Kim Boon, Our 7th Team Member

May 5th, 2009 by SWET

You may not have seen him in our pictures, or notice him at the airport send-off, but Mr Lim Kim Boon is an integral part of the team.
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Mr Lim Kim Boon, the team’s capable base camp manager
Kim Boon is our capable Base Camp Manager, training coach, advisor, team liaison officer, and our beloved 7th member. He is one of the pioneers who started the rock climbing sport in Singapore back in 1980s, and has been actively involved in our sport climbing and mountaineering scene since.

Kim Boon has been with us since the formation of the team 5 years ago, and has been selfless in imparting his advice and skills. He was Advisor to the 2005 NUS Centennial Team and a member of the Premier Taxi Everest Without Oxygen Team in the same year. Currently based in the UK, Kim Boon has been conducting ice-climbing courses in Sichuan, China since 2003. We’ve been to several of his ice-climbing courses which have proven greatly beneficial to our climb on the Lhotse Face up to Camp 3.
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Kim Boon in discussion with our Sherpa, Kami

Last but not least, it is because of Kim Boon that we’re able to call Everest Base Camp our comfortable ‘home’ for the past few weeks. From great advice to nifty improvements to our living conditions, we’ve been blessed by Kim Boon’s presence.

Thank you, Kim Boon!

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Kim Boon with our Sherpas Dawa, Jamling and Kami (L-R)

Final Acclimatization Rotation Complete

May 5th, 2009 by SWET

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camp 3 perched on the steep Lhose face

Two days ago, we returned from Camp 3 (7,100m) on Everest, therefore completing the last of our acclimatization cycles before the summit bid!

At 3.30am on 26th April, we set off once again up the Khumbu Icefall. This time round, our objective was to get to Camp 3, sleep one night there and climb up towards the Yellow Band the next morning. Camps 1 and 2 are now familiar places to us, we stayed one night at each camp before heading up the Lhotse Face towards Camp 3 on the 3rd morning. A bit of background here: the Lhotse Face is a sheer face of near-vertical ice stretching 800m – the terrain on this face is ext remely steep and climbers have been known to experience difficulty kicking into the hard and dry ice on this section.

It was a long and tiring plough up the Lhotse Face towards Camp 3. We took about 8 hours to get to our tents, which sits at the highest section of the entire campsite. Once we’ve settled into our tents, we had a bit of dinner before retiring for the night. We slept without oxygen and woke up early the next morning for our short climb towards the Yellow Band, a horizontal section of rocks that sit below Camp 4.
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The south summit in the background

We toggled with the oxygen systems that we’ve learnt to use at Base Camp, and strapped on the 7.5kg oxygen bottle onto our backpacks to begin the climb. We journeyed for about 1.5hours before we reached the bottom of the Yellow Band and turned back towards Camp 3. Once back at Camp 3, we packed up and left for Camp 2 and subsequently, Base Camp.

We’re currently recuperating at Base Camp, waiting for weather reports of favourable weather windows for us to make the summit bid. While waiting, we’re abiding by the principle of ‘active rest’, where every other day, we hike up to surrounding peaks like Pumori and Kala Pattar. This is important for us to stay active and healthy for the summit attempt.

We’re thankful to be safely back at Base Camp. Just yesterday, we witnessed a major avalanche on the Khumbu Icefall which saw the left section of the icefall crumble down. It happened a day after we’ve returned, at the same time we would’ve been travelling through the icefall. This is a timely reminder for us that climbing is a humbling sport. Climbers don’t conquer Everest, they survive this giant of creation.

At this point, we’d like to wish our naming sponsor, NATAS (National Association of Travel Agents Singapore), a very happy 30th anniversary! Although we’re not able to join in the celebrations physically, we’re with you in spirit and hope to bring back good news!

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We narrowly missed the avalanche on the Khumbu icefall

TO CAMP 2 and BACK

April 25th, 2009 by SWET

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On the way from camp 1 to camp 2

At the crack of dawn on 15 April, we set off for our 2nd acclimatization cycle, which brought us to Camps 1 (6,100m) and 2 (6,500m). This was the first time on this climb that we’d be reaching an altitude of 6,500m. We had with us our Sherpas, Kami, Jamling and Dawa. We headed up the Khumbu Icefall at 5.30am, traveling through the giant blocks of ice in semi-darkness. Climbing in the morning also meant having to endure low temperatures, and it was through this blanket of sub-zero coldness that we journeyed through multiple crevasses and vertical sections with the use of ladders.

The sun hit us around 9am in the icefall, and the sun’s rays started taking a toll on our energy. We had to stop every now and then to hydrate and consume food. We also had to remove the warmer pieces of clothing on us to help with our ventilation system.

Camp 1 is rather exposed to the elements and we stayed in our tents mostly to stay out of the howling winds. The next day, we moved off around 7am for an acclimatization hike up to lower Camp 2. That helped us stay active at altitude which is an important factor in our acclimatization cycle.

We climbed up to Camp 2 the following day, up the Western Cwm. Temperatures are known to be blazing hot in the cwm because we’re traveling through the basin of a valley, where most of the heat gets trapped and reflected. Therefore we started early in the morning around 6am to avoid the heat. Even though the terrain wasn’t particularly steep, every step we took was draining because of the high altitude. We arrived at Camp 2 in time for an early lunch, and helped set up the tents which we would call ‘home’ for the next 3 nights.
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Camp 2 with Lhotse Face towering in the background

From Camp 2, we were able to behold the magnificent Lhotse Face, which we will be climbing up to reach Camp 3 (7,400m) on our next acclimatization cycle. We’re heading up to Camp 3 within the next week, and we hope to bring you more updates when we return from Camp 3 in about a week’s time!

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The sun rays slowly moving over camp 1

NATAS-SWET EBC Support Trek

April 24th, 2009 by SWET

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NATAS-SWET EBC Trekkers

After weeks of anticipation, we were greeted by members of the NATAS-SWET Support Trek on 14 April. They were in good condition, having made their way from Gorak Shep (5,150m) to Kalapattar (5,500m) before coming to Everest Base Camp. Back in Singapore, we had given them a trek briefing at Campers Corner which helped prepare them for this journey. Having trained hard for about 2 months, they reaped the fruits of their labor when they finally made it to EBC. We were especially proud that ALL of them made to EBC, which is highly commendable.

The NATAS-SWET Support Trek not only aims to let the participants be a part of our journey, it also exposes them to a slice of life in the Himalayas. They had the unique opportunity to spend one night at EBC itself which is something not all EBC trekkers get to experience.

When they arrived, all the trekkers were in cheery moods, and we were especially touched by their thoughtfulness – they actually brought us Singaporean goodies such as BBQ pork, chocolates, ikan bilis, etc. These are all food we sorely miss! We’ll be treasuring these goodies over the next few weeks here.

The trekkers’ arrival coincided with our rest day before we head up to Camp 1 and 2 for our acclimatization cycle, which would bring us away from EBC for 5 nights in a row. The morning after they’ve arrived, we departed for Camp 1 while Kim Boon, our Base Camp Manager, showed them around our campsite and also the rest of the Base Camp.
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Our support trek members

We are proud of each member of our support trek:

Jack Chen (Trek Leader)
Leo Yunn Wenn
Norman Hodapp
Silke Hodapp
Yeo Seow Thong
Klaus Kaiser
Lee Chay Hwa Joanne
Goh Kim Yong
Aaron Lim Boon Teck

Besides our EBC trekkers, others from Singapore also dropped by our campsite when they came to EBC. We’re encouraged by the visits from Albert King, Calvin Tay, Soho, Wong Yew Hong, Ang Kin Peng, Wong Yew Choon, Agnes and Rin Leow. The team would like to thank their efforts in coming to visit us and cheer us on!

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A cheery welcome for our EBC trekkers

[tags]natas, swet, singapore women’s everest team, mt everest[/tags]

Communications on Everest

April 16th, 2009 by SWET

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On a fine weather day, satellite phone conversations are a breeze

As we stay at Everest Base Camp at an altitude of 5,300m, it’s amazing that we are able to keep in touch with sponsors, family and friends in Singapore. Thanks to SingTel, our link back home remains strong via internet connection and satellite phone communication.

Before we came here, helpful SingTel staff spent a day with us to explain how to use the Immarsat BGAN Wideye Saber 1 system which allows us to get online via satellite connection. This means we’re able to access the internet right here from Everest Base Camp! The BGAN system proved to be very easy to use, and every morning, we spend less than 5mins setting it up before internet connection is ready.

Another great thing about the BGAN system is that it consumes very little power. With the limited amount of sunlight we get here (since weather is always erratic), it is still sufficient as a power source for the system to work.

Iridium satellite phones are another means of communication we rely on for connection back home. Hearing voices from back home proves to be a real source of support for us here at Everest Base Camp, and it’s also a great source of comfort for our families and friends.

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Fixing up the BGAN for internet connection

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Checking emails from our sponsors and friends

Navigating through the Khumbu Icefall for the 1st time

April 13th, 2009 by SWET

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Navigating through the Khumbu icefall before daybreak

The winds howled at 5am, the time we were supposed to wake up to get ready for our first practice climb on the Khumbu Icefall. Amidst the cold winds, we peeled ourselves out of our sleeping bags and strapped on our boots and backpacks. After a quick breakfast, we started out in the greyish darkness of dawn, towards the infamous Khumbu Icefall.

The Khumbu Icefall is the first section of the Everest climb, where large blocks of ice form an ever-moving glacier. This proves to be one of the trickiest bits of the climb before climbers even reach Camp 1 (6,100m). Before our summit bid, we would’ve climbed through the Khumbu Icefall at least 5 times for acclimatization purposes.

With the sun’s rays hidden, we moved in the cold of the dawn, feeling like tiny ants among these giant ice blocks. We chose to climb through the Icefall before the sun rose because the heat from the sun would cause the ice blocks to melt and shift, therefore posing a potential hazard to our movements.

The route seemed never-ending. Every ice block we overcome leads to another, and about an hour into the climb, we got to the fixed rope section where we clipped on our ascending devices and continued climbing. We navigated through horizontal and vertical ladders to cross crevasses, as well as front-pointed up certain sections with our crampons. After close to 3 hours, we reached our goal for the day, and decided to turn back towards Base Camp before the heat turned up.

We will be heading up towards Camp 1 when the Icefall is ready approximately a week from now. Currently, the Ice Doctors (local experts on the Icefall) are fixing the complete route up to Camp 1 and they’re in the midst of finding the safest way up. Meantime, we’ll be occupied with technical practices and acclimatization walks while we wait with bated breath for the climb ahead.

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Crossing one of he multiple crevasses using a ladder

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Overcoming a vertical section of the Khumbu icefall amidst strong winds

Visit from Christ Church Secondary School

April 13th, 2009 by SWET

Just as we were finishing our lunch today, there was a knock on our dining tent door. To our pleasant surprise, we found ourselves face to face with students and teachers from Christ Church Secondary School! They had come a long way, beginning their journey from Gorak Shep to come visit us. The students and teachers were in good spirits as we hosted them in our dining tent. This journey was meant to inspire and instill confidence in the students and as a gesture of encouragement to the team.

We were immensely touched and inspired by their visit. Each of the students adopted a member of the team as a mentor, and we were presented with littles notes they wrote for us throughout their journey here. We were very encouraged by this and impressed by the strength and perseverance they have displayed in making their way here. Their notes were written on song sheets which contained songs we’ve learnt as students in Singapore. They said that this was their little way of reminding us of Singapore, but to us, their presence have already brought ‘home’ to us, right here in the Himalayas.
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Interacting with students from Christ Church Sec at EBC
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Group photo with group from Christ Church Secondary school at EBC
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Letters and well wishes from Christ Church Secondary Sch

Life at Everest Base Camp (EBC)

April 11th, 2009 by SWET

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Campsite at Everest Base Camp (EBC)

It’s been 3 days since we’ve arrived at EBC. At a height of 5,300m, it is higher than the summits of most mountains in the European Alps. We are glad that we are settling down comfortably and have managed to carve out a cosy corner which we will call ‘home’ for the next 2 months.

The ‘Puja’ ceremony was conducted on the second day of our arrival and it is a religious ritual performed by a lama and the Sherpas to ensure safe passage up Everest. As a gesture of respect, we also participated in the ceremony which included food offerings and prayers.

The weather patterns here are expectedly extreme. We usually have bright sunshine in the mornings until about 3pm when snow starts falling, bringing temperatures down to about -15 degree Celsius. Our tents will be snowed in and we usually huddle in the dining tent for warmth. Thanks to SingTel, we have successfully set up a communication platform which we are currently using to bring you updates from base camp.

We will be staying here for the next couple of days before we head up for our next acclimatization cycle where we will spend a day at Camp 1 (6,100m).

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Dining tent at EBC
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Puja ceremony

First Acclimatization Cycle Complete!

April 11th, 2009 by SWET

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Ascending a mixed section of rock and ice on a ridge on Lobuche peak.

We’re currently at Everest Base Camp (5300m) as we bring you this update.

After close to 5 years of preparation, we’re finally here!

First off, let’s conclude on the Lobuche climb we mentioned in our last update. We reached Lobuche high camp (5,200m) in good shape on 2nd April, stayed for a night and set off for our summit push the next day at 5am in the darkness. The first part of the climb was mainly on rocks and boulders and it wasn’t long before the sun’s rays hit us. Although we were glad for the warmth, the heat proved to be draining as well and we had to stop halfway to remove our outer layers of clothing.

To make our way to the summit, we had to rope up for safety reasons, as well as clear multiple steep and icy sections with the use of fixed ropes. After about 6 hours of climbing, all of us finally reached the summit (6,000m) around 10.30am. The Lobuche climb completes the first phase of our acclimatization and we look forward to the next acclimatization cycle up on Everest.

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Enroute to Lobuche summit.

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Team on Lobuche summit

Dingboche (4200m)

April 5th, 2009 by SWET

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Enroute from Deboche to Dingboche

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Acclimatization hike at Dingboche 

We arrived at Dingboche yesterday and we’ll be headed for Loboche Base Camp tomorrow. The weather has been kind to us, safe from the snowfall last night. Along the way, we met a Korean team and also volunteer doctors en route to the Himalayan Rescue Association clinic.

We’ll be climbing Loboche East Peak for acclimatization before we hit Everest Base Camp. We’ll be climbing to an altitude of about 6000m, so that by the time we arrive at Everest Base Camp (5600m), our bodies would be better adjusted to the altitude.

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Acclimatization hike at Dingboche
We hope to update you again from Everest Base Camp!

(March 30, 2009 )




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