Extreme mountain climbers flock to Mount Everest every May for a chance to climb the world's tallest peak.
But just next door, another peak beckons -- Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world. Lhotse, which means "South Peak" in Tibetan, is connected to the Everest massif via the South Col. Like Everest, a number of climbers make it to the top, but few try so late in the year. And even fewer have made it up the south face. The last successful summit occured 25 years ago.
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This year, one daring Korean expedition team tried four times - and failed. They're lucky to have survived.
Experienced climber Hong Sung Taek led the expedition with Sherpas and young climbers. Their goal was to summit the mountain along the south face. This side only has two routes, and they're so insanely difficult that the last time anyone summited was 25 years ago and it was achieved by a Soviet team.
The Korean Lhotse South Face team arrived at base camp in early October, and established three camps over the next few weeks, the Altitude Pakistan blog reported.
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This is an odd time of year to try ascending any Himalayan peaks. Monsoons in the region typically leave mountain climbers with two small weather windows. May is the most popular, but a second one can open up in the fall, AccuWeather's Brian Lada explained.
Except that second window was almost non-existent this year because the monsoon over eastern Nepal departed so late, Lada continued. On neighboring Everest, heavy snow and strong winds forced Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki to abandon his autumn expedition. He would have been the first to summit the mountain since the deadly earthquake in April. Nobody stood on the top this year.
The Koreans kept at it. Their first attempt during the second week of November ended when a storm pushed them back. A second and third attempt brought them closer and closer to their goal, the Spanish mountaineering magazine Desnivel reported.
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A final and fourth attempt took place this week. Barely arriving at their first camp, they discovered high winds with gusts more than 90 mph. Then, during the descent, they encountered rockfalls that sent one Sherpa to the hospital.
This was Hong Sung Taek's third consecutive year on Lhotse's south face. It was a rough season, but I have a feeling we're going to see him back on this mountain again.