Archive for September, 2007

Summit push tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

We will be leaving ABC for our summit push tommorow morning. If all goes well (weather, body, mind and spirit) we will stay at Camp 1 on 20th night, Camp 2 on 21th night, Camp 3 on 22nd night and summit eventually on 23rd !

Sounds like a really long way from now but we only know better to take it one step at a time (literally). As it turns out, we will probably be the very first team to attempt for the summit this season (since we have been here the longest!).

As we were packing our high camp food just now, I suddenly thought about all the food I could have been eating back in S’pore again. Stuff like KFC, Five Star chicken rice, Lorong 9 Beef Kway Teow, all of mummy’s home-cooked food and even Kopitiam foodcourt food and food at Plaza Sing Food court (where I always eat for lunch during work). Oh man. Ok enough of food already, i know i’ll get to eat loads and loads back home!

Feeling pretty excited about the summit push ahead! Although lots of unknown linger in my head, i’m generally feeling psyched up! It’s our very first 8,000m mountain and also the first time we will be using supplementary oxygen. I really cannot imagine how I will be climbing in the cumbersome oxygen mask, googles and all, together with all my mucus flowing…. I just pray AMS won’t hit again and I don’t have to shit halfway or something. Thanks again for all your well wishes and encouragement – i’ll be thinking of all you guys back home!

God bless and till the next update about 5 days later!

19 Sept, 5.20pm
Cho Oyu ABC

Summit bid tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

we’re finally going for our summit cycle tomorrow! weather permitting, we’ll reach the summit on the 23rd and be back at advanced base on the 24th with a couple of rest days to ponder over the feasibility of a second summit run. pretty psyched right now, prepared and raring to go! i can’t wait to see how horrible navigating the rock band at 8000m is gonna be. wish us luck and i hope to be able to update happy news on the 24th! woohoooo! THIS IS IT!

Patience on Cho Oyu…

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

team-at-c2-xixa-background.JPG      Team at C2 with Xixabangma in the background (centre)

Climbing big mountains like Cho Oyu has to have patience. I like the way how Phei Sunn described climbing Mustagh, it is like painting the mountain, every stroke counts, up and down. And with patience, come with luck and our own adaptability!

There is an American female climber who has climbed several mountains like Elbrus, Vinsons and some 6000m+ & a 7000m, she gave up after reaching C1 of Cho Oyu. She left the mountain to return home. She said that 8000m is too much for her, she cannot even sleep and breathe properly at ABC, so it is time to tell herself to turn back!. She is the first foreign women to take part in the Tenzing Norgay Everest marathon some yrs back, and with that, she did not doubt about herself climbing a 8000m peak. I believe her decision is prudent. There is no wrong in turning back.

The team is now resting at Nyalam (3600m), we are returning to ABC on 17th Sept, then, will wait for good weather for the summit bid, sometime between 25th & 27th Sept. The purpose of traveling back to Nyalam is to have better oxygen in take. ABC is at 5600m, still too high to really rest well, thus, we made a day trip down to Nyalam.

Back to myself, I have since stop coughing after arriving at Nyalam, flu has long gone too. This prove to be a good decision to come down to Nyalam. I bet my cough will not go away if I am resting at ABC. Kim Boon is happy that the team is feasting each time at ABC. It is very important for individuals to be able to eat and sleep well at high altitude. Our first dinner at Nyalam was really good (we did not stop for lunch, only had porridge for breakfast at ABC before leaving for Nyalam), we quickly snatched up the food that was served and literally ate like there is no tommorrow. The waitress was shocked to have to refill our rice and dishes so soon. I bet she must have a different impression of what Singapore women are like! Sorry Singapore ladies, we gave you a bad name! :p

I’ll talk about my last climb to Camp 2 (C2)

Surprisingly, when I arrived at C1 the second time, I had headache and nausea. This is new to me, I definitely had headaches before, but never felt nausea. I took a Diamox (250mg) immediately (a little too late though), then a pain killer as the headache got more severe. As I rested inside my tent, I tried to eat some rice brought up by our
sherpa (Kami) together with a pot of instant veg. soup. Gosh, the nausea feeling got worst, so I popped in a ‘Vomittng” pill prepared by Dr Mok. Ha… just 10mins after that vomitting pill went in, I threw out all that I took. I wonder if the vomitting pill was to help suppress the vomit or to induce! Glad that I have a ziploc bag readied, or else my tent will smell like shit! Can you recall when was the last time you vommitted? I hate that contraction feeling on the stomach, and everything just got thrown out from it, I thought my lungs were out too..:p

Thank goodness, the vomiting was the end. After the vomit, I felt better, and I could eat more. I took another 2 pain killer pills for my headache, as the last one came out with my vomit q(^0^)p, and slept early. Oh, not forgeting my tentmate, Peh Gee, she was the one who helped me with hot water and stuff during that 2hrs of ordeal. PG was not feeling too well and yet, was handling the chores. Though she did not have headache, she was feeling nausea too. The next day morning, I woke up with a clear mind, and feeling better. But not for PG. She vomitted. Due to that, and she have been complaining of unwell since the start, the team made a conservative decision. As such, we made plans for her to decend to ABC to rest till we return. The team proceed to C2 as planned, and PG descent to ABC.

pg-jo-at-c1-tent.jpg   PG and me at C1 (inside tent)

The climb up to C2 was a whole day affair. Though I took shorter time to reach the first ice cliff, I felt that the climb seems tougher. Perhaps that was due to my vomitting the night before, and a poor breakfast meal. I fell behind the rest very quickly, Yihui decided to walk with me, and soon, the team split into two. Kami, our lead sherpa, is with Jane, Lihui and Dr Mok, while Jamling followed Yihui and me. Jamling was earlier with PG at C1 to wait for another team of sherpa to bring PG down to ABC. Being a climbing guide, Jamling caught up with Yihui and me quickly.

I diligently ate up energy gels, and raisins. For me, raisins are great, it is easy to eat and replenishes energy fast and it is inexpensive:) Soon, I found myself cruising on snow again. I caught up with the rest at the middle of the first ice cliff, but noticed that Yihui was falling behind. After we cleared the 2nd ice cliff, then I got to speak to Yihui, and she told me she was feeling weak. Nevertheless, we need to move on, C2 was supposed to be “just round the band” from where we were (the top of the 2nd ice cliff). We kept walking. We were traversing on a slope with fixed rope all the way. The band seems long, and never ending…as I moved on, I could see Cho Oyu summit vividly! I started to think that getting to C2 is already so tough, I cannot imagine the C3 climb :p. I told myself, one step at a time should be fine!

Eventually we arrived at C2, feeling alright (no headache or nausea… thank goodness), we were about one hour behind the front team, it was a good 10hrs walk from C1 to C2. C2 is at 7028m a.s.l.

The next day’s plan was to walk up as high as we could and return to C2 for another night. We don our clumsy down suits for the climb. I really hated the down suit, it was so huge, and walking with it was really not as easy as I thought. I regretted for not buying a one piece suit, and that the two piece suit size is too big for me. I cannot imagine how I have to cope with it on summit day, where i will need to wear a harness over that down suit, climb the rock band on fixed rope clumsily, and wear a mask, carry at least another 8kg oxygen tank on my back. 🙁

We climbed for about an hour, we were only up at 7150m a.s.l. Yihui was falling behind us rather far. Dr Mok diagnoised that Yihui was suffering from a so-called Classic AMS, hence she needed to turn back and for better, to descend. Descend was all in our mind. Quickly, Jane decided that the team should descend to C1 for the night. We trek down to C2 (the return journey was so fast), changed out of our down suit and headed for C1 at noon. We arrived at C1 by 3.30pm. Got it? 10hrs to move from C1 to C2, but took only 3.5hrs to descend from C2 to C1… basically, the ice cliffs took up most of the climbing time, we only took 10-15mins to abseil off the two ice cliffs while climbing up took hours.

Some quick facts:
First ice cliff – 10-12m high, almost vertical at approx 6700m
Second ice cliff – 30m high at 70-80 degree gradient at approx 7000m

We look forward to a week long of good weather and please continue to cheer for us.

Joanne Soo
16th Sept


Sunday, September 16th, 2007

If my morale can be measured like a thermometer, it will hover around where it all began; the mercury bulb…

I had missed out on the final acclimitisation cycle to Camp 2, and that happened because I had vomitted my breakfast before moving out for the climb…

Strangely enough, I had been feeling strong the night before and was feeling good before the mixture of 2 cups of milo, 2 slices of cheese and one packet of oreo biscuits decided to come out on its own.

Cause of vomitting was unknown (on hindsight: I have decided to forsake cheese as part of my high altitude food) and it was decided that it would be better for me to descend than to carry on with the ardous long climb from Camp 1 to Camp 2 that day…

That evening, Kim Boon came back with the shocking news that one of the chinese expedition’s climbing schedule consisted of only acclimitising up to Camp 1 and then they will go for the summit bid…Joanne also shared later that she had read that some expeditions only acclimitise up to Camp 1. The rationale was to conserve the physcial strength as much as possible, coz anything above 6200m, the body will no longer acclimitise but instead will deteriorate…and our Camp 1 is already 6400m.

So, I am now classified to be under the special chinese acclimitisation schedule which is Camp 1 and then summit bid…

Even so, I cannot help but feel worried that this change of acclimitisation plan will upset my chances of a successful summit….

Nevertheless, I am trying very hard to keep my spirits up. Eating and resting as much as I can while I am in Nyalam..

Focusing on each section of the climb, keeping my fingers crossed that I will stay strong and make it to the summit.

Greetings from Nyalam (once again)!

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Yes you’ve all read this correctly – our team is now currently in Nyalam (where I sent my very first email update) and we’re here because we’ve had enough of climbing – everything’s over!

Yeah right.

We actually came back here yesterday from Advanced Base Camp (ABC) and will be here for the next 2 days before heading back to ABC again. The purpose for this 8-hour trek and overland drive back all the way to Nyalam from ABC is so that we can let our bodies rest and recover fully at a much lower altitude (3,600m) as compared to ABC’s (5,660m).

Also, we will trying to gorge ourselves with more food (Chinese food definitely tastes better than the Nepali food they cook at ABC!) so that we can hopefully return slightly fatter, well rested and more energised. When we return to ABC on 17 Sept, we will be fully ready to launch our summit bid. I think we’re the only team that has taken this decision to go all the way down to Nyalam to rest, and come back up all the way again.

In a way, I think it’s a little like life – sometimes you have to retreat or backtrack a little before pushing ahead for the big one. So, we will be simply relaxing, eating and sleeping all we want here. Obviously we will also try to avoid spending too much time out in the streets in case we fall sick due to inhaling all the smoke and dust.

Hmmm I feel like visiting the hair salon though, even though I do not think any sane S’porean would ever dare step into one here. My poor hair hasn’t felt the nice and gentle touch of a comb / brush in nearly one month and I think I ought to treat my hair better – afterall, I have been trying to keep it long and it has served me well in keeping my head warm in the mountains. Sorry hair, I’ll promise I’ll treat you to a nice proper treatment back in S’pore. I’ll gladly welcome any recommendations on any hair salons back in S’pore willing to treat hair that has been buried under a beanie and hasn’t seen light for more than one month.

Anyway, back to the climb. We made new progress and spent one night in Camp 2 on 11 Sept. The climb from Camp 1 to Climb 2 on that day was simply exhausting. Seriously, I haven’t felt so exhausted in ages. Even as I recall, the summit bid on Mustagh in 2006 did not feel so bad. We left Camp 1 at about 7am and I only stumbled into Camp 2 at around 5pm – yet another 10 hour journey. The temperature that day was so freaking hot and we were also travelling in a huge basin most of the time, so most of the sun’s rays were reflected back at us.

After getting past the first ice cliff, I told myself the worst must be over as the first ice cliff is reputed to be the most difficult section enroute to Camp 2. However, as I was travelling towards the second ice cliff, I nearly fainted at the sight (on top of the heat) – it was a super duper long slope of about 70 – 80 degrees and I couldn’t even see the end of it.

As we rested at the base of the cliff before proceeding up, I saw climbers up there who seemed to be stuck for ages at the same spot. I quickly gobbled down my power gel, re-applied sun block, clipped on my ascending device and began to trudge up the cliff. Once on the slope, it was simply 2-3 steps then breathe like 10 times. Then yet another 2-3 steps, then breathe another 10 times. Occasionally you plunge your ice axe into the snow for balance, if you manage to spare the extra energy.

When you are up on the slope, there is simply nothing to think about except (1) your breathing pattern – it can be such a therapeutic experience by simply counting the amount of breaths you take (try doing it in S’pore!) and (2) how much higher do you have to climb.

There are hardly any landmarks to aim towards (unlike a huge rock, tree or a lamp post) so it boils down to simply counting the number of steps – which seldom went beyond 5 counts anyway. Lihui and Jane are both the strongest climbers in the team and they reached Camp 2 first, and I was simply glad and relieved to see their faces popping out of the tents upon reaching Camp 2.

So we spent a night at Camp 2 and was supposed to set off and try and hit Camp 3 and return back the next day. At 7,000m, it wasn’t a good sleep for both myself and Jane – we woke up almost every other hour, thinking it was already morning and time to boil water. At Camp 2, we slept in our down suits in our down sleeping bags as it was really very cold, and I mean really very cold.

We were blessed with good weather the next morning so we proceeded to set off. We were all dressed in our heavy down suits and we all look like we were walking in our down sleeping bags, so round and puffy. There was only one way to go – and that’s UP.

As I made my few initial steps in the snow, I felt very breathless and as I trudged on in the increasingly soft snow, I seem to feel more breathless than usual. It was like 2 steps, then breathe 300 times. I was literally gasping for breath. Already the last person in the line and quite a distance from the person in front of me, I sounded out my condition to Jamling, the climbing sherpa walking behind me. He told me I might have developed AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and advised me to turn back towards camp.

I decided to take a rest and continue on for awhile more before deciding if I should turn back. As I resumed the climb, I suddenly smelled something really really bad, like that of rotten eggs that have decomposed for 2000 years. Alas, it was my dear team mate, Jane who just shitted – in the middle of nowhere on the slope. It was soooo smelly that I really thought I would have died on the spot (remember I was already gasping for dear breath). And as if that was not enough, the piece of toilet paper that she used to wipe herself flew down slope and it was literally heading towards my direction. I was so tired that I remember thinking to myself I won’t give a damn even if it hit my face!

After trying to climb on for another 15 mins, I only felt increasingly breathless and I knew it wasn’t wise for me to proceed any more. Upon Dr Mok’s advice, who also diagnosed that I displayed the classic symptoms of AMS, I turned back towards Camp 2 and also decided to descend all the way back to Camp 1 in order to have a better rest. In the end, the rest of the team also turned back about 45 mins after I did as snow conditions got too bad. We then all descended back down to Camp 1 the same day for a good rest…………

Was feeling quite disappointed that I did not manage to perform during our climb up towards Camp 3 but well, AMS can hit anyone and I can only pray that my condition will be better the next time we’re up there – which is during our summit bid!

Alright I think that’s all for now….. I’m sorry if I’m boring you guys with all these climbing details….Oops…need to escape from this internet cafe – before all the cigeratte smoke suffocates me to death!

Miss and love you all and I will probably update again just before our summit bid !

Nyalam, Tibet (in a smoky internet cafe)
15 Sept, 12.50pm (Beijing Time)

Observations on Cho Oyu

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

There are loads of spiders everywere in the tent. They exist in various sizes too. The largest I’ve seen so far is as big as a quarter of my palm, and tiniest one is the size of a mole.I first noticed them in the Chinese Base Camp. Initially, I thought they might be poisonous and I get the creeps whenever I off my headlamp. I imagine the creepyu crawlies crawling into my sleeping bag, I imagine the crawlies on my neck and I have to dig into my sleeping bag for my lamp just ot ensure they’re not crawling freely all over my body. Since moving to Base Camp, they have even started spinning a web down from the top of the tent. Numerous times I have seen a spider dangling in the middle of my tent and these days’s I’ve learnt to live harmoniously with them. In fact, I might even miss them the day we have to pack up and leave.

I never gave much thought into the issue of yaks before I came. The only thing I care about is yak steak. But my respect for them increased tremendously since my first meeting with them at Chinese Base Camp. They are just the most amazing creatures ever. Carrying up to 60kg on their backs, they are the only animals able to trudge on at such high altitiudes. And they only feed on the miserly pastures available around the campsites. They are not tied down and left to roam before they are loaded and yet when the time comes, the yak herders are able to gather all the yaks together and load them up. There was even one yak which got hit by a stone till its eye fell out and still managed to carry our loads up to BC not once but a couple of times. And when the time comes for the yaks to be retired, they can always become momos.

I have heard this word so many times but never know what it encompasses till this trip. I like pujas. Not only for the food (cos this is the time when all the choco pies, dried apricots, snickers, beer, cola and all the goodies available in the kitchen gets displayed on a huge plate to e passed round) but for the chanting (the lamas will sit in front and recite from a very ancient looking sutra. It’s a rather soothing chant which carries with it a tone of ancient seriousness. And I love the part where the other sherpas chant together with the lamas in front, throwing the rice in the air ( and also at everybody, into their shirts, mouth etc). and there’s the tsampa part where we smear the tsampa onto everybody’s faces and in the air while chanting Cho Oyu(or so I make it out to be).

Camp 1 & further!

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

hi all! email update doubling up as a blog entry to save on our very volatile solar power source. =) been away for almost a month now and the expedition life has pretty much gotten under my skin–literally. these days, the limits of my personal hygiene are restricted to the tolerance level of my tent mate. since we all have our personal tents at ABC, i’m getting away with lots of things, the best of which is getting up in the middle of the night and not having to go to the makeshift loo outside. instead, everyone’s peeing inside tents using this really nifty pee device. anyway, i’m digressing.

so we’ve been up at camp 1 and farther on to the first ice cliff en route to camp 2. we’ll be leaving ABC tomorrow for the final acclimatization cycle, where we’ll sleep at camp 1, sleep at camp 2, climb up to camp 3, sleep back down at camp 2 and then descend all the way back to ABC and all the way down to nyalam for a final rest before the summit push sometime in mid sept. this is totally exciting. by golly we’re actually doing it!

at this point of time, i’m trying to envision the good bits (i.e reaching camp) instead of the superhuman effort it’s been taking us to climb. i swear, clearing the stretch of vertical ice on that first ice cliff before camp 2 (with a second one to go) stretched me almost to the limits of my physical endurance. front-pointing at 6700m is seriously no joke, especially not with sub-zero temperatures, howling 70km/h winds and painful spindrifts. i’ve lost more weight already than i’m comfortable with and as is it, whatever leg muscles i used to have are getting dangerously shrivelled. my shoulder and mini biceps are also non-existent and my hip bones dig painfully into the ground when i sleep on my side. i love these rest days at ABC cuz it means i can eat as much fatty bacon and eggs as i want in some vain attempt to replenish said wasted muscles. i’m swallowing as much chocolate, chips, nuts and assorted high-calorie food as humanly possible, so i’m hoping body-breakdown doesn’t happen so fast.

cho oyu is seriously MASSIVE. it’s like, HUGE. i mean, what does one expect from an 8000er anyway. it’s gigantic. i can see the entire thing from ABC and there’s always a jetstream blowing from the summit. the last time we slept up at camp 1, a massive avalanche roared off above camp 3. i guess with cho oyu, this is seriously the big league. everyone here is experienced and raring to go. i’m like probably the youngest person in the entire place and looking around, my team is probably the youngest team around. i’m getting a kick out of us being the “kiddies” on the mountain, yet we’re also the fastest, having gone up higher than anyone else at ABC.

so ABC is turning into a UN congregation. there are climbers from countries all over. we’re sharing our camp site with an american team (with two cute leaders. haha. lack of personal grooming has not fogged my eyesight over), an austrian team and another singapore team. just around the corner lie the rest of the international teams. it’s pretty amazing. all the big names in mountaineering are here, since this is cho oyu season and it’s a veritable city out here at ABC. what i’m hoping to avoid is a population explosion higher up, especially at the ice cliffs, cuz a bottleneck at altitude would be horrible and potentially fatal.


Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Today is our second rest day at Advanced Base Camp and it’s truly a great day cuz it’s one of the rare days where the skies are clear and blue, it is NOT snowing and the sun is out! =) We just completed our first acclimatization cycle, spending 2 nights at Camp 1 (6,400m) and we will be resting here at ABC for the next 2 days before moving up to Camp 1 on Mon, then Camp 2 on Tues, weather permitting.

On 5 Sept, we moved out from Camp 1 and our goal was to reach the base of the second ice cliff that was enroute to Camp 2. If you guys have read our dispatches on the website, it was well, tiring.

I remember waiting at the base of the vertical ice cliff, simply waiting for the others to clear it. By then, the weather had started to deteriorate, it started to snow and visibility was getting very poor. I was feeling very cold and I remembered I kept clapping my hands to keep the blood circulating. It was a very horrible feeling waiting, and not knowing what to expect.

I began to pray and Isaiah 40:31 came into my mind “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” The ice cliff was much tougher than I had expected, it was composed of completely blue ice and it required us to front point with our crampons all the way up the 25m length of fixed rope. Although it was ‘only’ 25m long, it certainly felt like it was forever and i had to take at least 5 super hard and deep breaths after every 2-3 kicking in. It was also quite scary knowing that our lives depended solely on the ‘teeth’ of our jumars (ascending devices to aid in our ascend) biting onto the rope.

At long last, we all made it through the ice cliff and by the time we all reached the top, it became a complete whiteout and it was nearly impossible to see beyond 50m. We then decided to turn around and descend back to Camp 1….the whole journey took us about 10 hours. Phew.

Advanced Base Camp is alot more crowded now with teams from USA, France, China, Australia, Japan, Korea, Spain etc…. it’s almost like some United Nations Conference! There are also apparently another 3 more all-women teams from Croatia, Norway and Korea. Cool.

Over here, meal time conversations usually center around food we miss and toilet habits. We can go on at length about how much we pee and shit, how often we do it, the colour and texture etc. I think it can definitely make a great thesis research topic. Talking about food, we had delicious BAK KUT TEH last night for dinner, courtersy of Dr Mok, our expedition doctor, who brought them all the way from S’pore. Although it was cooked with mutton instead of pork, it was the greatest dish i’ve tasted in a long long time. =)

Up in high camp, what we will eat are boring stuff like instant noodles and freeze dried food like spagetti with meat sauce (which definitely sounds nicer than it tastes, trust me). Life here is very simple, it all boils down to sleeping, piling on layers (when it turns cold), shredding off layers (when the sun is out), eating, talking and simply slumping around. The only mini traffic jam would be the toilet wait outside the toilet tent especially after meal times. Last night, we tried to watch our DVDs but alas they failed to play on our laptop due to some software incompatability =( .

Aye it has just started to snow heavily (again) and we’re all in the relative comfort of our mass dining tent, reading, listening to music, pretending to dance (some of my team mates have expressed a desire to go clubbing back in Kathmandu. imagine clubbing in our ungainly climbing outfits! horror of horrors!).

I’m about to finish reading the book “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami and it’s a little sad. It’s supposed to be a story about a missing cat, but well turns out it’s not really about the cat. Just like in climbing, it’s NEVER only about climbing. It’s about so many other things – the relationships forged with your team mates and your climbing sherpas, developing patience, understanding the weather and environment, knowing yourself and taking pleasure in simply sitting around doing nothing. Ah, such life.

Thanks for all the emails, they all bring a great amount of encouragement and delight into my seemingly small little world (though when you’re climbing, everything seems huge and infinite)…. reading them made me realise how much I miss home! Sometimes it’s strange how I yearn to ‘escape’ from home, only to come here and realise how much I actually miss home and all things familiar.

I also particularly miss running, especially coming to office early, then running to East Coast Park and back to office, just in time to start work…..i miss being able to simply put on a dri fit t-shirt and running shorts, instead of piling on layers and layers feeling like a overbloated duck now 😛

But it’s been really great to be back in the mountains, a place that I’ve always held so close to my heart, a place where i feel that my heart and spirits can truly soar and finally, a place where even when it’s cold, it can feel warm and fuzzy (at times!) =)

My thoughts…

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Climbing is a sport that is not only physically and mentally demanding. It is a sport that also demands considerable psychological and emotional preparation, especially on how to keep your emotional state sane when waiting out for good weather. How do you keep your emotional state a healthy one in the absence of all creature comforts and being in the realm of constant physical discomforts such as the cold, the altitude, the unfamiliar food and not seeing your loved ones…

Even in this harsh environment, we are not short of love and concern.. Mother’s love was best expressed in the form of physical food delicacies, such as Joanne’s mother painstakingly prepared one-month-before-the expedition cooked ‘hae bee hiam’ and fried ikan bilis to go with our daily porridge. Despite Yihui’s mother strong disapproval of mountaineering, her mum still prepared her favourite ‘hae bee hiam’. My mother also went out of the way to buy quality salted fish for my high camp food.

For this trip, our team is most fortunate to have Dr Mok Ying Jang (our expedition doctor) and Mr Lim Kim Boon (our base camp manager) who have tirelessly showered their fatherly love onto us. Dr Mok, could not have showed it better by whipping up local delicaies such as bak ku teh and longan and red dates dessert. He kept nagging us to eat more red dates as they will generate more red blood cell production. Kim Boon was the champion when he surprised us with a complete make over of the dining tent while we were away for our first acclimitisation cycle in Camp 1. He fixed up the leaky patches of the tent, rearranged our medical supplies and food stash and even put in nice touches such as putting a ‘Welcome home’ plaque and plucked matching purple flowers for table display…

Back home, we have Esther whom has been tirelessly co-ordinating our email support. She never failed to remind us that there are people thinking of us. Here’s what she emailed us:

sorry, i know i shouldn’t send heavy emails, but i went for a musical recently and this song reminded me of you all. it’s sth along the lines of “come back when it’s cold” but in chinese “tian leng jiu hui lai”. i’m not saying you guys shd come home when it’s cold (then you might as well turn around now!), but i found this song very touching, and want you all to know that there is someone, many of us thinking of you all through the cold you’re facing there…”

Although I feel grateful and heartened that we are never alone in this world, I cannot help but feel a bit down the day before. Especially when my team mates played the song ‘Love, Me’, it reminded me of my grandmother. Throughout this trip, there were moments when I grieved alone. I wonder is it a case when devoid of the daily busy working schedule, where your life has been reduced to the basics revolving around eating, sleeping and climbing, that one has more time and awareness for such matters of the heart.

I guess that we should always keep in sight of what really matters and not let a change of environment or circumstances remind us of what not to take granted for.. Nothing puts it more aptly than Collin Raye in his song; ‘In this Life’..part of the lyrics go like this:

Every mountain that I have climbed
Every raging river I cross
You were the treasure that I long to find
Without your love, I will be lost
Let the world stop turning
Let the sun stop burning
Let them tell me love is not worth going through
If it all falls apart
I will know deep in my heart
The only dream that mattered has come true
In this life, I was loved by you.

Hi everyone :)

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Greetings again 🙂

We have just concluded our first acclimatization cycle. We are now back at ABC, resting. I am eager to share with you what is happening at this side of my world. I am living well, Kim Boon and Dr Mok are great climbing pals too. Since I arrived at ABC, I caught a flu and having a cough till now. It is really irritating. I have done a lot to prevent myself from getting running nose and cough, I have been taking Vit C and Ginko pills religiously, yet, I still catch them. Anyway, Dr Mok gave me anti-biotics, and I am getting better day by day.

I spoke about the scree slopes between ABC and Camp 1 in my last email? Yes, I have finally crossed it. Comparing the Mt Rinjani’s scree slope, this slope is definitely easier, just that it is at the altitude of 6200m to 6400m a.s.l. That’s the challenge. It was even tougher to decend after a heavy snow fall the night before. I slipped and fell several times, cursing each time I picked myself up and reminded that I will have to do this again the next round :p When I was in it, the trail reminded me of my climb on Mera in 2004. I believed Clarence, Jack, Nicholas and Ivy can relate this very well with me. The trail is exactly the same as the one we descent from the high pass to Chutanga after a heavy snow fall, where we all happily descent without our crampons …then, I had to slide on my butt with Clarence :p The only diff here is that the slope is longer, slightly steeper, and 1200m higher in altitude…yaks! But I had fun recalling those moments as I descent, probably that’s why I slipped more …

Back at ABC, I have also met up with Raja and Chu. It is nice and feeling good to meet up with more fellow friends from Singapore. We have not had a good sunny day for long. Today, 8th Sept happened to be a good sunny day. All are out to sun our gear and many are getting their cameras to capture the magnificient Cho Oyu. The peak still remains mysterious to me. Clearing the first ice cliff is tough, the ice cliff is at 6770m, the second ice cliff is yet to be known. Our sherpas said that the second ice cliff is not as steep, but hell, it will be at the altitude of 6800m at least.. the gradient of the slope do not matter anymore …it is the altitude. Also, I must thank Carmen for her Millet boots, it kept my feet warm and steady during the climb 🙂 Here at ABC, I looked forward to login to the internet and hoping that we received emails from Esther, and updates from friends …

Tommorrow is the 9th Sept, the race day for SAFRA AVventura Race. I hope that the weather will stay clear for everyone, and all participants will enjoy the race. The organising committee must be busy by now. Safra Staff – Siyi, Catherine, Kim Seng, Iswandi, Ernest, Zaidi, Zadee and many more – all the best to the organising. My fellow committee – Kenneth, Jispal, Khai Munn, Thiam Huat, Karen, Chee Yeong and Boon Kui – all the way! And Michael – Thanks for your support towards SAC.

Till my next update, I will stay focus and healthy.

8th Sept
Cho Oyu ABC
4.25pm (Nepali time)