Mon, Dec 24, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Taiwanese scales world's peaks

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN Kuo Yu-chen has become one of just 89 people in the world to successfully climb the highest mountain on all seven continents

By Huang Chao-kuo  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kuo Yu-chen waves Taiwan's national flag from the top of the Vinson Massif in Antarctica in temperatures well below zero in this picture taken on Dec. 3. Kuo is the first Taiwanese to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, completing the feat in one-and-a-half years.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KUO YU-CHEN

A 52-year-old Taiwanese mountain climber reached the summit of Vinson Massif in Antarctica on Dec. 3, becoming the first Taiwanese to reach the summit of the highest mountains on all seven continents.

Kuo Yu-chen (郭與鎮), a food factory owner who fell in love with mountain climbing four years ago, only took one-and-a-half years to complete the daunting feat.

In Taiwan, climbing the nation's "top 100 peaks" is regarded as the highest honor in mountaineering, whereas climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents is considered the biggest international mountaineering challenge.

Kuo was not famous when he first started mountain climbing in 2003, but after climbing the nation's top 100 peaks within six months and then hiking the length of the Central Mountain Range in 23 days -- beating the previous record by 10 days -- he gained the attention of the nation's media.

Kuo said that between 2004 and 2005 he was completely devoted to preparing for the seven summits expedition. During that year, he traveled abroad to purchase customized mountaineering equipment and to attend a number of international mountain climbing courses.

After reaching the top of Mount Everest on May 20 of last year, Kuo went on to climb Mount McKinley - also known as Denali - in North America, followed by an August expedition to Mount Elbrus in Europe and then Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa the following month.

This year he summited South America's Aconcagua in February and then Puncak Jaya or Mount Carstensz on the island of New Guinea -- the highest mountain in the Australia-New Guinea continent -- in August before climbing to the summit of Vinson Massif in Antarctica earlier this month at temperatures of minus 30oC.

Kuo said that every time he heard the base camp announce "Kuo Yu-chen of Taiwan has successfully reached the summit," he became emotional and would wave a national flag at the peak to express his pride in being Taiwanese.

He also said that climbing a mountain was like going to war as he had to sign an agreement at the request of each local government pertaining to how he wanted his body handled in case he died during the expedition.

Kuo said that of the seven summits, the most dangerous experience was crossing a 60m gorge on Puncak Jaya on a single cable. Kuo said that while standing on the single cable in the strong wind, his only thought was to try to escape the claws of death. He said he thanked the local mountain god and his family's prayers and offerings for survival.

Kuo has prepared all the required documents to register his accomplishment with the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation in Switzerland.

Up to now, only 89 people in the world have climbed the highest mountains on all of the seven continents, so Kuo will rank among the world's top 100 climbers. He estimates that he spent more than NT$10 million (US$300,000) on training and equipment.

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