Yesterday, it was reported that South Korean mountaineer Oh Eun-Sun was denied the right to have the title as the first woman to have ascended all 14 of the world highest peaks. According to the Korean Alpine Federation, there were doubts as to whether her final summit of the circuit, on Kanchenchunga (28,169 ft./8,586 m.), were true.
Whether her ascent was genuine or fabricated, the integrity of what people consider success in hiking and climbing is closely guarded by associations like the KAF and other national alpine organizations. Does it matter to the rest of the world whether Oh actually climbed all 14 peaks? It does to the next guy, and certainly to the next woman, who is trying.
Records of our ascents made, trails hiked and distances kept are important if you are trying to develop a list of accomplishments; if we are going to tout it, we better be ready for the audit. The validity of climbing and hiking records are often scrutinized similar to a golf score: If you moved the ball, even if nobody saw it, would you call a penalty stroke on yourself?
I have kept terrible records of my hikes and climbs, but it might not matter for me. I hike and climb for myself and my closest friends. I enjoy my friends’ and acquaintances’ eyes going wide when I tell them about the conditions I traversed and what I saw. The actual experience was personal, but the stories – and the reactions – are a source of satisfaction.
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