(BY Angela Benavides EDIT Brooke Meetze/TinaSjogren) Ten or even five vertical meters below Kangchenjunga summit is not Kangchenjunga summit.
It was not a summit for Spanish Jorge Egocheaga when an unstable snow slab stopped him 12 meters from K2 summit in 2009; it was equally clear to Bulgarian Boyan Petrov who reported, by personal integrity, that he turned back 30 meters shy from the top on GII in 2008. And it was evident even to South Korean Oh Eun-Sun on Kangchenjunga.
Sirdar Dawa Wangchuck, a supposedly three-time Kangchenjunga summiteer, will have to explain why he said that he had led his client to the highest point now that Eun-Sun says otherwise. Oh Eun-Sun will further have to detail some of her other 8000ers, where lack of data along with her expanded view of victory put question marks also on those achievements.
The question of distance
It is still uncertain exactly how far below the top the Korean and her Sherpas reached on Kangchenjunga. In fact, it is unlikely and unclear why the climbers, following such a long and hard effort, would stop on gently sloping snow only a few meters from the summit.
Mallory & Irvine researcher Tom Holzel knows well how to study detailed mountain topo photographs. ExplorersWeb handed him digitally enhanced versions of Miss Oh's summit picture, Wieliki's and Latorre's images, plus a short video shot by Polish Kinga Baranowska on her lonely arrival at Kangchenjunga summit (one week after Miss Oh's ascent).
"There is not much to go on," Tom commented. "However, the rocks and snow berm (bench) by Miss Oh is nowhere to be seen in Kinga Baranowska's panoramic video of the top. Indeed, there are no rocks at all within 50 meters of the top, much less five meters."
A fellow American climber pointed out that in the summit photo Miss Oh is standing partially behind a platform of snow that is obscuring a portion of her left leg. "That doesnt seem to match up at all with the Polish womans video of the summit area," the climber told Holzel.
As for those who were there: real summit, said two. One hour down, said the third. Five or ten meters below said Miss Oh. Meanwhile, the cat-and-mouse game robbed another athlete of her triumph.
In our society we have agreed to strive for one thing: we are going to have fair games. This resolve is constantly challenged.
Some athletes are admired in spite of their using drugs to conquer fellow non-using competitors in the same game. In a survey of 750 teens, 38 percent thought that in order to succeed, rules must be broken. Among other things, the study attributed its findings to an absence of adult role models.
One of the adult role models in mountaineering is the man who first climbed all the 14, 8000ers. Reinhold Messner told Desnivel in a recent video interview about Miss Oh's Kangchenjunga climb: "Everybody who reaches the ground near the summit, let say 10, 15 meters from the summit, is the summit."
In fair games, rules must be clear or 10 meters soon become 50 meters, 100 meters and more. In the case of Miss Oh, the actual distance is unimportant, for even she knew what a true top is:
"I didn't do the real point," she told Der Speigel.
Once again, we must turn to the late Inaki Ochoa's words describing a summit as "where everything goes down in any and every other direction." With that definition, the world has finally got its true first female 14, 8000ers mountaineer: Edurne Pasaban.
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