Fingerless Korean Mountaineer Lost in Himalayas

  • By Kim Sung-hyun

    July 20, 2021 13:21

    Kim Hong-bin, the first disabled person in the world to conquer 14 peaks over 8,000 m in the Himalayas, went missing in the Himalayas on Monday.

    The 57-year-old had reached the summit of the 8,047-m Broad Peak, the world's 12th-highest, in the border area between Pakistan and China on Sunday, before he fell off a cliff on the way down, his local climbing club said.

    It had taken him 15 years to climb 14 peaks over 8,000 m in the Himalayas starting with Gasherbrum II (8,035 m) in 2006. He is the 44th person in the world and seventh Korean to achieve the feat.

    Mountaineer Kim Hong-bin poses at a base camp on Broad Peak on Sunday. /Yonhap

    After reaching the peak, Kim sent an encouraging message to people who are frustrated with the coronavirus pandemic, saying, "If a disabled man could do this, everyone can get over the pandemic."

    But on his way down he put out a distress call to his team members at 9:58 a.m. on Monday, Lee In-jeong of the Union of Asian Alpine Associations told the Chosun Ilbo. "I heard that climbers there tried to rescue him, but failed." Lee said other climbers sent down a rope and an ascender to draw him up, but the rope snapped and he fell further down.

    Kim started mountaineering in 1983 while in college but had an accident during a solo climb of Mt. McKinley (6,194 m), the tallest mountain in North America, in 1991 and lost all 10 fingers to frostbite. Seven transplant operations all failed.

    Kim then turned to Alpine skiing. He became a member of the national team in 1999 and took part in the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City.

    With iron determination he also conquered the tallest mountains on all seven continents. In 2009 he climbed the Vinson Massif (4,897 m) in Antarctica.

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