Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 17:32 UK

South Korean woman claims 14 peaks climbing record


The moment Oh Eun-sun reached the summit of Annapurna

A South Korean climber has reached the top of Annapurna in Nepal and claimed a record for becoming the first woman to scale the world's 14 highest peaks.

Oh Eun-sun was shown live on television planting a South Korean flag on the summit of the mountain.

But there is still a row over Ms Oh's 2009 ascent of another Himalayan peak, with some disputing whether she reached the top.

She is due to be questioned about that climb on her return from Annapurna.

Ms Oh threw her arms up in celebration after crawling on all fours for the final stretch to the summit, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The summit photographs
Sherpas' accounts
Different types of rope
Timing of the ascent
The location of the flag

Poor weather last weekend prevented Ms Oh from reaching the summit of Annapurna, at 26,545 feet (8,091 metres) - a notoriously difficult peak to climb.

Her nearest rival in the 14-peaks quest, Spanish climber Edurne Pasaban, has expressed scepticism about her claim to have reached the summit of Kangchenjunga in 2009.

Ms Oh has denied all the allegations. Her sponsors called a press conference in December 2009 to reassert her claim to have reached the summit.

Graphic of race to top

All climbers who make an ascent from Nepal report to Elizabeth Hawley, an 86-year-old American based in Kathmandu, whose research is recorded in the Himalayan Database.

They have to answer her questions about the climb they have just undertaken.

She is widely accepted as the arbiter of Himalayan climbs. There is no official body that authenticates claims.

John Sudworth
John Sudworth, BBC News, Seoul

The South Korean public will want to give Oh Eun-sun the benefit of the doubt. Hers is a story that has much popular appeal, a plucky, tenacious climber who came from behind to beat those who once seemed much better positioned to win the prize.

Her record attempt has certainly sparked a media frenzy, today's climb was broadcast live on national television with the help of a camera carried by another professional mountaineer who accompanied Ms Oh to the top. Advertisers have also been getting in on the act, with companies buying space in this morning's newspapers to wish her luck.

But her success has also been overshadowed by the news that, just hours before Ms Oh began her attempt, two other Korean mountain climbers were missing on the same mountain, and four others hospitalised.

But Ms Hawley has marked Ms Oh's 2009 climb as "disputed" and says that Ms Oh and her Sherpa will have to be questioned again about that ascent when they return from Annapurna.

One of the key issues at the heart of the dispute is a still photograph that, Ms Oh's sponsors say, was taken at the summit but not on the "three or four square feet" right at the top.

Miss Hawley says the photograph is "clearly" not taken at the summit, because Ms Oh is standing on rocks and "summit pictures of other people on the same mountain in the same season show them standing in the snow". However, pictures taken by climbers in previous years have shown rocks close to the summit.

Ms Oh's ascent of Kangchenjunga remains recognised in the Himalayan Database, so she can claim the record.

However, if Ms Hawley's further investigations lead her to change the status of the 2009 ascent to "unrecognised" Ms Oh would not be internationally regarded as the first woman to have climbed all 14 8,000ers, as they are known.

Twenty men have scaled all 14 summits - the latest climber completed the quest just 75 minutes before Ms Oh.

Map of the peaks

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