Last spring, someone became the first woman to ascend all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks. Trouble is, the official ruling on who owns the title is still in dispute. Initial reports had 45-year-old Korean Oh Eun-Sun topping out on her last peak, Nepal's 26,545-foot Annapurna, late last April. Veteran Basque mountaineer Edurne Pasaban, 37, finished up three weeks later with Tibet's 26,289-foot Shishapangma. So what's the issue? Controversy surrounds Oh's May 2009 summit photos from India's highest mountain, 28,169-foot Kanchenjunga. Several climbers, including Pasaban, who was on the peak at the same time, say they were taken 500 feet below the summit. When confronted, Oh acknowledged stopping probably a few meters short due to turbulent weather up top and taking her "summit" photos farther below. But there is no clear marker at the peak, and she insists she conquered it. Two of her Sherpas back her claims; a third says she failed in her bid. Last fall, the Korean Alpine Federation ruled that there isn't enough evidence to validate Oh's claim, citing the lack of true summit photos, the questionable timeline of her ascent, and her Korean flag found weighted with stones some 170 feet below the summit. Elizabeth Hawley, who has managed the Himalayan Database, climbing's bible of ascents in the range, for more than four decades, has marked Oh's Kanchenjunga ascent "Disputed." But most of the international climbing community says the crown goes to Pasaban. To boot, she bagged 13 of the peaks without supplemental oxygen, which Oh used on Everest and K2. Pasaban plans to make it a solid 14 this spring with a second Everest summit, sans O2, making her the hands-down queen of the 8Ks.
Filed To: Mountaineering