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(2nd LD) Korean conquers Annapurna, becomes 1st woman to scale world's 14 highest peaks

All Headlines 19:55 April 27, 2010

(ATTN: EXPANDS dateline to reflect president's congratulatory message in last 2 paras)

ANNAPURNA/SEOUL, April 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korean female mountaineer Oh Eun-sun successfully ascended to the top of Annapurna in the Himalayas Tuesday, becoming the first woman to conquer all of the world's 14 highest peaks.

Oh, 44, reached the summit of the 8,091-meter Annapurna, the 10th highest mountain in the world, without oxygen at 6:16 p.m. (Korean time), 13 hours 16 minutes after she left the last camp around 5:00 a.m.

"Thank you, Thank you," she said in a tearful voice on arriving at the top of Annapurna.

She is the only woman to succeed in scaling all of the globe's 14 highest mountains exceeding 8,000m, which are all located in the Himalayan region.

Oh achieved the feat 13 years after she first climbed the 8,035m Gasherbrum II, one of the 14 "eight-thousanders," in July 1997.

Oh, who quit her job at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education in 1993 to pursue a mountaineering career, climbed Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 8,848m, in 2004.

Oh conquered Annapurna, considered one of the most dangerous peaks in the world, on her second attempt, as she gave up her first push last October due to inclement weather.

Oh's feat surprised the world's mountaineering community, as she has a relatively small build of 50 kilograms and 154 centimeters.

Reflecting the Korean people's enthusiasm over her historic expedition, Korea's public broadcaster KBS sent its camera staff to accompany her for live coverage of her ascent on Tuesday.

Edurne Pasaban of Spain unsuccessfully competed with Oh to earn the distinction of becoming the first woman to climb all 14 highest peaks. The Spanish woman reached her 13th peak, the Annapurna, earlier this month and has Mount Shisha Pangma left to conquer.

Some have questioned whether Oh had actually reached the summit of Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest, in May last year, citing a picture taken at the top, in which it was too cloudy to recognize where she stood. She dismissed the accusation as groundless.

"I can say that I have stood at the summit of Mount Kanchenjunga," she said at a press conference in Seoul late last year. "It was bad weather. Three sherpas told me that I reached the top and one of them took the picture."

In Seoul, President Lee Myung-bak sent a congratulatory message to Oh, saying, "The climbing showed what the challenge is, and was a human victory."

Her achievement has awakened the spirit of challenge in the people, as well as mountaineers, Lee added.

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