S.Korean climber defends claim to disputed 14-peak record
Tue, May 04, 2010

KATHMANDU (AFP) - The South Korean climber who claims to be the first woman to have scaled the world's 14 highest mountains returned on Monday from her final summit and dismissed allegations that she had cheated.

Oh Eun-Sun's 2009 ascent of Mount Kanchenjunga has recently been disputed by fellow mountaineers, including her chief rival for the record, Edurne Pasaban of Spain, who have questioned whether she made it to the top.

"I am really sad that it has come to this," a visibly tired Oh told AFP in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu after conquering her last peak, the 8,091-metre (26,545-foot) Annapurna, on April 27.

"I have video footage taken by the Korean Broadcasting Service where I can prove my ascent of Kanchenjunga," she said.

"I believe that according to Pasaban, some Sherpas told her that I hadn't climbed Kanchenjunga. But no names of the Sherpas have been mentioned. Why?"

A picture provided by Oh, 44, shows her standing on a bare rock on Kanchenjunga but those taken by Pasaban's team shows them standing on snow.

Pasaban, 36, from Spain, conquered Annapurna last month, leaving her with just one more mountain to climb.

She is currently in Tibet preparing to tackle Shisha Pangma - the lowest of the 14 peaks over 8,000 metres.

"When I reached the top of Annapurna, I felt as if the world was at my feet," Oh told AFP. "I am tired of climbing, I just want to rest at home for a few years now."

But her ascent of Kanchenjunga - and therefore her claim to the record - will be registered as disputed, experts say.

"Oh will be credited for her climb to Kanchenjunga but the ascent will be marked as disputed," climbing historian Elizabeth Hawley told AFP in Kathmandu on Monday.

Hawley leads a team that compiles the Himalayan Database, an authoritative account of all major climbs in the Nepal Himalayas.

"I met Oh Eun-Sun today, she said she had video footage to prove her ascent on Kanchenjunga and that she would send me some still photos," Hawley said.

"Her account was completely different from Pasaban's so I really don't know who is right."

Oh faced further criticism because a Spanish climber died on Annapurna at the same time as Oh's expedition was on the mountain, and the dead man's team leader alleged that Oh and her team did nothing to help.

"We were hungry and exhausted on our way down. We wanted to help him, out of humanity, but we faced our own limitations," Oh said.

Fewer than 20 people have been to the top of the 14 mountains over 8,000 metres, all of which are in Asia's Himalaya and Karakoram ranges. Reinhold Messner from Italy became the first person to achieve the feat in 1986.

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