Hong Sung-Taek Returns to Lhotse South Face

This is the story of a lifelong personal quest. An obsession, you might say. A determined search for the excellence on one of the hardest, biggest walls in the Himalaya. Hong Sung-Taek has attempted — unsuccessfully — to open a new route on the mighty South Face of Lhotse five times. Now he is back at it, with a change: This marks the first time that the Korean climber will try the wall in spring, rather than in the post-monsoon season.

For his current attempt, the South Korean leader has gathered a large, heterogeneous team around him, including Uta Ibrahimi from Kosovo,  Gabriel Jaime Morant from Colombia, Chinese woman climber Jing He, and fellow Koreans Nak-Jong Seong and Jin-Kwon Woo. Last but not least in the team is Spanish 14×8000’er summiter Jorge Egocheaga, a quiet doctor known after his austere, lightweight approach to Himalayan expeditions and his fierce rejection of media attention. In 2017, Egocheaga and Hong managed to reach 8,250m on the South Face, their highest point so far.

The team reached Base Camp on April 9. During the trek in, Hong had time to answer some questions from ExplorersWeb.

Hong Sung-Taek and team during the trek to Lhotse. Photo: Hong Sung-Taek

Previously, you described Lhotse South Face as “the route of the 21st century” and “more valuable than climbing all the world’s 14 highest peaks”. Could you explain your feelings toward the challenge ahead?

I expect to succeed this time, with no injuries. If I wanted only to summit, I might have done it earlier, but I’m trying to be as safe as possible, to avoid giving the South Face any sacrifices. We learned a lot from our previous climb, and we’re very close to success now. I’ve paid this face such continuous devotion because I feel that it is more demanding than any climb in the Himalaya.

You attempted this route before in 1999, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017. What makes you return to this one Wall time after time?

I feel the soul of the mountain calling me. I would like see that spirit and to prove myself worthy of its company by summiting the South Face. I also believe that Lhotse is the most difficult mountain in the Himalaya, and that challenge draws me to it.

Communing with the spirit of Lhotse South Face. Photo: Hong Sung-Taek


What is your strategy and style?

We plan to acclimatize on the South Face of Mt. Lhotse itself. Some members of my expedition may use supplementary oxygen, some may not. I would like to install one more camp than we have done on previous attempts.

Are you attempting the same route?


How can we follow your expedition?

Hong Sung Taek returns to one of the most formidable faces in the Himalaya.


Hong Sung-Taek of South Korea was a promising judo athlete but was injured while training for the Olympics. After his recovery, he turned to the outdoors. He has trekked to both Poles and crossed Greenland and the Bering Strait. Besides Lhotse South Face, his other Himalayan climbs include Everest and Pumori.


Related article:

Hong Sung-Taek Returns to Lhotse South Face