Saving the Best ’til Last – Girl Power on the Annapurna Circuit

Saving the Best ’til Last – Girl Power on the Annapurna Circuit

The Annapurna circuit takes you to the foot of one of the 14 highest peaks in the world – Mount Annapurna – and on April 26th 2010 one young woman made history by becoming the first female climber ever to conquer all 14 of those peaks, saving Mount Annapurna, the highest point of the Annapurna Massif, until last.

The History Books
The first of the 14 mountains whose peaks rise above 8,000 meters ever to be climbed, Mount Annapurna was first scaled by members of a French expedition led by Maurice Herzog in June, 1950. Standing at 8,091 metres, Mount Annapurna is not only the highest point in the region of the famous Annapurna circuit trek, but it is also the tenth highest mountain in the world. Not far behind, Edmund Hillary proceeded to climb Mount Everest, the tallest of the 14 highest peaks, becoming the first person to reach the summit in May, 1953. Just a year later, in July 1954, Italian mountaineers Lacedelli and Compagnoni achieved the first ever climb of the second highest (and some would argue the most challenging) mountain in the world, K2. And so, an era of Himalayan mountaineering was born. With the completion of the first climb up Tibet’s Shisha Pangma – in 1964, all 14 of the highest peaks were then conquered.

Oh Eun-Sun’s Story
Oh Eun-Sun, a 44 year-old from South Korea, made history in April 2010, just 13 years after she climbed her first of the highest peaks, when she became the twenty-first climber to have completed all 14 mountains. Oh’s journey began in 1997 with the climbing of Gasherbrum, also known to many as K4 – the first of the over eight-thousand metre mountains she had climbed. In 2004 she went on to conquer Everest, however it was not until she climbed K2 in 2007 that Oh started to really focus on her goal. Completing an astonishing 8 more of the 14 peaks in the space of just 4 months in 2009, she was then left with only one more mountain standing between her and a world record.

Saving the Best ‘Til Last
The arrival of 2010 left Oh Eun-Sun with just one more peak to master, and April saw her heading off to the Annapurna Circuit to complete her challenge. Good weather aided her in her challenge and on the 26th April, Oh was pictured firmly planting the South Korean flag atop of Mount Annapurna, thus completing her mission and successfully making her the first woman ever to have achieved the climbing of all 14 over-8,000 metre mountains.

A Tarnished Victory
Unfortunately Oh’s time on the Annapurna Circuit was tarnished slightly with questions raised by a fellow climber concerning her summit of Mount Kanchengjunga in 2009. Rival climber Pasaban, who had hoped to claim the record for herself by climbing both Mount Annapurna and Shisha Pangma consecutively, states that photographs of Oh supposedly taken on the summit of Kanchengjunga show rocks, rather than the snow that has appeared in the photos of other climbers who conquered the summit in the same year. However, as Oh’s ascent of Kanchengjunga remains in the Himalayan database, she remains able to claim her title as the first female to climb all 14 mountains measuring above 8,000 meters.

Author – Jude Limburn Turner is the Marketing Manager for Mountain Kingdoms, an adventure tour company that specialises in the Annapurna Circuit and trekking holidays in various destinations including North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Central and South East Asia.


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