Korean Everest Sea to Summit marred by tragedy

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 27/05/2013
Kim Chang-ho (left) and An Chi-young at Himjung base camp in 2012. An Chi-young

On the 20th May the accomplished Korean mountaineer Kim Chang-ho reached the summit of Everest to become the first Korean to climb all 14 of the 8,000m peaks without supplementary oxygen. But his route to the top began in the Bay of Bengal.

The idea of climbing Everest from sea level is not new. On the 5th February 1990 Australian Tim Macartney-Snape set out from the Bay of Bengal with his wife Ann Ward to ascend every metre of Everest.

He walked all the way from Ganga Sagar on the Indian coast and eventually summited via the Normal Route, alone, with no Sherpa support and without supplementary oxygen.

Directed and produced by Michael Dillon, Everest Sea to Summit was the award-winning documentary of this adventure and led to Macartney-Snape founding the successful clothing and equipment business, Sea to Summit.

In 1984 Macartney-Snape had become the first Australian to reach the summit of Everest, when with Greg Mortimer he completed the new route White Limbo on the North Face. He also used no supplementary oxygen. The ascent, made in lightweight style, was much acclaimed.

In 1996 the Swedish mountaineer, Goran Kropp, cycled all the way from his home town, trekked to base camp, and then climbed the mountain without supplementary oxygen.

Kropp left Sweden in October 1995 and arrived at base camp in April 1996. He was allowed first crack at the summit but turned back close to the top. He was able to summit three weeks later, after the famous disaster that occurred on the mountain that season.

In his venture Kim introduced a slightly different twist. On the "0 to 8,848m" expedition, he also started at Ganga Sagar, but canoed up river for the first 160km to Kolkata, then cycled the next 1,000km via Dharan and Tumlingtar, before trekking the final 150km to Everest Base Camp.

His fellow climbing members were An Chi-Young, who in the winter of 2006-07  had reached above 8,200m on the south face of Lhotse, Oh Young-hoon, who had already climbed Everest, and Seo Sung-ho, who had climbed 12 of the 8,000ers, 10 without oxygen (but Everest with).

The climbers followed the Normal Route to the top, but sadly this unusual expedition ended in tragedy: during the descent, Seo, who this time had summited without supplementary oxygen, died.

Kim has become the first Korean to climb the mountain without supplementary oxygen. But in addition his oxygen free ascents of the 8,000ers was completed in seven years, 10 months and six days, over a month shorter than the previous fastest time set by the legendary Polish mountaineer Jerzy Kukuczka.

And he is not just a high altitude peak bagger.

Kim decided to take up climbing in the Himalaya relatively late (he is now almost 44), after reading an article about  Alexander the Great's expedition to Pakistan.

In 2012, together with An Chi-young, Kim made the first ascent of Himjung (7,092m) in Nepal's Peri Himal (northwest of Manaslu), an ascent that gained the pair the 2012 Piolets d'or Asia.

Kim also made the first ascent of 7,762m Batura II. Together with Batura I West (7,775m), which remains virgin, Batura II was one of the highest unclimbed named summits in the Karakoram (and indeed Asia).

And his successful summit of Nanga Parbat was reached via the long-awaited second ascent of the south-southeast spur (aka Messner Route) on the Rupal Face. Following this, he traversed the mountain by descending the Diamir Face.

He has also made first ascents of five 6,000m peaks , and is believed to have climbed Trango Tower.



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