Fresh doubt has been cast on the record of a Korean climber, who was hailed in April as the first woman to climb the world's 14 highest peaks. Oh Eun-sun "probably failed" to reach the top of the world's third-highest peak, Kangchenjunga, ...
Fresh doubt has been cast on the record of a Korean climber, who was hailed in April as the first woman to climb the world's 14 highest peaks.
Oh Eun-sun "probably failed" to reach the top of the world's third-highest peak, Kangchenjunga, the Korean Alpine Federation (KAF) judged on Thursday.
Top Himalayan record keeper Elizabeth Hawley is investigating the KAF ruling.
If she decides to list the 2009 ascent as "unrecognised", the record will pass to Spanish climber Edurne Pasaban.
Ms Oh climbed Annapurna, the last of her 14 mountains above 8,000m, on 27 April. Ms Pasaban completed the list by scaling Shisha Pangma just under three weeks later, on 17 May.
Ms Oh responded to the Korean Alpine Federation's verdict - issued at a meeting of seven local climbers who have scaled the 8,586m mountain - by describing it as "a unilateral opinion".
"All participants were climbers who had doubts about my achievement from the beginning, so their conclusion must have been already set," she said in an interview with MBC television, quoted by the AFP news agency.
Miss Hawley, keeper of the authoritative Himalayan Database, told the BBC in June it was looking "unlikely" that Ms Oh summited Kangchenjunga.
This came after one of the three sherpas who accompanied her on the ascent of Kangchenjunga said she stopped 150m below the summit, in high winds.
The sherpa, Nurbu, told Miss Hawley he was leading the group when the others waved at him to come down.
Another sherpa, Dawa Wangchuk, has already stated publicly that the group did reach the summit.
"I'm sure she's not lying. She just believed her guide, Dawa Wangchuk. She had great confidence in him," Miss Hawley told the BBC.
Jin Park, a spokesman for Ms Oh's sponsors, the Korean outdoor clothing firm Blackyak, said Dawa Wangchuk had climbed Kangchenjunga four times.
"So I think there is no possibility for confusion about the summit," he said.
Evidence 'piling up'
Doubts have been circulating about Ms Oh's ascent of Kangchenjunga for months.
Experts say there is no convincing picture of Ms Oh on the summit, and have questioned whether she could have finished the last 200m or so of the climb, when clouds obscured the view from below, in the time available to her.
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Is Oh Eun-Sun a record-breaker?
A member of the next team to reach the peak of Kangchenjunga, in May 2009, the Norwegian climber Jon Gangdal, says he found Ms Oh's Korean flag weighed down by stones, some 50m or 60m below the summit.
At present, the ascent is listed as "disputed" in Miss Hawley's Himalayan Database. In June she said it seemed likely to remain that way, even though evidence was "piling up" against her.
Questions about Miss Oh's ascent of Kangchenjunga first arose in Korea itself just weeks after she claimed to have reached the summit. Climbers linked to a rival woman climber Go Mi-Young (who died in a climbing accident in July 2009) were particularly sceptical.
Korean Alpine Federation secretary general Lee Eui-Jae said participants in Thursday's meeting all shared the view that Miss Oh's photographs on Kangchenjunga did not "seem to match the actual landscape".
"They also agreed that Oh's previous explanations on the process of her ascent to Kangchenjunga are unreliable," he told AFP.
Meanwhile, Eberhard Jurgalski, from the website 8000-ers.com, points out that most climbers who want recognition for their ascents either take conclusive summit photographs or have eyewitnesses.
He says he has seen convincing photographs of Miss Oh on the summit of only eight of the 14.
"If someone is collecting peaks and wants to be accepted as the first woman to have climbed all 14 8,000ers, she should be able to give more evidence of her climbs," he says.
"The whole attitude of people who want to be accepted as having done exceptional things must change."
By Joanna Jolly and Stephen Mulvey BBC News