Others’ Death Realm is Their Dream Land, the Journey of Eight Thousand Peaks

In the history of Taiwan mountaineering, there are many outstanding mountaineers who have climbed to the tops of the fourteen eight thousand peaks around the world and placed their names abreast previous summiteers as well as the name of Taiwan alongside those of other nations. They have marked an important milestone for Taiwan in the international mountaineering field and showed the world the perseverance and adventurous spirit of Taiwanese mountaineers.

Looking up to his predecessors, in 2013, Lu Chung-han (nicknamed Ago, Guo-guo) became the first person in Taiwan to reach the top of the thirteenth highest peak in the world – Gasherbrum II (8,035 meters, also known as G2) without oxygen (without using an oxygen cylinder). This was also his first successful climbing record to an 8,000-meter peak.

Since then, Ago has repeatedly broken through his own limits, leaving his own footprints in the uninhabited land above the height of death (8,000 meters above sea level), and once again making the world aware of the existence of one of Taiwan’s excellent mountaineers. His name is Lu Chung-han.

▲ In 2021, Ago successfully reached the 10th peak in the world without oxygen, Annapurna, which is also the sixth that he has ever climbed among the fourteen 8,000-meter peaks in the world 
Those Taiwanese Mountaineers Going up the Mountains First

Those mountaineers who have reached the tops of the world’s highest peaks one step ahead are objects of reverence to Ago; to the world, they are an important role for Taiwan to be seen by the world.

For example, in 1993, Mr. Wu Chin-Hsiung became the first Taiwanese to climb Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. As soon as the news came out, it caused a sensation in Taiwan; also in 1993, just a few days before Mr. Wu Chin-Hsiung summited Mount Everest, four Taiwanese mountaineers, Chiang Yung-Ta, Tsai Shang-Chih, Liang, Chin-Mei, and Liu Chi-Man, climbed the sixth highest peak in the world, Cho Oyu, and set a wonderful record; Mr. Li Hsiao-Shih, also known as “Geek Mountaineer”, became the first Taiwanese mountaineer to climb Mount Manaslu and Mount Lhotse in 2011 and 2013.

Those pioneer mountaineers in Taiwan wrote the name of this land on the top of the mountains with an altitude of more than 8,000 meters, which then inspired younger generations to pursue and open up the view of mountaineers from Taiwan to imagine themselves standing on one of the fourteen 8000-meter peaks. 

And one of these young Taiwanese mountaineers is Ago.

When Fantasies Become Achievable Dreams

When in high school reading a book about Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, Ago had a feeling that it was an unreachable and unknown area. In 2008, when he watched a K2 climbing documentary, he felt that climbing an 8,000-meter mountain was a gamble with his life. It was not until he successfully climbed Denali (6,194 meters), the highest peak in North America, in 2012 that he realized he was getting closer to the Mount Everest that he saw in the book.

“I…seem to have the chance to reach the top of one of 8,000-meter mountains.” Such a thought appeared in his mind.

For many Taiwanese who have climbed an 8000-meter peak, the idea to reach the area known as the death height is generally believed to start from a fantasy, which is exactly how Ago started his journey.  

Nevertheless, as time went by, he gradually prepared himself better and better, and his dream of reaching the top of a 8,000-meter mountain seemed to be no longer just a fantasy, but a light, guiding him to move forward. Although the motivation that drives everyone to climb one of those 8000-meter peaks is different, the mountaineers can find a common goal on the mountains, and even see a part of themselves in each other.

After realizing that he seems to be capable of climbing higher mountains, Ago aimed at the 8,000-meter mountains, actively training and preparing for everything. In 2013, before he set off to climb G2, he said with a smile on his face, “I have imagined the worst situation on the mountains. The vague scenery on the mountains can probably be depicted in my mind from previously-seen books and videos.”

However, the impact of actually stepping on the snow and rocks on a 8,000 meter mountain still shocked him astonishingly.

“In fact, the mountains above 8,000 meters basically have the same scenery, a view of white snow and huge rocks. Further, the strong wind prevents people from standing still, but at the same time, the long mountain ridgelines make you reluctant to blink. More importantly, the people you meet on the mountains will make you keep thinking about them.”

“On the top of a 8,000-meter mountain, you will meet all kinds of people, from local Sherpas to mountaineers of different nationalities. When you are with them day and night, have a common goal, and suffer together, the emotion between comrades will be addictive and make you want to go back to that place all the time.” he said. 

After G2, Ago has climbed several 8,000-meter mountains one after another. He has the experience of successfully reaching the top and also decisively deciding to withdraw. But whether he succeeded in reaching the top of the mountain or not, he views each of his journeys as the most important memory in his life. “Although mountain climbing is very tough, it is also very fun! It will make people unable to stop. I believe this is also the feeling of many mountaineers.” He said with a smile.

GoNext: Fourteen Peaks Challenge

“Every mountain, or every climb, has a special attraction for me,” Ago wrote on Facebook before heading to the world’s third highest peak, Kanchenjunga (8,586 meters) this year. In this short sentence, he explained why he constantly challenges his own limits and returns to the unknown fields.

“I estimate that, in the next ten years, more than 100 people will complete climbing the fourteen 8,000-meter mountains. But whether it’s 14 or 8,000, these numbers are meaningless to me, because I don’t consider climbing these 8000-meter peaks without oxygen as competitions.”

Recalling the scenery on the 8,000-meter mountains, Ago couldn’t help but emotionally express, “When you stand on the top of the mountain that is over 8,000 meters, the rock mass under your feet is the product of the extrusion of ancient plates. Even a small stone was pushed to such a high place from the ground, or even the bottom of the sea. I felt that I was nothing compared to the little rocks on the top of the mountains.” Standing on the top, Ago discovered his insignificance from the huge mountains. Until now, he remains curious about and in awe of each 8,000 peak, or even every mountain in the world. 

Humility also became the reason for him to return to the mountains.

“Continuously explore the original intention of the adventures, let humility infect each other, enjoy the feedback brought by the adventurous journeys, question your own ignorance, and sincerely complete your dream.” Ago, who will continue the Fourteen Peaks plan, summed up his climbing goals with these words, and gave a boost to those still hesitating whether to take the first step of their adventures.

The adventure is not about how high a mountain is climbed or how grand a record is set. For Ago and those pioneer Taiwanese mountaineers, the most important thing is to bravely pursue their dreams, prepare well, and take the first step.

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