Questions Surround Death of Korean Climber on Cho Oyu

The 2018 spring Himalayan climbing season is over, but there are stories about the climbing expeditions that continue to break – and they mostly aren’t good. Last week we learned about a pair of Polish climbers who were left behind on Makalu and weren’t rescued for a week, and a few days back we also shared the story of a Sherpa who passed away on Everest as part of a cryptocurrency stunt. Now, comes word of a Korean climber who passed away on Cho Oyu in mid-May, but news of his passing is only now coming to light. 

On his adventure sports blog, Stephen Nestler is reporting that a team of climbers supported by Satori Expeditions launched their summit attempt on Cho Oyu around May 10. One of the members of the squad was Bulgarian climber Atanas Skatov, who summited on May 13, notching his sixth 8000-meter peak, without the use of oxygen. But Skatov tells Nestler that he spoke to the young Korean climber at Camp 2 on the the mountain, located at 7150 meters (23,458 ft). He reportedly told Skatov that he was feeling strong and would follow him down to Camp 1 later.

But that wasn’t what happened. The Korean climber didn’t reach C1 on schedule and the team’s cook alerted the China Tibet Mountaineering Association that he had gone missing. A search and rescue team arrived on May 15, at which point Skatov had already left the mountain. Reportedly, the SAR team found the Korean in bad shape in C2 and assisted him down to Camp 1 where he later perished. According to Skatov, his body is still there.

Nestler says that he contacted the Satori team on several occasions before he finally received confirmation of the events. They told him that the unnamed Korean climber was simply to week and exhausted to be helped down the mountain and that he was beyond saving. What seems rather odd about the story is that this was the first we’ve heard of it, despite the fact that more than three weeks have passed since the climber died on Cho Oyu.

The details of the story are obviously murky at best, although in Nestler’s report he says that a French climber has confirmed the story to Bili Bierling at the Himalayan Database. He also says that the Korean climber was spotted by Felix Berg on his descent from the summit as well. Why the tale is just coming out now, and why the body was left at C1 remains a mystery. I guess it is likely to remain a footnote in one of the most successful – yet weird – climbing seasons in years.