The first person with disabilities to scale all 14 of the highest peaks in the Himalayas has disappeared on the descent from his latest conquest.
Kim Hong-bin, a 57-year-old South Korean mountaineer who lost all his fingers to frostbite in 1991, reached the summit of 26,401-foot Broad Peak, on the border of Pakistan and China, shortly before 5pm local time on Sunday.
The four-day ascent meant he had stood on the peak of all 14 of the highest mountains in the range. According to the Union of Asian Alpine Associations, Mr Kim was the 44th person to ever achieve the feat, and the first with a disability.
Seventeen hours after Mr Kim reported his success, however, he sent a distress call after apparently becoming lost at an altitude of around 25,900 feet.
The climber is believed to have later slipped and fallen while descending the Chinese side of the mountain in poor weather, said the secretary of the Pakistan Alpine Club, Karrar Haidri.
"Since then no information is available about him," he added, telling AP that planned search efforts on Tuesday included help from the South Korean embassy in Islamabad.
Mr Haidri added that helicopters would be used in the search "when the weather permits".
Pakistan Alpine Club secretary Karrar Haidri, left, and now missing Korean climber Kim Hong Bin
Credit: Pakistan Alpine Club
Other climbing teams that were nearby responded to the call but have been unable to locate Mr Kim, Yonhap News reported.
“I received a call that Kim Hong-bin went missing on his way down from the peak”, Lee In-jeong, president of the union, told Yonhap. “I heard that climbers there tried to rescue him, but failed”.
Mr Kim was with a party of six other mountaineers, but it is not known if the rest of his team is also missing.
Before he disappeared, Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, congratulated Mr Kim after his achievement on Sunday, writing in a social media post, “You have given pride and hope to the people, who are tired of the coronavirus”.
The president added that Mr Kim had given “courage and confidence” to disabled people around the world through his endeavours.
Mr Kim had to have all his fingers amputated after a solo ascent of Alaska’s Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America. Undeterred, he went on to become the first person with disabilities to climb the highest mountains on all seven continents.