HORRIBLE, BUT HONOURABLE LHOTSE SHAR

GWANG GEOL HAN

IN, TIBETAN, LHOTSE and Shar mean the south and the east, in other words, 'southeast peak' from the Everest.1

Lhotse Shar once attempted by the mountaineers of Daegu, South Korea, the cradle of the mountaineering movement of the country was the beginning of the expeditions abroad. The Park Chul-Am team in 1971 and the Huh Young-Ho team in 1985 attempted to conquer and retreated with deep regret. Consequently, the mountaineers of the present, especially those who are in the mountaineering clubs in Daegu and Gyungpook, have an intrinsic attraction to this peak.

A white hair and black body, Lhotse Shar, standing lonely at the centre of the glaciers, forms the ribs of the Himalaya together with the vanguard peaks, and cuts the seasonal wind of summer and winter. The main part of it is composed of dangerous and tough ice - snow-walls and ridges demanding to lay fixed rope as long as 5000 m on the long route. The peak, to be touched by human foot first in 1955, has permitted only six summit climbs since the first ascent by an Austrian team in 1970, because of the unfavourable weather conditions and due to the peculiar topography.

The peak like Lhotse Shar, not only having high difficulty and low rate of success but also being excluded from the 14 main peaks of 8000 rn has been looked away and unnoticed. The statistics show that Lhotse Shar has three walls and two ridges, has allowed only 20 per cent success out of 27 challenges, and has killed nine men in four accidents. From this point of view, the peak has high failure rate, and the team set the goal of climbing Lhotse Shar based on history, difficulty, and failure rate mentioned above.

Departure, Caravan, and the Construction of Base Camp Overcoming equipments problems

On 17 July, 1989 climbing leader Kim. Y.S. and two other members departed as an advance team, having attended the farewell ceremony in which over three hundred mountaineers in Daegu attended and earnest advice and encouragement were given. The main team started on the ambitious course on 27 July. Staying eight days at Kathmandu. the members faced various troublesome trials and wisely overcame the first critical moment. The caravan, divided into advance team and main team, departed from Kathmandu by turns on 4, 5, and 6 August and arrived at the eastern base of Imjatse peak, a blind alley of Lhotse Shar glacier on 21 August, where the team constructed base camp (5200 m), alias 'Lhotse Shar Plaza' - and started the acclimatization. The members fastened thirty strings of three strands, tied densly with the five colour cloth of Buddhist figures, in three directions on a long rod on which the Taegeuk flag and the national flag of Nepal were hung. And they made an hard incantation, burning incense before a sacrificial table, serving with wine, and scattering rice. All members and the Sherpas threw a handful of wheat flour, handed over lama fortune-teller's fee, and drank a glass of sacrificial wine, then, a warm atmosphere pervaded the place.

I Or east peak of Lhotse, as it is known. -Ed.

The base camp area, standing up dangerously on the glacier moraine of Lhotse Shar was being eroded from below deeper and deeper, and now its erosion was over 100 m deep. It formed a lofty precipice like a folding screen with the surrounding mountains. While some of the disorderly standing glaciers rose high in the sky, the white and black stones and rocks just could be seen, inside which was only ice.

The oxygen causes another problem

The oxygen, looked forward to eagerly, finally reached the team from England. But. a barrel was empty and the rest had irregular volumeters. In the vortex of such problem, Park J.W. who had stayed at Kathmandu for transporting the oxygen and recovering from the bacterial food poisoning, arrived at base camp safely.

By the way, the members began to adapt themselves to the height as the equipment and foodstuffs came to hand, and those troubled by a light gastroenteric disorder or headache were steadily getting in better conditions. To maintain the mental balance, the members passed away the leisure time playing poker, chess, 'badug'. and 'go-stop'. The Sherpa were at their best in playing 'go-stop', and 'sutta . It was a miraculous medicine at height! To win money in gambling or to defeat the Sherpas, the members had a mingled feeling of joy and sorrow.

On the other hand, while the curiosities of the members were being stimulated by the fact that menstrual pads would be good for removing the moisture of the plastic double boots. Lee Y.H. received the first mail letter, in which the pads were sent !

Climbing up and Advancing the Camps

Crossing a long glacier about 3 km between the foot of Lhotse Shar and Imjatse to northeast for two hours, an area of lofty cliff appears. After another hour s climbing one teaches Cl (5700 m) on the top of the ridge, alias a 'Nest of Swallow'. The way to Cl was like a gloomy course to hell, and settling on the cliff reminded infallibly of a swallow nest. On 4 September, Kim Y.S., Ma J.H., and Ahn S.H. advanced to Cl. The members had to memorise and make familiar with the rules of mountain movement, the equipment to bring and clothes, equipment for five camps, and the concept of the climbing route, which seemed to be more difficult than to prepare for an exam to be an officer.

Of all, the oxygen caused the most serious problem. Although some knowledge of the various factors should be required to make a plan for using oxygen, nothing was to be known about it at that time. So, according to general knowledge on the oxygen, as volume, type, usage, and bulk, four plans were decided; a plan to construct C5 by converting both units of 900 barrels and 1350 to 1590 barrels into each 1200 litres for 10 hours and a plan to bivouac without building C5 were suggested, and were divided again into two proposals to use the oxygen from C4 and from C5. However, it was decided to make a definite decision after constructing C4 because all efforts would come to nothing unless the team could move forward to that height.

An accident forces to fix a jumaring course on the snow-wall

At 8 a.m. on 17 September. Kim Y.S., Ma J.H., and Ahn S.H. started to make C2 with five Sherpas. The members appeared on an ugly rock after thirty minutes' climbing along a low rock-snow-ridge, and, going over the second rock, carefully climbed up one at a time on a precipitous snow-hill with an incline of 70 degrees. Just then, the first accident occurred on the snow-wall of 10 m directly under the first snowfield. The Sherpa passed the snow-ridge without any accident, but climbing leader Kim Y.S.. who was heavy, pulled down I he ridge and was crushed with snow. Fortunately, the ridge was not so high and he was not injured due to the fixed rope. Anyway, the accident demanded to construct a jumaring course which did not necessitate a careful ridge climbing.

On the first snowfield, they once more climbed a precipitous snow-wall 100 m directly, and traversed the right side of a spur, where was a difficult snow-wall that Sherpa Sirdar went up after a desperate struggle for about 30 minutes. At a distance of about 200 m, composed of somewhat low snow-wall, C2 (6100 m) alias a 'Nest of Eagle', was established.

The Sherpas demand bonuses and a heavy snow pulls down the tents

About that time, the Sherpas striked for the first time to get a bonus. As it was an expected affair, the leader made a promise to give bonus. Immediately, they, hand in hand, being ashamed of their act, shouted Lhotse Shar' with joy. How simple and honest they were!

Snow fell night after night, and the members had a hard time to shake off the tent covered with snow. Last night, especially, the team had a heavy snowfall, which made two tents fall down.

According to the data and information obtained, the Samackdo was the most rough and difficult course, and the members, each carrying wireless, were on the move from the morning. The grand panorama of eight members and Sherpas climbing on the snow-wall was caught through field glasses. The danger always followed the members. Traversing the most dangerous pitch of Samackdo course, heavy Jung Y.J. caused an avalanche. The snowstorm was so dense that nothing was to be seen an inch ahead, and Jung, by making a false step, fell 10 m below in the twinkling of an eye.

Tender feelings among the members relieve the loneliness

Although the continuing heavy snows, snowdrifts, and winds prevented the team from advancing camps, they, in the long run. completed C3 (7000 m), alias a 'Magpie Fortress' by a repeated route making on 17 September. Around that time, the second strike of the Sherpas occurred at Cl to be given a definite answer of the leader on the payment of bonuses in accordance with the unexpectedly difficult course and rough weather. It put the leader in an awkward situation. But he, making a reverse use of Sonja's tactics as 'being pushed, be pushed, being pulled, be pulled', said definitely, 'We Koreans make it a point of honour to keep a promise. The money should not be made a subject of discussion before taking a great projection in action. If this unpleasant matter occurs once again, you will not be tolerated.' It obtained the desired result. The leader emphasized not the relation between master and servant but the relation of human beings, which, he thought, was the crucial factor deciding the success or failure of an expedition.

On 24 September, after eight days from the construction of C3, C4 (7700 m) alias the 'House of a Prime Minister' was completed. According to the data obtained, the section from C3 to C4 had an even ridge line called 'a way to Hanyang', and, for that reason, C4 is called the 'House of a Prime Minister' in Hanyang. But, in fact, the course was more difficult than Samackdo.

Riding out a snowstorm and a heavy snowfall, Kim Y.S., Kwon C.S.. and Jung Y.J. crossed the crevasse, passed the risky snow-ridge several times, and, at last, constructed C4. The leader was deeply moved by the thought that it might be the last camp.

Establishing C5 safely in the rough weather of the Himalaya

At 8.40 a.m. on 25 September, when the members and the Sherpas were performing the staccato climbing continually to make the route 'Way to Heaven', Rinji, who led the team, was caught in an avalanche and fell 100 m with Sirdar Ang Dojjee, Kim Y.S., Kwon C.S., and Jung Y.J., went to their rescue at once. Fortunately Rinji was not wounded. Heavens helped and God assisted. Yet the Sherpas, shocked by the accident, gave up climbing and, to make matters worse, the avalanches occurring sporadically at C4 destroyed the tent.

The leader had to take proper steps to meet the situation, 'All members should stand by on the spot, and retreat to the base camp in case the rough weather continues for two days or more.' At the moment, a desperate news was on the air that a heavy snowfall and a rough weather would continue in the all regions of the Himalaya under the influence of clouds on the Indian Ocean.

However, the lack of foodstuffs and the declining strength of members did not permit any delay, and the leader decided to keep climbing in the worst situation. On 3 October, Kwon C.S., Rinji, and Wongchhu advanced into C5 while Kang S.D., Ahn S.H., and four other Sherpas were making the route, C5 (8100 m), alias 'House of Horror' was finally constructed.

Attack and Summit

The night before attacking the summit was full of tension. Kwon C.S. was selected to attack the summit as a result of his success rate of climbing, contribution to the team, reliability in members, sincerity in training and preparing, the results of physical checkup and strength test, the family responsibility, etc. The leader directed an order, 'Kwon C.S., Rinji, and Wongchhu should confirm the equipment and foodstuffs, and go to sleep wearing gear. Radio every 30 minutes, and in case of special circumstances, report at once. The use of oxygen should be judged precisely according to the field situation and a continuous ridge climbing should not be attempted. All camps should go to bed at 7 p.m. and open the wireless installation at very exact time tonight. The time of departure was 5 a.m. sharp tomorow. Fight well!'

The leader made up his mind to do best without being ardently attached to success or failure. Because the object to fight was the great nature and the almighty God, and accepting the law of nature was not a matter of victory or defeat but doing one's best.

The proverb came to the leader's mind that Shresta, the director of tourist bureau in Kathmandu. had cited; 'Heaven helps those who help themselves'. The setting sun, the fascinating east wall of Cho Pulu tinged the cloud spreading from Lhotse Shar to Imjatse with rosy flush, and the members received a fretful night silently.

At 6.20 a.m. on 4 October, the attack team departed from C5 upon the leader's marching order, after receiving a word of encouragement and advice from Cho N.J. and Lim M.H. A snow wall, of an incline of 70 degrees, appeared after an hour's traverse on the left side of the rock band, which, though there were differences in grades, continued to the east peak.

A windy snow drifted so hard that nothing was to be seen an inch ahead. While the attack team was climbing up the endless snow wall, a roar of avalanche shook the sphere on both sides of the ridge. At the moment, Rinji, getting frostbitten, slackened his climbing pace, and, after all, yielded the lead to Kwon C.S. Nevertheless, the climbing continued being led by Kwon. At 11 a.m., they reached directly under the east peak, where Rinji, being tired by snowstorm and gale, signified his intention to give up further climbing. The leader, with appeasement and persuasion, constantly urged them to climb, and they reached the east shoulder at noon. However, the second desperate moment waited them; Wongchhu, obeying orders silently with endurance and fortitude till that time, gave up the climbing. Kwon egged on the Sherpa to go on, but his effort was not rewarded. Even Kwon himself was too exhausted to continue the climbing. The leader, expecting them to change their minds, ordered them to rest for a while in the snow, and. a little later on. asked Kwon's intentiojn again. However, the only word he was heard saying was 'impossible' scattering in the empty sky with the roars of the snowdrift and gale.

In spite of the climbing down command, the attack team heads for the summit.

At 12.30 p.m.. the leader, biting his lips, commanded them to climb down with mixed feelings, and mapped out the second attack plan. But what a severe trial it was ! Only two day's provisions remained. Unexpectedly difficult routes, rough weather, heavy snowfall, and blizzards had already delayed the team about a month behind the schedule.

The next day was decided as the second attack day. After making every preparations as carrying the rest of foodstuffs and equipment to the last camp and positioning the members, the leader sought for Kwon, who was thought to be climbing down. By then an unexpected mystery had occurred. Being given the climbing down order, the Sherpas had changed their minds and started to climb up ! The attack team, going over the east peak, were stuck on the knife-ridge and fixed snowbars not to be blown away by the gale from Tibet. They went up the hard crust of a snow-ridge in a heavy fog and a snowstorm, and, at last, found nowhere to go beyond. It was the summit! The three men. being moved to tears, embraced without saying anything.

At 3 a.m. on 4 October 1989, the Korean mountaineers conquered Lhotse Shar with no oxygen, - the 7th ascent of the peak. Kwon thrust the spowbar deep into the eternal snow covering the top, and, by using the karabiner. buried the flag of Daegu Mountaineering School autographed by the members,, in the snow.

The brutal cold and gale forced the summit team to climb down quickly. Kwon. escaping from a deathlike hell on the earth, arrived at the snowfield in the gathering darkness, and impressively embraced Jung who went out to greet him

(Gwang Geol Han. the leader of Lhotse Shar expedition, is now at Yongnam University, in the Department of Physical Education, and is a member of Kyungpook Mountaineering Club and O.B. Mountaineering Club of Daegu High School).

SUMMARY

The 7th ascent of Lhotse Shar (8400 m) by a South Korean team led by the author in 1989. Summiters were Chun Sik Kwon. Sherpa Rinji and Sherpa Wongchuk (4 October 1989).