Archive for the ‘by yihui’ Category

Team-Building Workshop for SilkAir Crew

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008


To thank SilkAir for their generous support, we conducted a half-day teambuilding workshop for 18 of their beautiful Cabin Crew on 22 May at SAFRA Yishun Adventure Centre.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable learning experience, for both the SilkAir ladies and SWET members. It was the first time that we had conducted such a team-building workshop, and how apt that it was to be for an all-ladies team and that we also share a commonality in terms of altitude – 29,000 ft is both the height of Mount Everest and approximately the height which commercial airplanes cruise!

Our team leader, Jane was the lead trainer for the entire workshop and it started off with a series of indoor activities to bring the energy level up and that also got the SilkAir participants to think about the concept of teamwork and what it entails for each individual to be part of a team.

We then moved on to the outdoors and the participants went through an activity called “Raft Escape” where they found themselves stranded together on a raft and having to “float” on the layer of ice to a nearby island. Through this challenging activity, the participants had the opportunity to examine the function of teamwork in resolving a challenging situation, which they could possibly apply to their work.

The highlight of the workshop was when the participants got to try their hands at abseiling off an 18m platform. It was the first time for most of the ladies, and some of them who had a phobia of heights. Kudos to all of them for having the courage and adventurous spirit to attempt something challenging!

The workshop then ended with the participants sharing with us some of their thoughts about undergoing the challenges and how they have benefited from working together as a team. As a final activity, we got all of them to pen down their own “Everest” on a laminated postcard of Mount Everest.

For all of us, it has been a tremendous learning experience conducting the SilkAir team-building workshop as it was truly satisfying to share our experiences working in a team with the SilkAir ladies. It was also rewarding to know that they have learned something more about themselves and from one another from this experience, and hopefully bonded together in the process.

Encouraged by this successful session with SilkAir, we hope to bring this team-building workshop to more organizations or companies as we can draw parallels between the valuable lessons we’ve learned throughout our Everest journey to that of organizations.

If you’re interested to know more about our team-building sessions, please email us at

jogging on the spot

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Have you heard of any 58 year old who wants to go on a diet? I know of one – my dearest mummy.

Well, for all i know, my mum is not fat at all. She weighs about 54kg (which is lighter than me anyway), and the only thing that belies her small frame is her slightly protuding pot belly (which is actually characteristic of me too, something which i would like to attribute to heredity, and not a result of me overeating!).

So it was no surprise when I met up with a long time friend, Gwen, who happens to work in the same school where my mum teaches. She told me she saw my mum jogging on the spot one morning while doing ‘morning assembly duty’. I immediately burst out laughing. Jogging on the spot?!? That sounded like an old school PE term! While doing morning assembly duty at that??

Gwen then went up to my mum to chat, supposedly to ask her why she was jogging on the spot. I mean, my mum is supposed to be doing assembly duty (although I seriously do not know what that entails – probably checking if the students had their shirts tucked in??), and not jogging on the spot!

And according to Gwen, they carried on a conversation while my mum continued jogging on the spot!! When I went home the same day, I asked my mum why on earth was she jogging on the spot and she said she was so bored of doing morning assembly duty so she decided to jog on the spot, plus, she could also shed some weight in the process.

I really hope she doesn’t do the same thing while waiting for the bus in the bus stop.

desert of death

Friday, October 26th, 2007


Finally met up with Rezal and Jamie after months! it’s such a nice feeling to catch up with the old familiar faces, and it felt as though we picked up exactly where we left off months ago! its no wonder how people can sit around a Starbucks table for hours and hours doing the same thing.

i used to think the whole idea of ‘chilling out’ is a waste of time. but as i get older, i’m starting to enjoy this relatively non streuous activity (as compared to running 2.4km under 10 mins), as well as the amount of satisfaction it can bring. friends are such great inventions! i suppose you can also try talking to yourself, but well it’s easy to run out of topics to talk about ( how many different points of view can one person have?) and it’s also quite easy to get bored of yourself, unless of course you have a super inflated ego. so, having a friend / friends to share a conversation with is much more interesting.

Friends are also the people who can share and help fulfill your dreams and your goals. Just like how Charles Blackmore together with a team of British, Chinese, Uyghurs (an ethnic group found in Xinjiang, China) and a caravan of 30 camels (animals are friends too!) embarked on a journey to cross the Taklamakan Desert in Central Asia.

I highly recommend the book, “Conquering the desert of death: Across the Taklamakan” to anyone who has been sitting around a Starbucks table for far too long, who is lacking some crazy inspiration and is in need of a few doses of adventure into his/her life. Read below for book description:

The ferocious Taklamakan desert in Central Asia, one of the largest sandy deserts in the world and the harshest on earth, is known by the Chinese as the “desert of death” or the “place of no return.” Its unknown depths are said to be haunted by demons and spirits and legend has it that ancient cities filled with treasure lie lost and buried beneath its dunes. The only certainty is that no human being in history had ever crossed it from end to end. But, after five years of planning, in 1993, Charles Blackmore together with a team of British, Chinese and Uyghurs and a caravan of thirty camels, set out to accomplish the seemingly impossible: they would cross the Taklamakan, west to east, directly through its unmapped, untrodden centre. Conquering the Desert of Death is at once a deeply personal journey and the story of an adventure that will go down in history as one of the great achievements of exploration.”
– taken from

it’s time…

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

i feel like taking a break from this all…..

Everest is less than 5 months away and we all know how fast time flies, especially when you’re busy. ever since i came back, i’ve been feeling so overwhelmed with work, as if to make up for all that i didn’t do when i was away.

yea serve me right. maybe i shouldn’t be complaining, especially so when all my colleagues are probably working much harder than me. well, i love what i do but there is also this gnawing feeling in me that i should just take a break and focus on the right things at this moment. perhaps i might sound a little obsessed and extreme, that my whole life simply revolves around Everest.

but well, climbing Everest with my team is also a once in a lifetime dream and if i don’t truly give my best shot now, i am not sure when the chance will come again, if ever.

dreams are free, but being able to pursue and realize them requires sacrifice and hard work. i don’t want to cut myself any slack in terms of preparation and training because of ‘work’, and possibly face the prospect of failure or in the worst scenerio, injuries and death on Everest.

i know it can be humanly possible to balance full-time work and preparation for Everest, and that there is the possibility of failure on Everest but i know i wouldn’t be able to live with it if the failure is a result of me not giving it my best effort. i suppose i could simply slack at work and give like 20% effort but i don’t think i would be able to live with that either.

how?? i guess decision making is never easy. i pray that God will provide me wisdom and courage…..

cuz on a mountain like Everest, there is simply no room for error, and no room for regrets.

Ski Korea anyone?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Ski in Korea!

i fear……

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

i met up with a friend recently and was just recounting to her some of my climbing stories. one of her comments that struck me was how she referred to my ‘indulgence’ in mountaineering as an ‘insult to the preciousness of life’ – referring to all the perils, risks and dangers involved in the sport.

it’s a known fact that mountaineering (as well as sports like motorcross, parachuting, skydiving and kayaking down Class 5 rapids) is an inherently risky sport (oops i hope my mum isn’t reading this).

and it’s also a myth that all people who do such sports are adrenaline junkies, looking for that vaunted adrenaline rush. well, all i can say is that huffing and puffing up a 70 degree slope in soft slushy snow isn’t an adrenaline-rushing experience at all. The only adrenaline rush you probably experience in mountaineering is when you fall into a crevasse, which is actually a nightmare for all mountaineers.

in response to my friend’s remark, i told her that i definitely do not think that my life, or any life for that matter is not precious. i do not think that a person who sits in an armchair at home with the TV remote control in hand does justice to the ‘preciousness of life’ in any way better than people who engage in seemingly risky sport (no offence to people who sit on armchairs watching TV, i’m just giving an example) .

ever since i began to climb in 2003, and having encountered what i thought was my personal almost near-death situation on the mountains before, i’ve come to developed a renewed appreciation for life. i’ve witnessed how one can be robbed of life by the harshness and unforgiving nature of the natural environment, human life is indeed fragile.

But i think that realization shouldn’t stop us from engaging in adventure activities and exploring, pushing the frontiers….. ultimately what prevents people from engaging in such ’risky’ sports is fear. somehow, people are supposed to avoid experiencing the feeling of fear at all costs – it’s not a nice feeling afterall. but somehow, the paradox is how the power of fear can sometimes drive and motivate people.

people who climb everest from the south side would be most fearful of the section of the khumbu icefall, due to the ever shifting seracs and falling blocks of ice. so naturally, they would pay more attention and become more attuned to their surroundings, such that they can try to make a dash (in the correct direction) if they foresee any potential falling blocks of ice.

recalling an experience on cho oyu, i actually fell and turned upside down (yes my legs were hanging in the air) during my abseil down the ice cliff from Camp 2 to Camp 1. i was actually abseiling down on a traverse rope, meaning the rope ran horizontally to the next ‘anchor point’ instead of vertically down. And that particular ’anchor point’ wasn’t actually anchored into the snow, it was just made up of a knot for one to clip into. so as i was abseiling across the rope, i felt a very swift and sudden tug on the rope and before i knew it, i lost my footing and turned turtles. what was holding me and keeping me alive was my figure of 8 abseil device.

i lay there for awhile, too shocked to react and breathing extrememly hard at the same time. when i finally regained my composure, i realised i was actually hanging upside down and that my crampons were cutting into the other fixed ascend rope. as i did not want to destroy the rope and face the wrath of the climbers who were jumaring up the same rope, i had to somehow maneuver back into an upright position as fast as possible, which left me all the more breathless.

at that point, i did not remember experiencing fear, as everything happened too fast and i suppose it was too fast even for fear to set in. what an irony – you spend so much time fearing for all the ‘what ifs’, but when something seemingly ‘fearful’ actually happens, you don’t feel the fear at all.

back to the life that seems familiar

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

Back in S’pore for about a week now…. and somehow, i feel that i haven’t left at all. Everything feel and look the same, except my room – which looks alot cleaner and neater. My mum has been busy cleaning up my room, knowing that when i return, i will also return with about 100 tons of gear. i’m glad she did not faint when she saw all my gear when i came back. my backpack and duffels are still lying around and although i know i should unpack my stuff, i feel slightly reluctant to do so.  i think the presence of all my gear provides a little comfort, especially when i feel like i’m being sucked back into the mundanes of the life here. 

i went back to work 2 days after i came back and for awhile i regretted my decision. it’s like i forgot how working life felt like and i couldn’t wait to plunge right in. haha. but now i’m wishing i could be back in the mountains, or simply travelling in tibet. sigh, the grass is always greener on the other side – you spend most of your time wishing you could be somewhere else. but having said that, ymca has really given me support by allowing me to take such a long period of leave to go away and climb. Hearfelt appreciation goes out to my boss jacq, melissa and wendy for taking over my work when i’m away! it’s never an easy task to take on additional workload, on top of grappling with your own share.

i’ve also been having mild diarrhoea ever since i came back, which is ironic cuz i never had diarrhoea up in the mountains. it must be the overly clean and hygenic food that i haven’t really gotten used to. or perhaps cuz i’ve been over stuffing myself with all the yummy food that i could only dream and hallucinate about up in high camp.  i’m also feel like i’m falling sick…been getting runny nose every morning and sometimes my head hurts – an effect of too much oxygen?? up in the mountains, for fear of falling ill, all of us have been religiously taking our vitamins and supplements. Centrum multivits has done a fantastic job in keeping us well and healthy on the mountains. i remember thinking how it’s bright orange pill makes a great contrast compared to the white diamox pill – a trivial observation if you think about it now, but up in the mountains, it made alot of difference, especially when you are constantly looking for things to amuse yourself 😛

and it’s back to local training soon. running, gym, stairs, bukit timah, rock climbing and technical training at Safra Yishun. i missed running when i was in cho oyu – so you can imagine the feeling of pure ‘liberation’ when i finally had the chance to put on my favourite adidas running shorts and dri fit shirt to run on friday morning before work. i started off slow and easy, just so that i can regain the ‘feel’ of running again. I only ran for about 1hr 15 min, before i felt that my leg muscles (or the lack of it due the amount of weight i’ve lost) felt strangely weak. My breathing rhythm seems ok, just that i feel that i’ve lost leg strength to continue running at a pace that i was previously comfortable at. Then i realised i made the fatal mistake of forgetting to stretch before i started my run. How could i?!? i haven’t ran for about 2 months and for my very first run i forgot to stretch. during the climb, all of us lost alot of muscle mass due to the high altitude and all the strenous climbing. so now, it’s gonna be intensive gym time!! to put back all the mass that we lost! perhaps eating some weight/mass gainer might help……

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

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)


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!) =)