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Everest (8,850m), Southwest Face, Park's Korean Route

Park’s Korean Route. At 3 p.m. on May 20, Jin Jan-chang, Kang Ki-seok, Shin Dong-min, and Park Young-seok stepped onto the summit of Everest, having completed a new route up the southwest face. This is the first new route climbed by Koreans on the mountain and their third attempt on this line, which lies left of the 1982 Soviet route.

The six-man Korean team, with eight Sherpas headed by Sirdar Sanggye Puri, left base camp on April 12 to establish Camp 1. On the 18th they established Camp 2 at 6,500m and on the 20th began climbing the left side of the southwest face. From here to Camp 3 (7,350m, dubbed Swallow’s Nest) they climbed 28 pitches with an average angle of 50°. At one point their line shared common ground with Korean attempts of 2007 and ‘08. With less snow cover in 2009, crampons were not needed on 15 of the pitches. The average angle to Camp 4 (7,800m) was 60°. Sixty percent of the fixed rope used on this section had been left in place during the 2008 attempt. At the end of pitch 39 (ca 7,500m), the team collected 11 oxygen bottles deposited in 2007; four were useable.

From Camp 4 the route made a rightward rising traverse across the face, partially in a couloir, to hit the west ridge at 8,350m, where the final camp would later be established. This section was the steepest part of the route, averaging 60° but with steps of 85°. Reaching the ridge involved crossing a huge rock band, which reportedly required 5.9 face-climbing at 8,100m.

Sherpas, seeing this, dropped their loads and descended, leaving members to carry extra gear.

At the end of April everyone descended to base camp for a rest; Lee Hyungmo, who had a chest infection, decided not to return to the face. On May 8, making their first attempt on the summit, Dong-min and two Sherpas left Camp 4 and tried to establish Camp 5; Jan-chang, Kiseok, and Young-seok left the same day from Camp 2 but were driven back by strong winds. On the next attempt all four Koreans reached 8,350m on May 19 and established Camp 5. This was at the same place as a Soviet camp, and the Koreans discovered old oxygen bottles.

On the 20th the four climbers divided 500m of rope between them and packed it in their sacks, which then weighed 20-30kg each. Carrying two or three oxygen bottles, 1½ liters of water, and three gel packets per person, the team climbed toward the summit, fixing a further 400m of rope. Above 8,600m (starting at a point more than 700m distant from the top), they made a new five-pitch variant to the upper west ridge. Fifteen hours after leaving Camp 5, all four reached the top and descended the Normal Route on the southeast ridge.

They named the new line Park’s Korean Route. A total of 3,930m of rope was fixed. On new ground, between Camps 2 and 5, they climbed 68 pitches; from Camp 5 to the summit, 30 pitches.

In 1991 Park Young-seok attempted the southwest face by the 1975 British route. While he was leading at 7,000m, the Sherpa who was belaying him pulled the rope, causing Park to fall 150m. He had to drop out of the expedition, which later reached a high point of 8,350m. Park returned to attempt the new line, left of the 1982 Soviet Route, in the spring of 2007 and autumn of 2008. In 2007 his 10-man team, including two Sherpas, fixed rope to 8,000m. The day after he reached this high point, Lee Hyun-jo and Oh Hee-jun moved up to Camp 4 at 7,700m. While they were inside the tent, the first big avalanche to occur on the face during the expedition struck them, sweeping both climbers to their deaths. Lee and Oh were young and outstanding Korean mountaineers. In 2008 the Koreans placed Camp 5 at 8,200m, close to the west ridge, but were stopped from reaching the summit by severe winds.