As I mentioned a few days ago (here, too), Oh Eunsun is poised to be the first woman to reach the summit of all fourteen peaks over 8000 meters, but her next closest rival, Edurne Pasaban of Spain, is apparently claiming that Ms Oh may be cheating:
The two rivals met at Annapurna base camp on 7 April over a cup of tea. "It was a very pleasant chat… we laughed a little. It was good," Pasaban wrote in her blog.The stakes are certainly high (get it? high!): If Ms Oh is disqualified, Ms Pasaban gets all the glory and Apolo Anton Ohno will be awarded the bronze.
But this week, after Pasaban's descent from Annapurna to Kathmandu, the gloves came off.
She began to voice doubts that Oh had reached the top of the world's third-highest mountain, Kangchenjunga, which both of them tackled in May last year.
Crucially, she sowed seeds of doubt in the mind of the world's most respected keeper of Himalayan mountain climbing records, Elizabeth Hawley.
Miss Hawley, an 86-year-old American, told the BBC that following her conversation with Pasaban on Thursday, she was altering her unofficial but authoritative Himalayan Database to mark Oh's ascent of Kangchenjunga as "disputed".
All kidding aside, this is some serious business, so much so that fellow alpinist Ko Miyoung died last year in the same race for these lofty bragging rights.
UPDATE (April 25, 2010):
Ms Oh's ascent of Annapurna has been delayed until Tuesday because of winds and snow. From AFP:
A 10-member team including Oh and a KBS producer on Friday reached camp three, located at a height of 6,400 metres (21,100 feet).I'm glad they're putting safety over glory.
But they started descending on Saturday morning after giving up efforts to reach the next camp, at a height of 7,200 metres, because of strong winds, KBS TV reported.
Oh and her colleagues were planning to descend to a lower-level camp and wait for the weather to clear. Avalanches and ice falls have claimed the lives of dozens of climbers attempting to summit Annapurna.
Annapurna is particularly dangerous because it is both technically difficult and avalanche-prone, and it has a much higher death rate than Everest, the world's highest peak.
Oh, who was defeated by Annapurna last year, made the decision to delay her assault on the peak after being told by radio from her base camp that it would be snowy and windy at the weekend, Yonhap news agency said.