ISLAMABAD: A South Korean Paralympian was missing on Tuesday after falling from the world’s 12th highest mountain, the 8,047-metre (26,400 foot) Broad Peak in northern Pakistan, the Alpine Club of Pakistan said.

Kim Hong-bin, 57, who represented his country in Alpine skiing at the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City, had reached the summit with other climbers on Sunday, but met bad weather on the way down, the club said. Kim fell into a crevasse on the Chinese side of the mountain, part of the Karakoram range on the border of Pakistan and China.

“The rest of the group looked for him, but could not stay up there, and had to come down,” Karrar Haidri, head of the Alpine Club, said.

Kim Hong-bin reached the summit with other climbers, but met bad weather on the way down

“A search operation is currently being put together, and when the weather permits, helicopters will join the effort.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a Tweet he would hold on to the hope of finding Kim alive and await his safe return.

Broad Peak was the final summit in Kim’s quest to climb the world’s 14 tallest mountains, called the “Eight-thousanders” because all are over 8,000 metres. He climbed Mount Everest in 2007.

Moon’s message came a day after his congratulatory comments to Kim as the first disabled person to have scaled all 14 peaks.

“Hong-bin is now the first person with a disability to climb all eight-thousanders in the world,” Haidri said.

Kim lost all his fingers to frostbite in 1991 while climbing Mount Denali in Alaska. He then took up Alpine skiing, and also competed at national level in paracycling.

South Korea’s foreign ministry asked Pakistan and China to help locate Kim, ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam told a briefing. Both have agreed and Pakistan said a helicopter would take off as soon as possible, weather permitting, said Choi.

Kim also founded an organisation that taught mountain climbing and other outdoor sports to children with disabilities.

In February, three climbers — Pakistan’s Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Iceland’s Jon Snorri, and Chile’s Juan Pablo Mohr — died attempting to summit the world’s second highest mountain, Pakistan’s 8,611-metre K2.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2021

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