September 01, 2010 09:46
A Sherpa who assisted mountaineer Oh Eun-sun in her climb of Kangchenjunga last year defended her claim that her team reached the summit of the 8,586-m Himalayan peak.
Oh's claim to be the first woman to have climbed all 14 of the world's 8,000-m peaks in the Himalayas is in doubt, as the media and the Korea Alpine Federation have questioned whether she made it to the top of Kangchenjunga.
But Sherpa Pema Tshirins insisted on Tuesday that they did indeed reach the summit during the May 2009 expedition. In a telephone interview with the Chosun Ilbo, Pema said, "Four of us including Oh climbed up to the peak in 21 hours. Among us, Sherpa Dawa Ongju has ascended Kangchenjunga four times." The fourth in the group was Sherpa Nurbu, he said.
Oh asserts that she conquered Kangchenjunga, her 10th in the 14-peak expedition, with the three Sherpas, but a photograph that she claims was taken on the summit has raised doubts. It shows rocks that are not seen in pictures taken by other climbers atop the mountain, and some question the fast time she claims to have clocked in the last stage of the ascent.
Pema insisted that the rocks in Oh's photograph really are at the peak. As to why the background of the picture is not clear, he said, "The weather on mountains is erratic. There are strong winds, and the weather changes from cloudy to clear very quickly. It made it very difficult to take pictures that day."
Ongju came out in support of Oh in December last year when the suspicions first began to surface.
But an investigative program by SBS recently aired an interview with Nurbu which intensified the doubts. "We argued because the others wanted to take the picture when we still had an hour to climb," Nurbu said in the interview. "We shouldn't call it a peak if it's not a peak."
Pema denied Nurbu's claim, saying there was no argument between the Sherpas. "Nurbu might have said those things since he wasn't able to go with Oh to Pakistan and Annapurna because of the frostbite he sustained while climbing Kangchenjunga," Pema said.
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