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IMS - Women and mountaineering with Oh Eun-Sun

Dear Ladies and Gentleman, on Saturday, 6 November, the IMS culminated in the summit on women in mountain sports, which had been awaited impatiently.
IMS - Women and mountaineering with Oh Eun-Sun

In a panel discussion moderated by Kay Rush, Oh Eun-Sun debated with journalists and mountaineers. The round was supplemented with video-taped contributions from Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Reinhold Messner. Kay Rush did not only focus on the competition between female mountaineers to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. Together with the Italian publicists, Ingrid Runggaldier, she guided the audience through the history of female mountaineering and reminded them of pioneers like Marie Paradis or Fanny Bullock, who was denied membership in the English Alpine Club although she crested several peaks in the Alps. “For women, climbing used to be also a political statement. As feminists, they were fighting for their voice in society”, Runggalier explained.

Even today, female alpinists are confronted with prejudices. The German journalist and mountaineer Billi Bierling, specified: “Whenever women lead an expedition today, they have to prove themselves”. Oh Eun-Sun has made that experience too: “Sometimes it is difficult to be in a group with males because they think that I am weaker. With women it is somewhat easier.” Even today, women are disadvantaged, the Austrian journalist Eva Maria Bachinger noticed: “Female alpinists almost never have children. Men have their families at home, women like Ines Papert, in contrast, are often asked: “How can you do that as a mother? We still have not achieved equality here.”

Kay Rush confronted two very different alpinists, Oh Eun-Sun and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, with the same questions. As Kaltenbrunner could not make it to Brixen / Bressanone, her answers had previously been recorded on video. While Kaltenbrunner refuses to see mountaineering as a contest, it was precisely this competition, that motivated Oh Eun-Sun to aim high: “If there had been no competition, I would have had no motivation and most likely, I would not have reached my goal. Maybe I would have climbed one or two peaks a year.” On other issues, the views of the two alpinists are more similar: Both climbers always carry their talisman – a bracelet - on every expedition and have decided against having children to be able to continue mountaineering.

Via video message, Reinhold Messner commented on the question of ethics in mountaineering and defended Oh Eun-Sun’s accomplishments: “Mountaineering has nothing to do with morals, there are no rules in alpinism”, he proclaimed. “Miss Oh is accused of many things, most of which are only lies. I am not a referee / arbitrator but to be fair, she needs to be defended.”

The panel’s view on the future of female alpinism is optimistic: “Today, women have more opportunities and can start earlier on, “ Billi Bierling concluded. “I have seen many young girls climb very elegantly – this is where the future lies,” Eva Maria Bachinger added. Conclusion: Female alpinism has gone through a enormous evolution in the past couple of years. Differences in the choices and opportunities of male and female alpinist are diminishing. The accomplishments of top alpinists like Oh Eun Sun, Kltenbrunner, Nives Meroi or Edurne Pasaban are evidence of this development.

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