(BY Angela Benavides EDIT Tina Sjogren) "It's over - at last," sighs a relieved Edurne, now looking forward to a peaceful Christmas as the first 14x8000er woman summiteer. She told ExplorersWeb that while she holds no grudge over the controversy that almost cost her the victory, she is neither forgetting those who wouldn't stand up for her when she needed them most.
In an interview with Angela Benavides, Edurne talks about what happened this spring, her view of Miss Oh and summit rules, the cost of the battle, media's role vs. lack of interest from her own climbing federation, and finally - the future.
ExplorersWeb: Several media and international climbing entities such as the Korean Alpine Federation have expressed doubts on Oh Eun-Sun's Kangchenjunga summit. Now ExplorersWeb is first to take a stand and delete the summit from AdventureStats. What does this mean to you?
Edurne: As the foremost international media of reference on Himalayan climbing, ExplorersWeb's conclusion has meant a definitive step. After reading your series, I simply feel that I've finally come to the end of the question. The fight is over.
ExplorersWeb: It took a year and a half to close the case though. Was is at least worth the wait?
Edurne: Well, I've been through some hard times, but you guys have worked in a very professional way. In the only possible way, really: gathering facts and researching until you were completely sure and ready to publish a fact-based, accurate report. This was not about validating a simple summit, there was a world record at stake and you could not afford to hurry a conclusion.
ExplorersWeb: ExWeb's conclusion is based on the fact, stated by Miss Oh herself, that she stopped below the top. She offered that she was close, 5-10 meters, which in our criteria is still not a summit. Do you agree?
Edurne: Absolutely. Most of all on Kangchenjunga - there is a small col between the mixed area were Miss Oh claimed to have stopped, and the snow-covered summit cone, so there is a clear difference between that point and the true top; they're quite away from each other.
(Editor's note: there are a few peaks where special conditions prevent all climbers to step on the very top. The distance in question is only a few meters, the peaks are widely known in the community, and Kangchenjunga is not one of them.)
ExplorersWeb: Looking back - how much has this controversy harmed you?
Edurne: It hurt a lot months ago, while I was on Shisha Pangma and Miss Oh was on Annapurna (her then alleged last 8000er). I shared with a journalist the comments made previously by one of Miss Oh's Sherpas about her not summiting Kangchenjunga but didn't expect the journalist to publish it right away.
As the news spread, I was thrashed by a wave of critics, accusing me of badmouthing Miss Oh right when she was going to beat me. I felt mistreated, because doubts on Miss Oh's climb had been raised already the previous year. Looking back though, I see it was my fault to speak up at the worst possible moment, and for that I assume full responsibility. Anyway, upon returning in Spain I got a lot of support from my sponsors, media, and people in general. With that I could relax and focus on my own achieved goal.
ExplorersWeb: There is damage though. Messner made a fortune from lectures, books, advertising contracts and sponsorship after his male version of the same achievement. Have you estimated how much the delay in validation of your world record could cost you financially and have you or your sponsors considered to sue?
Edurne: Sue her? Oh my God, no! Not for a moment. I am just happy to put an end to this. Besides, I don't really think the controversy affected me that much. I had all my achievements well detailed and set straight so I focused on my own career. Also, finding sponsors and getting involved in lectures, coaching and motivational speaking is a long process in which I've been building a reputation through the years. I don't really think that things would have been dramatically different had I been awarded the record already in spring.
ExplorersWeb: So you don't plan to act at all against Oh Eun-sun?
Edurne: Not at all; Miss Oh is actually paying a higher toll in terms of lost credibility and disappointment from the climbing community. I feel that she was part of a game that eventually became too complicated for her, that she was overwhelmed by the events.
ExplorersWeb: Trying to avoid similar situations in the future, the Korean Federation established rules that climbers will have to stick to in order to have their claims validated. The rules include several pictures of the climbers, summit and the surroundings; complete reports and satellite-positioning data. What's your take on the measure?
Edurne: I think it's awesome. It's the federations that should handle and check their climbers' records. I can't applaud enough that the South Koreans have reacted in such a professional way. I just wished my own federation would be the same.
ExplorersWeb: You have already submitted enough proof on all your 14 8000ers to fulfill the KAF rules...
Edurne: Yes, I knew that I would have no problems - I have pics, reports, details, tracks and, moreover, witnesses (many of them already 14x8000ers summiteers) of all my summits.
ExplorersWeb: So has the Spanish Climbing Federation objected to your claim?
Edurne: It's not what they've done - but what they haven't done. Apparently the Spanish Federation members considered my record not important enough to be researched and thus they simply filed me as "number two". Even now, they haven't bothered to take a second look. Funny enough, some climbers complain about media - but in my case I can only be grateful towards it. It was the journalists who worked hard to research the facts, investigate and ultimately reach their conclusions.
ExplorersWeb: So, what's next?
Edurne: Everest without O2. I'm already in training and, of course, so is my team. We'll climb together as we always do: Asier, Alex, Ferran, Nacho and I.
Edurne Pasaban was born August 1st, 1973 in Tolosa (Spanish Basque Country). Her first 8000m+ summit was Everest, which she summited in spring 2001 together with Silvio Mondinelli. Then came Makalu, Lhotse and a Gasherbrum double-header. Later on, she joined Al Filo de lo Imposible TV documentary series for the rest of her 8000ers - all of them proved with reports, witness' testimonies, images and videos.
May 17th, 2010, Edurne became 14x8000er summiteer from the top of Shisha Pangma, in a bold double- header exactly one month after topping-out Annapurna. After Oh Eun-sun came clear this fall that she had not reached Kangchenjunga's highest point back in 2009 and thus lost her own 14x8000er status, Edurne was recognized by ExplorersWeb as the first woman to summit the 14, 8000ers. Pasaban completed the quest in only nine years.
Next spring, Edurne will climb Everest from its south side without supplementary oxygen, together with her usual team: Alex Txicon (who will first attempt winter GI), Ferran Latorre, Asier Izaguirre and Nacho Orviz.
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