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Best of ExplorersWeb 2011 Awards: Park Young Seok

Posted: Dec 28, 2011 01:23 pm EST

If South Korea had a Hemingway he would be Mr Park. The mountaineer chose the wild walks and led his life without apology. In a lame Himalaya season only he went for a new 8000er route. Park's last climb became as courageous and dramatic as was his life.

The adventure legends

"The world breaks everyone ... those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." (Ernest Hemingway in Farewell to Arms)

Rumor was he stole the South Pole marker, and in a rock-star type incident trashed the inside of a Twin Otter plane. Park knew his life probably wouldn't last to old age and refused to quit smoking for that reason. "I have the destiny of the explorer - my fate is to explore till I die," he said.

When his words were displayed on a screen during his funeral service in Seoul this fall, friends and relatives broke out in tears.

New route on Mount Everest

Climbing all the 14x8000ers and walking to both poles, in 2005 Park had completed the world's first Adventure Grand Slam.

With him at the North Pole were two of his closest friends - the young but already very accomplished mountaineers Oh Hee-Joon and Lee Hyun-Jo. Only two years later he lost them both when they fell to their deaths high above 8000 meters in his first expedition on the SW face of Everest.

Vanishing on a drinking binge Park emerged 6 months later crying revenge. "I will conquer the peak at any cost," he said. "I’ll climb up even if my calf is ruptured. I’ve built a good and bad relationship with the southwestern wall. It's about time I concluded it."

In that spirit, while all attention was focused on the normal route, in 2009 Mr Park summited Everest via a new line on the immense and technical SW Face.

Nobody noticed

It is a sign of our times that in the west, Park Young-Seok's blockbuster achievements offered him few headlines compared to even the most poorly rated adventure reality show.

It was unsurprising that on the eve of a timid Himalaya fall season, nobody seemed to care when Korea's most outstanding explorer and two new apprentices headed for the mighty south face of Annapurna.

Even when they went missing few mentioned the bold attempt of a genuine new route in the elegance of a single-push, alpine style climb.

The three acclimatized on Island Peak and set BC on Annapurna south side on October 9. Park Young Seok, Dong-Min Shin and Gi-Seok Gang fixed 180 meters of rope the very next day and October 18 the news came:

"The team has just left BC on a summit push," the support crew reported, "[...], expect to reach the summit via a new route on Friday, Oct 21."

The end

The end came very fast. The last communication between BC and Mr Park was at 4 pm that same day, at which point Park said the team was retreating from 6.400 meters amid heavy rock fall in a gale.

A frantic search and rescue operation was launched.

KAF and the President of Korea called on all Korean climbers worldwide (astonishingly, among the first asked to help, one month later Hyung-Il Kim and Ji-Myoung Jang perished on the north face of Cholatse).

A heli team found a rope buried deep beneath the snow on October 20 but no trace of the three climbers. All signs pointed to avalanche near ABC at 5,800 meters.

SAR leader Hak-Jae Yoo said he found a Bergschrund into which the climbers could have been swept. A new rescue team of nearly 20 people was organized.

With three experts from Korea's Mountain Rescue services (KARA) 14x8000er summiteer Jae-Soo Kim and his recent Cho Oyu climbing mate Chang-Ho Kim returned to Nepal only one month after their climb to probe the snow with metal detectors.

A rescue patrol in BC searched the big crevasse until high risk of collapse and frequent avalanches forced them out. The search was resumed again and again, leaving rescuers exhausted and frustrated, KAF said.

Remembering Park

And then it was over. KAF called off the SAR for Park and his team at 12:00 on October 28. Photos of the three were displayed in a Kathmandu temple. Back in Seoul at the funeral, "I will return to Annapurna to find them," swore Kim Jae-Soo.

As Hemingway knew, living long doesn't equal living great. At ExplorersWeb we remember Mr Park by another quote borrowed from the writer. Wrapped in mountaineering clothes it would say:

"For a true explorer each expedition should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

Previous Awards in 2011

5. The Wanderer: Henk de Velde
6. Himalayan Knights: Abele Blanc

Special mentions:

Adrian Ballinger: Manaslu ski descent
Erden Eruc: Indian Ocean row finish
Arjun Vajpai: youngest on Lhotse and Manaslu
Sarah and Eric McNair-Landry: kiting the NW passage
Erik Boomer & Jon Turk, Ellesmere Island
Irena Mrak and Mojca Svajger, Nanga Parbat Diamir face
Christian Eide, South Pole speed record
Ueli Steck - Shishapangma speed climb

We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2011. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.

And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 6 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in 2011.

By their performance, these expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:

- Courage
- Determination
- Persistence
- Self reliance
- Ingenuity
- Pioneering
- Idealism
- Comradeship
- Compassion
- Respect towards competition
- Honesty

#Polar #topstory #choice

Climbing all the 14x8000ers and walking to both poles, in 2005 Korean Park Young-Seok completed the world's first Adventure Grand Slam. With him at the North Pole were two of his closest climbing friends; Oh Hee-Joon and Lee Hyun-Jo.
Korean Mr Park did the last new route on Everest. Will he have followers this season? (Park recently perished during a new route attempt on Annapurna.)
In 2007 Oh, 37, and Lee, 34, died on the SW face of Everest. In 2009 Park climbed a new line on the wall for them.
Park celebrating his last birthday, 49, in Anna BC this fall.
courtesy Park Young-Seok Annapurna fall 2011 expedition
Avalanche captured by Park's expedition team some days before the summit push.
courtesy Park Young-Seok Annapurna fall 2011 expedition -TNF
Photos of the three Korean mountaineers in a KTM temple.
courtesy Kyu Dam Lee, SOURCE
Mr Park climbed with Miss Oh (right) in her early Himalaya days. She wrote an open letter when he perished.
courtesy KAF, SOURCE
Members of the Korean community descended into a deep crevasse in their search.
courtesy Chosun news, SOURCE
14x8000er summiteer Um Hong-Gil bidding a last good-bye to Park Young-Seok.
courtesy Courtesy Kyu Dam Lee
Even by Korean standards (image shows remains of a Korean climber retrieved on Manaslu this spring) the effort to find Park and his mate was remarkable.
Image by Fishtail Air courtesy Fishtail Air, SOURCE