Sung-Teak Hong about Lhotse 2013, The Poles and the Bering Strait: ExWeb Interview

Posted: Dec 18, 2013 02:32 am EST

 

(By Kyu Dam Lee, ExplorersWeb South Korea)

On November 5th, Korean expedition leader on Lhotse, Sung-Teak Hong, left Base Camp to attempt a solo ascent in Alpine style, as a final attempt to reach the summit after the team had aborted the climb. He made this decision not to have to pay attention to others and not to complicate matters, he says in this interview with ExplorersWeb.

 

Eventually he also turned around. Mr. Hong says that he did his best until the last moment. He didn’t want to push the situation too far and oppose nature, and adds, too much human courage may push a person into danger. He had to except the situation as real and do not regret that he had called off the summit bit.

 

Mr. Hong says he does not want to complain about the conditions on Lhotse (like the weather). Again he learned some lessons; to enjoy climbing, to get used to difficulties, to have patience with the pains.

 

Apart from climbing Everest North in October 1995, Mr Hong has also done extreme expeditions in the Polar areas. In the 1993-94 Antarctica season he skied from Patriot Hills (non-coastal start) to the South Pole as part of a Korean team, as well as in 1996-97 from the Ronne Ice Shelf (coastal start) to the SP. Mr. Hong was also part of a Korean Expedition from Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole in 2005. He did a 2600 km dogsled expedition on Greenland in 2011 and was part of a Korean team who crossed the Bering Strait by walking on ice and swimming across leads (open water) in February 2012.

 

Regarding the Bearing Strait, the Korean team, Sung-Taek Hong, Jae-Young Choi, Yi-Chan Jung and Chan-Il Jung, left Uelen, Russia, on Feb. 23 and arrived Wales, Alaska, USA, on Feb. 29, says Mr. Hong to ExWeb. “The Bearing Strait was known as a route of ancient Asian  travel to America: Mongolian Route. Many adventure teams tried to cross it (Bearing Strait), but failed because of the fast flowing ice, leads (gaps between ice floes), blizzards and white-outs. They said that it is an ultimate of exploration, because only the team who has enough technique and experience of exploration is able to do it.”

 

[Ed note: In March 2006 Dimitri Kieffer and Karl Busby crossed the Bering Strait from Wales, Alaska, and landed in Uelen, Chukotka, Russia.]

 

Kyu Dam Lee caught up with Sung-Teak Hong in Seoul and talked about his person life and expedition life.  

 

They said, you were born on Mar-13-1966. After graduating from Yong-In university and receiving a MS degree from Korea University, you had a business in Bu-Pyoung. Is that right?

 

Yes. I had a foreign language school business in Bu-Pyoung, However, I sold it (school and its building) to other person. Now, I am not CEO of the school anymore. I would like to do expeditions, which I really want to achieve before I turn 50.

 

Where are you living?

 

I am living in Juk-Jeon (in southern outskirt of Seoul). 

 

What is the relation between you and Haglofs-Korea?

 

I am a director of the company (Haglofs-Korea) working on PR (Public Relation).

 

How about the business, now?

 

I am planning to do only climbing and exploration, stopping any business.

 

How do you manage your living? Do you manage it by the money from your business in Bu-Pyoung (western city from Seoul) or from Haglofs-Korea?

 

No. I made some money by selling the foreign language school and the building. I would like to use it for living and my expeditions for a while (till I can do mountaineering)..

 

How about Haglofs-Korea?

 

Haglofs-Korea is very young and not big company, just two years old, and do not pay me in money. It just supports my expedition with various equipments for the team and myself.

 

What made you begin mountaineering?

 

I exercised hard for Ju-do in 1985 for Asian Game in 1986, but I broke opposite player by accident and was not able to continue Ju-do. The accident made me to lost myself and wandered. I restarted again by climbing (which was my favorite when I was young) to control myself. Then, I joined the ‘alpine club of the university’, and met mountains at that time. Seniors encouraged me because of my strength. That is it.

 

How many members do you have in your family?

 

My family has three members. I have a son, a daughter and a wife. 

 

They said that it is very dangerous to have activities on high mountains or in polar areas. What was the reaction to your activities in those areas?

 

At first, they had strong opposition for my climbing because they listened it is dangerous to climbing high mountains. Not only my direct family (wife and children) but also other families opposed of it.

 

How about now?

 

They trust my safe and serious climbing style, and wait for me while I am on expedition. They are still anxious for me, but it is much better than before. They get used of me retuning from high mountains and polar areas. They are understanding that my expeditions are meaningful and worthwhile.

 

You are known as a person who practiced Ju-do in university. Did you?

 

Yes, I did Ju-do in university.

 

As I know, you continue in expeditions (including leading Lhotse expedition of Korea in 2013), and also working for KAF as a director. Do you have any motivation for your expeditions?

 

To have expeditions in various places is a way to fulfil my dream, desire and passion. I would like to say, there is no motivation for my expedition.

 

As I know, you completed the Three Poles (3P) Is there some difference between climbing and expeditions in polar areas?

 

I think, there are some differences between horizontal movement and vertical movement. In my case, an expedition in a polar area is a struggle against cold, humidity and hungry; while a climbing expedition is a struggle against HAP, altitude and fear.

 

In the other words, I felt expeditions in polar areas are like a marathon, expeditions in climbing are like a 3000 m race.

 

I think, it is necessary to have some fat in your body to withstand the cold and hungry for an expedition in a polar area, but for a climbing expedition, remove some fat in your body to increase heart beat and lung capacity to overcome easy adaptation in high altitude. I think, you can enjoy climbing if you have some less than 50 heart beat in stable condition.

 

Also, you have to prepare different food and equipment for different expeditions. For example, usually down or goretex material are used for Himalaya climbing because they are light and have good insulation at low temperatures, but it is useless (lost almost functions of it) in polar area expedition after first 3 days. I would like to say, there are many differences between polar expedition and climbing expedition, these are a few examples.

 

What do you want to introduce among you experiences?

 

It was not planning it, however I am the first in the world to achieve the 5 Poles (Everest, North Pole, South Pole, Bearing Strait and Greenland), It reminds me of the experiences I had across the Bearing Strait, 2600 km on Greenland with a dogsled and 3P.

 

Which name is more appropriate for you? Mountaineer? Or explorer?

 

I covered two areas, climbing and crossing poles. So, whatever you want to call me, it would be okay for me. However, originality a was into mountaineering.

 

I heard that you are very keen diary writer. Are you still writing a diary?

 

I did not stop to write diary till now. I learned it from my senior and tell my juniors also to do so.

 

What did you feel when you see serial fail to summit of Lhotse by junior members?

 

Beyond as a senior, I felt that I had to lead my juniors by showing my sincerity in my role. Many juniors do not think attitude, sacrificing, consideration, tradition seriously as the past. They do not follow (treat good) senior for one’s position or authority. They follow senior in mind when senior show more sacrifice and better role in same position.

 

What do you feel (recognize) on current young persons?

 

I think there are many young ones who are bright, and they do not want to pay their scarification if they think it is not reasonable. I think, they do not take traditions so seriously. They have their own logics for themselves.

 

What feeling did you have when you decide the final bidding with yourself in alpine style and step-out from BC on Nov-05-2013 for Lhotse?

 

Climbing members were very exhausted because of heavy snow which casued several avalanches and the lost of fixing rope and camp. At the end, the coming Jet stream, cold, new crevasse in winter, added (increased) danger.

 

So, I decided to climb alone in alpine style. If there is another reason, I did not want to pay attention to others and I thought it was better method to complicate in short.

 

What did you think when you close your Lhotse expedition on Nov-06-2013? When you called-out ‘over’?

 

I thought, I did my best till the last. If I go too far from the situation, it is opposite to nature, and too much courage of human may push persons to danger. I had to accept the given real situation at that time, and I do not have regret to call over of climbing there. I do not want to complain about any conditions (like the weather). I carved again some lessons in my mind; enjoy climbing, use to difficulties, patience to pains.

 

Is there any connection between your expedition and ‘Lhotse expedition for youth’?

 

Noting is related, at all.

 

What is your future (next) plan?

 

If I have chance to do it, I would like to cross the Arctic area, also I would like to attempt the southern face of Mt. Lhotse again.

 

Some persons pointed out language problem and record problem of Korean mountaineering society. What do you think on them?

 

It is true that every thing is changing as technologies are changing. But, I think, tradition should be kept. However, if it is necessary for the mountaineering society of Korea to develop and progress, it should be changed (improved).

 

Do you have any advice for juniors of mountaineering in Korea or in the world?

 

I had tried to survive and return safe during my expeditions (climbing or poles). I had to face many kind of dangers (like altitude, fatigue, cold, hungry), but finally I learned a method and overcame them. When I faced a very critical moment, I thought that my life was not shameful; I did not have any regrets, sorrow. 

 

Do try to live your life without any regret. Do respect opinions of other, also do respect your own opinion. Do try to make world beautiful and live in it long.

 

Previous/Related

 

Summit Bid on Lhotse

 

2013 Review Part-1: A Catastrophic Year for Mountaineering

 

2013 Review Part-2: The Highs and Lows   

 

2013 Review Part-3: An Excellent Year on Lower Peaks

 

#mountaineering #polar #beringstrait #threepoles #SungTeakHong   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Hong: "[For me] an expedition in a polar area is a struggle against cold, humidity and hungry; while a climbing expedition is a struggle against HAP, altitude and fear." Image: The Koreans on Lhotse, October/Novermber 2013.
SOURCE
Across the Bering Strait, the team walked on ice and swam across leads (open water, here covered with a thin layer of ice).
courtesy Sung-Taek Hong, SOURCE
Names of the members of the Korean Bearing Strait expedition are Sung-Taek Hong, Jae-Young Choi, Yi-Chan Jung and Chan-Il Jung.
courtesy Sung-Taek Hong, SOURCE
Mr. Hong was also part of a Korean Expedition from Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole in 2005. Image: Patriot Hills, Antarctica.
courtesy Sung-Taek Hong, SOURCE
"I felt expeditions in polar areas are like a marathon, and climbing expeditions are like a 3000 m race."
courtesy Sung-Taek Hong, SOURCE
"I think, it is necessary to have some fat in your body to withstand the cold and hungry for an expedition in a polar area, but for a climbing expedition, remove some fat in your body to increase heart beat and lung capacity to overcome easy adaptation in high altitude."
courtesy Sung-Taek Hong, SOURCE
"To have expeditions in various places is a way to fulfil my dream, desire and passion." Image: Everest (from Tibetan side) 1995.
courtesy Sung-Taek Hong, SOURCE
In the 1993-94 Antarctica season Sung-Teak Hong skied from Patriot Hills (a non-coastal start) to the South Pole as part of a Korean team, as well as in 1996-97 from the Ronne Ice Shelf (coastal start) to the SP.
courtesy Sung-Taek Hong, SOURCE
"Do try to live your life without any regret. Do respect opinions of other, also do respect your own opinion. Do try to make world beautiful and live in it long."
courtesy Sung-Taek Hong, SOURCE