1st woman to climb 14 tallest peaks returns safely from mountain, says she's ready for break

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A South Korean who became the first woman to scale the world's 14 highest peaks returned to the Nepalese capital from Mount Annapurna on Monday, saying she's ready to take a break from mountaineering.

"The last few years have been too tiring, now I am going to rest," 44-year-old Oh Eun-sun told reporters in Katmandu.

Oh scaled Annapurna last week, the last of the 14 peaks above 26,247 feet (8,000 meters) she needed to climb to set the mark. She reached the summit — 26,545 feet (8,091 meters) above sea level — 13 years after she scaled her first Himalayan mountain, Gasherbrum II, in 1997. She scaled Everest in 2004.

Oh said Monday she would take a break from climbing for the next three or four years before deciding what to do next.

Oh conquered Annapurna on the same day as Spanish climber Tolo Calafat, who fell sick at (7,500 meters) and later died while waiting for help.

Oh defended her team's decision not to attempt to rescue Calafat, saying they didn't know he was sick until they had returned to camp.

"We reached the summit around 3 p.m. and the Spanish climber got there an hour later. By the time we got back down to Camp 4 we were all exhausted," she said.

Oh said she "really wanted" to help the climber but she and her Sherpa guides "were not in a state to climb up the slopes and rescue him."

Oh said it would have taken them at least seven hours to reach the Spaniard.

Climbers say rescues at high altitudes where oxygen levels are low and trails are icy and steep are almost impossible and could put more lives in danger.

Oh's record was not without controversy.

Her rival, Edurne Pasaban of Spain, has questioned whether Oh reached the summit of Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, at all. Oh said Monday that she has proof of her climb and has no plans to scale the peak again.

Both the Nepalese government and Nepal Mountaineering Association have said they believe Oh has climbed Kanchenjunga.