Rumor began spreading last week in Spanish media: Edurne Pasaban told a "journalist friend" about a Sherpa stating that Miss Oh never reached the summit of Kangchenjunga last year.
"I just mentioned the subject, but never expected it to be published, because we had always doubted that summit claim but media never seemed to be interested," Edurne told ExplorersWeb from Tibet today. "Suddenly though, media find it extremely important, and the news is all over Spain."
Spanish media focus on the "race" in a similar way to Alonso F1 competitions or Nadal tennis tournaments, and now the issue has spread over the world, raising a wave of criticism from both veteran mountaineers and young alpine-style advocates.
Pasaban and her team passed their doubts also to Miss Hawley. "Miss Oh and her Sherpa told my assistant that they both summited Kangchenjunga and we had no reason to doubt them," Liz told BBC. "This same Sherpa is now with Miss Oh on Annapurna 1. My assistant will re-interview this Sherpa when he returns to Kathmandu."
There were several teams on Kanchenjunga at that time, one was Miss Pasabans and one was Miss Ohs, Hawley told AFP in Kathmandu late Friday. The only picture that anyone has seen shows Miss Oh standing on bare rock. But Miss Pasaban showed me a picture of her team on the summit, and they are standing on snow." She said she would continue to include Ohs 2009 Kanchenjunga ascent in the database, but would describe it as disputed in future editions.
When BBC aired the news it reached South Korea. Miss Oh sponsoring Black Yak answered with a heated press release, while the climber herself deals with high winds and summit push on Annapurna, her last 8000er.
Black Yak shoots back
The sponsor is pretty upset about Edurne's choice of timing with her criticism, calling it "very calculated and cunning."
"As for now, Miss Oh does not know this is happening because she is on the mountain (Annapurna)," the sponsor wrote.
Black Yak writes that there were many other teams on Kangchenjunga at the time of the doubted climb last year, including Edurne Pasaban who herself reported that "Korean Oh Eun Sun just reached the top in spite of the wind."
It was the first summit of the season and conditions were rough according to Edurne Pasaban, who also told her home team that Oh was climbing on O2
and heavily supported by a huge team.
According to Black Yak, the reason that Pasaban now doubts Oh's summit is that no one saw her do it. To this, the sponsor answers that Kang summit is not visible from BC even in good weather, and there was only one telescopic (1,100 m) camera that followed the climb. In addition, "when Miss Oh summited the mountain, Miss Pasaban was in C2 located at a position not observable the summit."
Black Yak state that Miss Oh was last observed at (8,400 m) a position near the Finger-nail Rock before disappearing into the fog between the summit and Yalung-kang (west peak of Kangchenjunga, 8,505 m).
"It took 3 hours and 40 minutes to reach summit from finger-nail rock in serious white-out condition. This climbing time is considered as reasonable time by mountaineers who have experience on Mt. Kangchenjunga," states the sponsor. "Some sherpas in BC also said 1~2 hours are enough to climb the summit from the rock."
"Those facts were also known by many people in BC include the filming director of TVE from Spain who followed Miss Pasaban."
As for the lack of fixed ropes below the summit, Black Yak reply: "The slope 200 meters below the summit is comparatively gentle, so fixed rope is not a necessary option. Mr. Hong-Gil Uhm did not use fixed rope there when he summited the mountain with Mr. Moo-Teak Park in 2000. They said that they climbed the section only belayed to each other."
After Miss Oh's summit in 2009, Jae-Soo Kim (Korea), Jon Gangdal (Norway) Metis (Sweden) and Edurne Pasaban actually scaled the top the same way, the sponsor points out.
ExplorersWeb looked into the matter already last year. The timeline for the final push was odd, and there was no summit picture, except for a sponsor image shot lower down due to the bad weather according to Miss Oh.
Finding apparently a misunderstanding regarding Miss Oh's last summit push starting point (crucial for the timing issue), a witness and HimalayaDataBase confirming the summit - in addition to frequent confusion among western climbers between Miss Oh and the late fellow Korean Miss Go (the latter climbing on oxygen support and with big entourage) - ExplorersWeb ruled that doubts about Miss Oh's Kanchen summit were not backed by enough fact at that point. The involved were however offered to add new evidence should such become available.
"We are very disappointed when we heard that Miss Pasaban mentioned Miss Ohs summit on Kangchenjunga," a Korean crew member told ExWeb Korean correspondent Kyu dam Lee. "We think her words are very unfair. If she felt Miss Ohs summit was doubtful, she should have expressed her opinions at the time when everyone discusses it."
Edurne, delayed in Tibet
"I am confused. Had I known this so-called race was going to be such a mess, I would have thought twice before getting involved," Edurne told ExplorersWeb earlier. "I am not in it to get rich or famous - I just love climbing, it's my life, so I thought it was logical to complete the project," she said.
The timing of the renewed critisism seems sprung from a recent talk that Edurne had with some sherpas. There was no report of the issue being debated between the ladies in their tea chat shortly before Edurne's summit of Annapurna.
Currently in Tibet where Edurne Pasaban hopes to summit Shisha Pangma, her last 8000er, the Al Filo team crossed the border smoothly on Saturday, but bad news awaited in Chinese BC today. "We expected our yaks to be there - but no yak was to be seen. A long discussion followed, and finally we have been told the animals will need two days to arrive," Edurne's team explained, currently one day away from Shisha Pangma BC.
Best of ExplorersWeb 2009 Awards: Miss Oh and Miss Go, Himalaya Dream Mile
ExWeb interview with Oh Eun-sun: "Annapurna will decide"
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