Famous Korean mountaineer disappears

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 23/10/2011
Park Young-seok in Antarctica. Damien Gildea
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Park Young-seok, arguably Korea's most accomplished high altitude mountaineer, is missing on the South Face of Annapurna.

In 2010 Park planned an alpine-style attempt on the prominent unclimbed line between the two pillars taken by the British and Japanese routes.

That year his team never got above 6,100m due to continuous bad weather. One member was hit on the knee by a falling rock and had to be evacuated by helicopter.

Park (47) returned to complete the job this October with Shin Dong-min and Kang Ki-seok, two members of the 2010 attempt.

The three first acclimatized on Island Peak in the Khumbu, then travelled to the Annapurna Sanctuary, where they set up base camp on the 9th October.

Having fixed a small amount of rope at the base of the face, they set off for an alpine-style attempt. Although undecided, they were considering the option of a traverse of the mountain by descending the Normal Route to the north.

However, it is reported that at around 4:00pm on the 18th, Park radioed base to say that the three were at 6,400m, the weather was poor, there was bad rock fall, and they were retreating. No sign of the three climbers has been seen since.

On the 20th a helicopter search of the face noted a rope that they thought might have belonged to the Koreans. Currently, two Korean teams already in Nepal are going to the site, and the Korean Alpine Federation is planning to send a rescue team.

In 2001 Park became the first Korean (and eighth mountaineer overall) to climb all 14 8,000m peaks, completing the set from 1993 (Everest) to 2001 (K2). He later went one better by becoming the first person to complete the 8,000ers, the Seven Summits and reach both North and South Poles.

Park climbed Everest three times. His first was by the Normal Nepalese Route but he returned in 2006 to make the third north-south traverse. In 2009 he climbed a new route on the left side of the South West Face.

The couloir/depression between the British and Japanese pillars on the South Face has a chequered history.

It was first attempted in the autumn of 1992, alpine-style, by Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille. The two reached 7,400m, seemingly above the difficulties, but the weather turned and they elected to descend.

At 7,100m, and with limited gear, Beghin placed a single Friend in a crack for a rappel anchor. It was slightly too small for the crack but he had little option and set off. The anchor ripped and Béghin, perhaps the best Himalayan climber in France at the time, fell to his death. Remarkably Lafaille managed to descend alone, even after his arm was broken by a falling rock

Lafaille noted later that the relatively high objective danger and few sections of technical climbing made an alpine-style attempt of this line the most logical.

It was not attempted again until 2007, when Ueli Steck tried solo. He had only reached c5,850m when he was hit by a rock, concussed, and fell 300m to the bottom of the face.

When he came too, Steck was unsure about his whereabouts but weaved through crevasses on the glacier until he was found by one of his base camp team.

He returned again in 2008, this time with a partner - Simon Anthamatten. The two reached 5,900m when heavy snowfall drove them down. They'd planned to make a second attempt but instead went on an unsuccessful bid to rescue the stricken Inaki Ochoa high on the East Ridge.

 



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