Sung Taek Hong's Interview About Lhotse South Face Expedition 2015

“I gave Lhotse all she could have asked for, to reach this point,” Sung Taek Hong exclaimed after his third attempt on Lhotse South Face ended without success. The Korean climber once reached an altitude of 8200m during a series of summit-bids in early December. Unlike autumn 2013 and 2014 when excessive snow denied summit-bids, strong wind thwarted all the attempts to reach the top this time.
The team at Lhotse South Face BC before start of expedition.

However, it’s not the end of quest. Mr Hong is hoping to return to the mountain, as early as spring 2016. Explorersweb contributor Kyu Dam Lee met the Lhotse South Face team yesterday and coordinated following interview for us.

Mr Hong, tell us a little about your expedition?
I was positive to (reach) summit in this attempt. But the expedition and route fixing took longer than expected. Dec 4th was too late for final summit push. I missed the opportunity for summit-bid at right time.

With the start of winter season (i.e. December), we had very strong wind yet a little snow.

What forced you to turn back during summit pushes?
Lhotse South Face is not easy to climb till 8000m. For (safe) climbing, the route must be fixed from bottom to the top. It’s very steep; almost vertical. The climb takes longer, and occasionally makes team members and Sherpas tired.

The other preventing factor was weather. Snow and strong wind make the weather very hostile. There wasn’t enough time to climb (and complete the ascent). Usually, weather doesn’t clear for more than 3 days.

How were the conditions on the mountain this year?
There wasn’t heavy snow (like last year), but wind was very strong. We waited a lot during climbs.

Four summit pushes on a mighty mountain wall; we seldom witness this. From where did you find energy and inspiration for such a marathon expedition?
Lhotse South Face itself is an inspiration for me. I have experienced that I am attracted to it more than any other mountain. It requires strength and all kind of climbing skills and methods. Hence, the climb gives more satisfaction than (climbing) other mountains. This gave me strength to go up again and again.

Nonetheless, it’s a difficult mountain to be climbed in one go. For successful summit on the mountain (and this route), a series of summit pushes is necessary, I think.

How would you summarize your current expedition compared to previous attempts?
I did my best during this expedition. I climbed higher than before, although couldn’t make it to summit. I am satisfied with the result of expedition. It was real climbing, indeed.

What are your future plans? Another Attempt of Lhotse South Face? Any other mountain or Arctic Circle around North Pole?
I planned going to Arctic after Lhotse South Face ascent. As I couldn’t make it to summit, I am seriously considering Lhotse reattempt in spring 2016. However, finding a sponsor to retry the South Face is a problem.

Anything else you may want to share with us?
I (again) felt during the expedition that we humans are very small existence compared to mountains or nature. Humans have to live in nature’s order, and should not disturb it. I think, we humans have to obey the rules of nature and mountains with due respect.
Lhotse South Face team in Kathmandu.
Mr Hong at C3.
C4; Lot of snowfall is reported in this section.
The Korean route climbed till 8200m, thus far.
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