Miss Oh Eun-Sun crowns all 8000ers, but one alpinist still in difficulty on Annapurna.
On 27/04/2010 the South Korean alpinist Miss Oh Eun-Sun reached the summit of Annapurna and, in doing so, has become the first woman in the world to climb all fourteen 8000ers. In the meantime though an alpinist is in trouble on the 10th highest mountain in the world...
In these hours the Goddess of abundance is the absolute protagonist in the Himalaya: after yesterday's euphoria for Miss Oh Eun-Sun's historic ascent (which makes her the first woman to have summited all fourteen 8000m peaks) and the ascents of Spaniards Carlos Pauner, Juanito Oiarzabal, Tolo Calafat, Jorge Egocheaga ande Martin Ramos, of Horia Colibasanu from Romania and the Slovaks Peter Hamor and Piotr Pustelnik (he too has now completed all 14!), today is marked by deep uncertainy as Tolo Calafat is reportedly in difficulty at 7600m, 500m above Camp 4. At present a rescue operation is underway and while Horia Colibasanu is set to depart from Camp 4, there is also talk of a helicopter rescue attempt.
Once again therefore joy and drama unfold and intertwine at altitude. From a joyous point of view what is certain is that yesterday at 15.00 local time the 44-year-old South Korean Miss Oh Eun-Sun reached the summit of Annapurna after having left Camp 4 thirteen hours earlier. In doing so she has become the first woman to set foot on the summit of all fourteen peaks above 8000m, and her ascent was supported by a team of Sherpa (possibily 6) and also KBS TV boradcast live from the summit. The top was reached later on by Spaniards Carlos Pauner, Juanito Oiarzabal and Tolo Calafat who all descended immediatly. According to Oh's sponsor, the South Korean returned to Camp 4 at 21.30, while the Spaniards arrived around midnight, without Tolo Calafat however.
Those who regularly follow high altitude news reports know full well that, apart from the difficulty in receiving exact reports (using the conditional is almost always obligatory), that this is part of the 8000m world. A world in which the future is always intangible and hung by a very thin thread indeed. Despite style and external support (read high altitude porters and a prepared ascent route as in the case of the Korean alpinist) being far removed from that "by fair means" which has always been the "sacred" motto of alpinism. Having said that it's clear that - 24 years after Reinhold Messner became the first to climb the world's 14 highest mountains - Miss Oh Eun-Sun will remain in people's minds as the first woman to have completed this great tour, regardless of all ifs and buts... In some respects this is also "right". Just as the live TV transmission is a sign of our times, and not only in mountaineering.
All of this won't change the mountains though. It won't change man's impotence towards Mother Nature. Unfortunatley what is currently unfolding on Annapurna, the difficulties the alpinist is in, is a glaring reminder. As usual though we trust that all will turn out for the best: in these hours and minutes this is the most important thing of all!
A final thought goes to Edurne Pasaban, the other pretender to the female throne (just a few days ago she ascended her 13th peak, Annapurna), who is now attempting Shisha Pangma, the last mountain missing from her "collection". And a thought goes out to Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner who is attempting to reach the summit of Everest, her 13th peak, without supplementary oxygen as is her style. And a thought also goes to Nives Meroi who at a tally of 12 (all without supplementary oxygen and in light style) simply turned her back on the 8000ers due to life's twists and turns, due to climbing and life partner Romano Benet's illness. To finish off with what Meroi stated a few months ago, we too believe it's a good thing that the female 8000m "race" is - finally - over. We now place our trust in the future, and in the mountains and an alpinism determined by choices which go well beyond simple "records".
Oh Eun-Sun and her 8000m timeline
17/07/1997 1 Gasherbrum 2
20/05/2004 2 Everest (with supplementary oxygen)
03/10/2006 3 Shisha Pangma
08/05/2007 4 Cho Oyu
20/07/2007 5 K2 (with supplementary oxygen)
13/05/2008 6 Makalu
26/05/2008 7 Lhotse
31/07/2008 8 Broad Peak
12/10/2008 9 Manaslu
06/05/2009 10 Kangchnejunga
21/05/2009 11 Dhaulagiri
10/07/2009 12 Nanga Parbat
03/08/2009 13 Gasherbrum 1
28/04/2010 14 Annapurna