa still claims that they did turned around about 2 hours before reaching the summit. second, one of 3 photos which Ms. Oh released showed that she still has the flag (her school flag) inside of her jacket, which later found about 2 hours before the summit. third, there was a special hearing (Deccember 2009) about her Kanchenjunga climb along with 7other S. Korean climbers who has reached the summit (kanchunjunga) prior to Ms. Oh’s attempt. during the hearing, Ms. Oh couldn’t answer vital question about the terrain of the summit area and about the way up. fourth, she claims that Ms. Elizabeth Holly (non official record keeper on Himalayan mountains)confirmed and congratulated her on her reached of world’s 14 highest peaks, yet on SBS’ interview, Ms. Holly never recognize nor congratulated Ms. Oh. fifth, the timing of her climb to the summit doesn’t make sense to many international climbers. The climbers say that it is impossible to reach the summit in such time (too soon, from a point when Ms. Oh disappeared from a scope due to a whiteout), it is virtually impossible to reach the summit even for men.

August 27, 2010 at 12:45 am
(24) Terry Moore says:

Koreans are very insecure people. They feel so insecure that they lie about so many things. She holds the korean flag, and then lies so that the world is thinking they are great people. Now the world sees them as liars

September 3, 2010 at 11:22 am
(25) James says:

Terry Moore and all you doubting Thomases – the latest news is that Jon Gangdal has come forward with a photo of Kangchenjunga in support of Oh’s claim of a rock dome near the summit, approximately 7-8 meters below the summit. This is consistent with Oh’s longstanding claim that she had to descend 5-10 meters below the summit to take a pic because of the “white-out” weather condition at the top. Evidence is now turning in Oh’s favor, and against all the doubting climbers, including Pa$aban, who stated they never saw rocks near the summit.

September 3, 2010 at 11:36 am
(26) James says:

We’ll now have to review everyone’s claim of having climbed Kanchenjunga, including that of Pa$aban, the 7-member Korea Alpine Federation Kanchenjunga “climbers,” and all others. They all have claimed they never saw rocks near Kanchenjunga summit. Jon Gandal’s pic he produced to support Oh not only shows a huge rock dome near the summit, he’s also stated there are rocks – large and small – all around the summit. Anyone who has doubed Oh by claiming they never saw rocks near the summit – including Pa$aban – is now a fair game. Pa$aban now has to prove she did not doctor her “summit” pics.

September 8, 2010 at 5:49 am
(27) Rasuli says:

Well, it´s been the Korean Alpine Federation who said the summit was “unlikely” and Miss Holly who said that she will have to climb it again and take a lot of pictures. Neither the Spanish Federation nor the American or Australian. Does it mean anything to some of you?

Certainly they could use other words, but it wouldn´t be polite.

September 15, 2010 at 2:19 pm
(28) Aardvark says:

James says (jeansguy in poor diguise):

“We’ll now have to review everyone’s claim of having climbed Kanchenjunga, including that of Pa$aban, the 7-member Korea Alpine Federation Kanchenjunga “climbers,” and all others. They all have claimed they never saw rocks near Kanchenjunga summit. Jon Gandal’s pic he produced to support Oh not only shows a huge rock dome near the summit, he’s also stated there are rocks – large and small – all around the summit. Anyone who has doubed Oh by claiming they never saw rocks near the summit – including Pa$aban – is now a fair game. Pa$aban now has to prove she did not doctor her “summit” pics.”

******

I have read a number of your ludicrous posts across the web and can only conclude at this point you are both a propagandist of the lowest ilk and a flat-out liar.

Nothing you say can be taken as anything more than a cheap and ugly attempt to vilify those who cast doubt on Ms. Oh’s poorly documented summit claim of Kangchenjunga in a clumsy and pathetic effort to draw attention away from the source of this controversy which is the complete failure of Ms. Oh to offer credible proof of her summit.

No amount of specious and obfuscatory slander on your part can assist her cause and in fact your sad behaviour in this regard only serves to illustrate just how poorly Ms. Oh, her team manager and her sponsors have dealt with a problem that is of their own doing.

You really should be ashamed of yourself.

If anyone is interested in my detailed and comprehensive dismissal of this trolls nonsense feel free to visit the Ratna Park forum at ExplorersWeb.com.

http://explorersweb.com/community/viewforum.php?f=9&sid=8e0de9c12c81fec72a366cadbd8b7bfa

Cheers,
Aardvark

June 18, 2011 at 1:51 am
(29) hotmail says:

Oh Eun Sun of South Korea is lots like Chad Kellogg of USA. Not just frauds. Creative deceivers frauds. Horrible! They invent excuses, take fraud-summit-photos showing No Summit, crop their images to remove SUB-SUMMIT-LAND. Chad Kellogg has gone and done more. Lied about speedclimbs! Caught big time.
http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?nav=messages&webtag=ab-climbing&tid=161

Worse yet with this Chad Kellogg Fraud He has dozens of friends in the NW USA who criminal-Cyberstalk on the internet with malicious abuse stalking people especially anyone who criticizes him. The sewer of humans. But it just reflects back on Chad. That he has friends like this. Sewer.

August 10, 2011 at 10:13 pm
(30) Jennifer J. says:

Why is it these debate are always centered around women, and never men, who may fake their summits? In my research of 8000m peaks and their summiters, I find many questionable summits by men, but somehow, women are always the ones who become fodder for these blogfests.

January 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm
(31) nimesh says:

The best climbers in the world are the sherpas who are treated very well and paid for the job they do.
But in mountaineering literature, they are mostly invisible and treated as load bearing coolies who don’t deserve any credit for their superhuman feats since they were paid for their work. This is true but it is also true that professional sherpas would probably be on and off the mountain before their clients even made it to the top.

January 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm
(32) nimesh says:

er? Jennifer J… Its not us men making blog fodder of your precious women climbers.
Pasadan a woman is strongly disputing(she won’t let it go) Oh’s (another woman’s) ascent claims.
However it is an intriguing human interest story and therefore some of us are weighing in with our opinions.
There are more men on this blog because the fraternity of climbers is overwhelmingly male.

May 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm
(33) Big Lew says:

Wondering… In the old days, ALL climbers willingly stopped “a few meters” below Kangchenjunga’s summit – out of respect for the local’s religious beliefs.

Are theirs true summits?

Big Lew

May 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm
(34) Big Lew says:

(21) Randy Ban

Ed Viesturs?

Big Lew

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