44 year-old Korean climber Oh Eun-Sun put her name in the record books last week, and joined very elite mountaineering company in the process. On Tuesday, she reached the summit of Annapurna, the 10th highest mountain in the world at 26,545 feet, and in doing so, became the first woman to climb all fourteen of the worlds mountains over 8000 meters (26,246 feet) in height.
For Oh, who climbed with a South Korean television crew in tow, the summit was the culmination of more than a decade of preparation, training, and climbing. In her home country, she was already a celebrity, and millions watched live on television as she made those final steps to the top of the mountain. Having completed her task, she is now likely to be one of the most famous athletes in South Korea.
Located in Nepal, Annapurna is widely considered to be one of the toughest, if not the toughest, of the 8000 meter peaks to climb. While shorter in stature than its more famous cousin, Mt. Everest, it is far more technical to climb. Additionally, the mountain is notorious for its poor weather and avalanches are common on the steep upper slopes. Oh herself failed to summit Annapurna last fall, prompting a return trip this spring to give it another go.
Oh Eun-Sun’s claim to being the first woman to summit the world’s highest peaks is not without controversy however. Spanish climber Edurne Pasaban has called into question Oh’s summit of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world at 28,169 feet. Pasaban cites a lack of photo evidence and interviews with Sherpas who say that the Korean climber didn’t reach the summit on that mountain. Pasaban has been in pursuit of the 8000 meters peaks herself, and is likely to summit her final mountain, the 26,289 foot Shisha Pangma, located in Tibet, this week.