Fingerless climber defies human history by scaling “Killer Mountain”

The South Korean climber Kim Hong-bin, who is the only hiker who has defied the human history by scaling top peaks of the world after losing all his fingers, has successfully scaled Nanga Parbat.

Kim, 53, also known as “the fingerless climber,” topped the summit of Nanga Parbat for the first time in his life on July 7. Kim is the only differently-abled climber who made a new history by climbing eleven highest peaks of the world.

Kim, despite being fingerless, has also surmounted world’s tallest peaks Mount Everest and K2 but still he believes scaling Nanga Parbat was the real trophy for him. As a special climber, Kim has a record that nobody ever thought about: he has climbed eleven out of 14 peaks of 8000 meters or above.

“This is like a dream come true. I had dreamt of climbing Nanga Parbat. It’s the most beautiful peak of the world. I did it to materialise my dream despite losing my all fingers to frostbite,” Kim told Pakistan Today in an exclusive interview.

Nanga Parbat, at 8,126 meters above sea-level, is the ninth highest mountain in the world and the second highest in Pakistan after K-2. It is known as the ‘killer mountain’ for its lethal difficulty level of climbing. Nanga Parbat was Kim’s 11th out of his goal of 14 eight-thousanders.

Among eight climbers, Kim was the first one to reach the summit. Kim said he had left for the Himalayas on June 9 and launched the first summit push on June 20 but it wasn’t feasible due to the heavy snow. He attempted a second push on June 30 with two Sherpas and reached the top Friday night. This was 49 days after Kim conquered Lhotse on May 19 this year.

“Now only three peaks are left for me to climb. Out of those two peaks Gasherbrum-I and Mount Broad fall are in Pakistan while Anna Purina is in Nepal. Once I materialize my dream of conquering all 14 peaks, I would call it a day,” Kim says.

Kim, who is also a mountain cyclist, told Pakistan Today that after losing both his fingers while scaling a peak in North America, he refused to leave climbing and decided to challenge human history by becoming only climber who has no hands.

“I myself have designed tools to climb the mountains. I manage everything myself while climbing,” he added.

“Though Nanga Parbat is the killer mountain, but I had a dream of scaling it. I am happy I did it this year. Let me tell you this is the most beautiful peak I have ever seen around the globe. But it is killer too,” he said. Asked will he again want to scale Nanga Parbat, Kim laughed and said, “no, never. But I would love to scale up to its base camp. It’s is too pretty a place,” he added.

Explaining his experience while climbing, Kim Hong-bin said life is hard without both your hands and climbing is too tough in rough season.

“For instance, you have to eat in five minutes after preparation. Moreover, Korean food cooking is too difficult. You can’t afford rice there.  So life becomes more complex while you are on expedition,” he says.

When asked about the accident during which he lost his fingers, Kim said while climbing one needs a lot of energy.

“But since I took less food, I went unconscious during expedition at a peak in North America. I was rescued from the peak after the lapse of 16 long hours. When I became conscious, I had lost fingers of my both hands due to frostbite,” he added.

However, Kim said that within one month of the tragic incident, he was again on a peak.

“Despite losing my fingers, I did not lose my passion for hiking. I still was dreaming to surmount the peaks again. I can surmount 8000 meters peak without eating anything,” he asserted.

Kim says there is nothing impossible in life and though it is impossible for him to even zip myself, but still he is happy.

“I have to even face difficulty to wear socks,” he said.

Asked whether he ever became disappointed due to his loss, Kim said there was a time when he thought to commit suicide.

“Even a single finger helps a lot. What about a person who has lost all ten fingers. I had to start from scratch. Finally, I started normal life. Started from cycling and then went to peaks. What I have learnt is that one must continue to pursue his dreams. One needs to do endless efforts for self-development,” he added. Kim says bigger challenges help you grow bigger.

Asked about his experience in Pakistan, Kim says Pakistan is his second love.

“It is a rich country with great people. Pakistan has the most beautiful peaks in across the globe. Nanga Parbat is the most beautiful peak in the world too. Pakistani people are kind and soft and they promote peace and brotherhood,” he added.

Kim Hong-bin, who has been scaling peaks in Pakistan in consecutive three summers from year 2015 to 2017, says Pakistan can benefit from its beautiful peaks a lot.

“If Pakistan’s image is transformed, Pakistan can attract 500 climbers each summer. For the time being, only 30 climbers come here every summer. Climbing can become a major tourist turnout for the country’s revenue generation”.

When asked to elaborate, Kim said that other than beautiful peaks, climbing in Pakistan is quite cheaper as compared to countries like Nepal where climbing is much costly.

“Pakistan charges too less for climbing. One has to pay US$ 11000 for each climber to surmount Everest. In comparison, Pakistan only charges US$ 7200 for K2 expedition for the entire team of climbers. The fee for climbing Nanga Parbat for entire team is only US$ 5400. This amount is like pennies as compare to other countries,” he added.

Kim says 40 Koreans wanted for climbing but the security issue hampered them. He said that while only 30 climbers visited Pakistan this year, around 500 visited Nepal this summer.

Though Kim says security situation is fine in Pakistan, but an incident badly damaged Pakistan’s tourist industry prospects.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions.



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