Strong Korean-Nepalese Team Heads for Unclimbed Jugal I and II

Renowned climber Um Hong-gil of South Korea is back in Nepal, leading an expedition to unclimbed Jugal I and Jugal II. Sherpa stars Dawa Yangzum (co-leader) and Lakpa Dendi, plus a large Korean team, are accompanying him.

Um himself will not be part of the climbing team but will coordinate from Base Camp. The Korean climbing leader is Koo Eun-soo, and the Nepalese climbing head is veteran Lhakpa Sonam Sherpa, South Korean journalist Young-Hoon Oh told ExplorersWeb.

Climbers also include Baek Jong-min, Eom Tae-chul, Joung Je-gyun, Kim Dong-jin, and Byeon Junki of Korea and Lama Babu Sherpa and Min Bahadur Lama of Nepal, as well as the other three mentioned above. Lama is a native of the Jugal region.

The team left Kathmandu yesterday by road for Tambathang, Lakpa Dendi told ExplorersWeb.  From that last town, they will trek for three days to Base Camp, located at 4,700m.

A moauntina with three prominent points.

The main peaks in Jugal Himal. Photo: Nepali News Hub


Jugal I (6,591m) and II (6,518m) are adjacent peaks, and the team plans to reach both summits on the same push.

Newly accessible Jugal Himal

With three confirmed expeditions, the Jugal Himal is getting unexpected attention this year. In addition to Um’s, a four-women team will attempt Jugal 5, while a single climber has applied for Jugal 3. Although only 70km from Kathmandu, the peaks only opened to climbing last year. Read more about the Jugal Himal here.

The Jugal peaks made headlines when Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller of the UK bagged the first ascent of Jugal Spire, also known as Dorje Lhakpa II (6,563m) in 2022. The climb up an ice line they called The Phantom Line earned them a Piolet d’Or.

Nepal opened Jugal I (6,591m) and Jugal II (6,518m) for climbing just last spring, together with five other peaks in the area.

Official support

The Nepal-Korea Friendship Expedition launched with a big ceremony attended by Nepal’s Prime Minister and the Korean ambassador. It is meant to promote mountain tourism in new areas of Nepal and to celebrate the 50th anniversary since Nepal and South Korea established bilateral diplomatic relations.

A group of nearly 50 trekkers from South Korea will accompany the team to Base Camp, along with a journalist and camera crew.

the climbers and poititians pose with South Korean and Nepalese flags.

On the left side, Dawa Yangzum, the Korean ambassador, Um Hong-Gil, and Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, during the official launch of the Jugal I and II expedition. Photo: Nepal News


The climbers

Um Hong-Gil, 63, completed his own version of the 8,000m challenge in 2007. He summited not the 14 but the 16 highest peaks in the world. To the usual list, he added Yalung Khan and Lhotse Shar. He has also stood on the summit of Everest three times.

Gil at home, with books and trophies on ledges behind him.

Um Hong-Gil of South Korea. Photo: Um Hong-Gil/Human Foundation


“I achieved my goal with many difficulties and some very close calls,” Um told the Nepali Times. “I promised the mountain gods that if they sent me back alive, I would live the rest of my life meaningfully. [They] kept their side of the agreement, so I had to fulfill my promise as well.”

Um set up a foundation, mainly focused on helping Nepali children access education. Eventually, Um received honorary Nepalese citizenship.

Lakpa Dendi Sherpa is one of the so-called Supersherpas, guiding non-stop on 8,000’ers. He has reached summits above 8,000m 33 times. In one particular season, he summited Everest three times in 10 days.

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, from Rolwaling, is the first Sherpa woman to become an IFMGA guide. She has summited 13 of the 8,000’ers. She is also vice-president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

Koo Eun-Soo’s impressive resumé includes ascents of Nanga Parbat, Everest, Kangchenjunga, Shisha Pangma, and also Thalay Sagar, Peak 41 (6,648m) in the Mahalangur Himal, and attempts on Latok I in the Karakoram and Mariyang (6,528m) in the Kanti Himal.
Veteran climber and entrepreneur Lhakpa Sonam Sherpa, 63, is an important voice in Nepal’s tourism industry. Among other companies, he is CEO of Yeti Airlines and Thamserku Trekking. While focused on business, he summited Everest last year to complete his Seven Summits. Sonam Sherpa’s late wife, Pasang Lhamu, was the first Nepalese woman to summit Everest.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.