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Stewart Green

Korean Alpine Federation Rules that Oh Eun-Sun Did Not Climb Kangchenjunga

By September 2, 2010

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On April 26, South Korean mountaineer Oh Eun-Sun reached the summit of 26,247-foot Annapura, becoming the first woman to reach the summits of the fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, the world's highest mountains.

A controversy erupted afterward as to whether or not the 44-year-old Oh had actually reached the summit of Kangchenjunga in May 2009. The dispute was settled on May 3 when Oh met with Elizabeth Hawley, the official arbiter and record keeper of Himalayan ascents. Hawley, after questioning Oh, then approved Oh's Kangchenjunga ascent but marked it "disputed." Hawley congratulated Oh on becoming the first woman to surmount the 8,000ers.

Now Oh's claim is again in jeopardy but this time from her own countrymen. A few days ago a Korean Alpine Federation panel of six top South Korean climbers, after reviewing all the evidence, determined that not enough proof existed to validate Oh's claim to have summitted Kangchenjunga. The evidence included her testimony of events, her timeline, and the photographs supposedly taken on the mountain's summit.  Lee Eui-Jae, secretary general of the Korean Alpine Federation, said the panel felt that Oh's photographs did not "seem to match the actual landscape" and that they "agreed that Oh's previous explanations on the process of her ascent to Kangchenjunga are unreliable."

A photograph which Oh Eun-Sun claimed to have taken on the summit was particularly damning. The Korea Alpine Federation said, "The topography in the picture, which Oh claims was taken on the mountain, cannot be seen on top of Kangchenjunga." No convincing photograph exists of Oh on the summit since clouds obscured the views. A photograph of her that had been submitted as proof of ascent was later shown to have been taken somewhere below the summit. In that photograph Oh was standing on rock, while the summit of Kangchenjunga is snow.

This past Saturday night in South Korea, an investigative television program called "Want to Know" aired on Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS TV). The program offered more allegations that conflict with Oh's summit claims. The program showed that Oh carried a flag from her school to the summit for a photograph, but it was recovered, weighted down by four stones, about 150 feet below Kangchenjunga's summit by Jon Gangdal, a Norwegian climber who summitted the mountain 12 days after Oh.

Oh says that she lost the flag while climbing and doesn't know how it ended up where it did. The television program, however, showed the top edge of the flag protruding from inside Oh's coat in the photos supposedly taken on Kangchenjunga's summit. The program had the photos analyzed and experts confirmed that the flag in her coat appears to be identical to the one found by Gangdal. Oh refused to comment to the program producers about the flag.

Other evidence against Oh Eun-Sun including the contradictory testimony of the three Sherpas that led her up Kangchenjunga, One of the Sherpas, Dawa Wangchuk, says that the group stopped about 150 meters or 450 feet below the summit because of high winds and poor visibility.

Oh and her major sponsor Black Yak, however, steadfastly say that she summitted Kangchenjunga. Back in the spring when all these allegations first surfaced, Oh introduced the race card, saying that the dispute was fuelled because she was Asian. Oh said, "Had I been from Europe, there would have been little controversy." Now Oh Eun-Sun says that the Korean Alpine Federation's ruling is questionable and that the six South Korean climbers reviewing the case are on a witch hunt and have consistently been suspicious of her summit claims.

So, did Oh or didn't Oh? Stay tuned. It seems that this whole controversy is exploding again.

Read more:
Oh Eun-Sun Climbs Annapurna: First Woman Atop All 8,000-Meter Peaks
Did Oh Eun-Sun Actually Climb Annapurna Last Year?
Oh Eun-Sun's Disputed Peak Tarnishes First Woman Atop the 8,000-Meter Peaks
Because She Wasn't There? Editorial by Michael Breen in The Korea Times

Photographs: (Top) Oh Eun-Sun on the summit of Annapurna, her 14th and final 8,000-meter peak. (Bottom) A disputed photograph  of Oh Eun-Sun below the summit of Kangchenjunga on May 6, 2009.  Photographs courtesy KBS-TV and Desnivel.


September 2, 2010 at 9:11 pm
(1) jeansguy says:

The Korean Alpine Federation’s ruling is questionable. The latest twist in this continuting saga is that Jon Gangdal has come forward with a photo of Kangchenjunga showing a rock dome near the summit, approximately 7-8 meters below the summit. http://kr.news.yahoo.com/sports/golf/view?aid=2010090214381117315. The Korea Alpine Federation said, “The topography in the picture, which Oh claims was taken on the mountain, cannot be seen on top of Kangchenjunga.” Oh has consistently maintained that she had to the descend approximately 5-10 meters from the summit and used the rock as a marker showing her whereabouts in the “white-out” weather condition at the top. The photo was sent to Yonhap by Norwegian climber Jon Gangdal who took the photo just 12 days after Oh’s climb.

September 3, 2010 at 12:03 am
(2) Steve says:

Stewart, your and everyone else’s suspicion about Oh’s climb was predicated on various climbers’ account that there’s no rock near the summit. Jon Gandal has come forth with a photo taken 12 days after Oh’s climb showing a rock dome 7-8 meters below the summit. Stewart, will you now question everyone else’s claim to have climbed Kanchenjunga since they don’t seem to know much about the topography of the Kanchenjunga? Pasaban knew nothing of this rock dome. Did she really climb Kanchenjunga? Will your next article question Pasaban’s integrity? And why not?

September 3, 2010 at 1:09 am
(3) jeansguy says:

Pasaban claimed she climbed this mountain just 12 days after Oh and said there is no rock near the summit. Jon Gandal produced his picture to support Oh showing a rock dome just 7-8 meters below the summit, taken exactly 12 days after Oh’s climb. Did Pasaban really climb Kanchenjunga?

September 3, 2010 at 1:24 am
(4) climbing says:

Thanks for the insightful commments! You beat me to it. I was going to write further about Jon Gangdal and what he found on Kangchenjunga in a couple days. Jon still maintains that Oh did reach the summit.

Despite all the controversy and conflicting evidence, however, it appears that Miss Oh will continue to be the first woman to summit all the 8000ers. There just doesn’t seem to be any overwhelming evidence nor a smoking gun that would be enough to definitively say that she didn’t reach the top. Her ascent will remain as “disputed” but her record will remain intact.

It’s unfortunate, with all the technology now available, that Oh wasn’t able to throughly document her ascent and provide irrefutable proof.

But, as all us climbers know, we sometimes just have to rely on another climber’s word that they did a climb and in the style they said they did. That honesty has to continue to be one of the cornerstones of mountaineering and climbing. In my personal opinion…if she said she did it, then she did it. Despite all the money and prestige and national pride and whatever else is at stake here, I would hope that Oh has given an honest rendering of events on Kangchenjunga.

September 3, 2010 at 3:54 am
(5) Edward says:

Climbing said: “if she said she did it, then she did it”.

Really? Oh my God ! That’s not an argument. If Oh said she landed in the moon, must we believe her?

Proofs, evidences, that’s we need ! With the state-of-the-art technology we have today it’s incredible that Oh can’t offer undeniable evidence. Not to mention the flag contradictory statements and other suspicious actitude.

We MUST preserve alpinism as a crystal-clear honest sport, far from the comercial pressure of the sponsors.

September 3, 2010 at 9:55 am
(6) jeansguy says:

Edward, we now have irrefutable evidence that Pasaban never made to the summit of Kanchenjunga. Pasaban claims she climbed Kanchenjunga 12 days after Oh and never saw rocks. This is exactly the same day Jon Gandal made to the top and his one picture clearly shows a huge rock dome just 7 meters below the summit. Gandal’s statement is that there are MANY rocks, large and small, near the summit. Did Pasaban really climb Kanchenjunga?

September 6, 2010 at 3:35 pm
(7) Lin says:

According to Jon Gangdal the weather on Kanchenjunga the 6th of May was terrible, all the climbers except Oh Eun Sun and her sherpas, decided not to push for the summit. Gangdal states that he does not believe that Oh summited Kanchenjunga, and that he and his climbing partner Mattias Karlsson did not recognize the terrain from the picture Miss Oh published.

Source (in Norwegian, use google’s translation service): http://www.vg.no/nyheter/utenriks/artikkel.php?artid=10036149

September 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm
(8) jeansguy says:

Read a summary of Gandal’s email interview here:


September 9, 2010 at 4:57 am
(9) Lin says:

I would question the credibility of that article you provided a link for, because he clearly states in the Norwegian newspaper that he did not believe Oh reached the top.

In another Norwegian news agency he says that The Chosun Ilbo managed to MISINTERPRET his words, and turn his clearly doubt over Oh’s summit to believing that she did. He also states (again) that he still does not believe she did summit Kanchenjunga.

Link to the above mentioned article (in Norwegian, use google’s translation service):


September 19, 2010 at 9:26 am
(10) justy says:

hey, YOU LIAR! Stop lying!
That sherpa boy’s name is Tshering Nurbu
and he already changed his word, in the program.
read this,do some calculation and find out who is fking liar

“Later, when back from the summit bid, Oh Eun-Sun defended herself from the accusations. On a television conference in Seoul, the climbing Sherpas that went to the very summit of Kangchenjunga with Miss Oh– Dawa Wangchuk and Pema Tshering–confirm!ed her version of the story. However, the third Sherpa climber on that occasion–Nurbu Sherpa–had a different point of view. According to him, they stopped 150 vertical meters below the top (as consigned on Himalayan Database).”
1 hour to go,yet.

8586-150=8436 m … 1 hour to go with Miss Oh???


Don’t miss Ferran Latorre ‘s lies.
3. Some climbers say that it was not possible for a climber to go from 8,400 meters to the summit and back in just three hours and 40 minutes–that was the time Oh took to cover this distance, according to binocular watchers in Kangchenjunga’s BC

who said took 3hours and 40 minutes?
his own invention…

September 19, 2010 at 10:26 am
(11) justy says:

from a grudge
Nurbu played cat and mouse with Oh eun sun.
KAF and SBS TV were simply playthings in the hands of the Western press.
Blinded by bitter jealousy they danced after Pasaban’s tune.
We can wait till May 2011.
The truth will come out .

September 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm
(12) Grizzley Adams Jr. says:

If Miss Hawley signs off on it, it’s good enough for me. Way too many armchair mountaineers making ill-informed judgements from their computer terminals.

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