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Bittersweet Climb for Koreans in Nepal

On December 16, Koreans Hwang Gi-yong, Shin Dong-seok and Yoo Hak-jae summited Nepal’s Phari Lapcha East (6017m) via a new mixed route. Celebrations of the achievement were over shadowed by the death of Hwang, who died while descending. It is believed he suffered a stroke.

The trouble arose for Hwang on the second day, when he began showing signs of fatigue after the demanding ice portion of the climb. The following morning he complained of stomach pain, but was able to continue. Though still in pain, Hwang summitted the route with his teammates. After summiting, the team descended the east ridge to 5735m, where they bivouacked for the night. Hwang still appeared to be stable, yet on the morning of the December 17, as the team began to rappel, he collapsed and died. Shin and Yoo continued down, and eventually reached the village of Machermo in the late afternoon. They returned four days later with a small group of Sherpas and successfully retrieved Hwang’s body.

The route the trio climbed is being called the Korean Route (5.9 A3 WI5+ M5, 1200m). The route climbs rock and mixed terrain to a bivouac at 5387m, followed by thin ice climbing to the next bivouac. Moderate snow terrain leads to another bivouac at 5863m. The line then finds the summit after a final 25-meter pitch of loose crack climbing with high rock fall danger.