Archive for August, 2007

Second Acclimatization Climb at Nyalam

Monday, August 20th, 2007

We had an early start this morning and climbed up to a high point of 4200m with hopes of seeing Xixabangma in the distance. The weather was good for a change and it was actually cool rather than freezing for once. Unfortunately though, we were unable to see Xixa due to clouds in the distance. Oh well, always another time.

Even though it was our first time up at that altitude for this expedition and having not had much rest, I thought the team did great! We made the ascent in good time, none the worse for wear and in really good spirits. =)

At the top, we staged a couple of (in our opinion) hilarious “lifestyle in the mountains” type photographs to show off our sponsored marmot gear in publicity shots as part of our sponsorship duties. That, coupled with the 200 postcards we’ve been signing, has upped the ante on our amazing superstar status. Hurhur.

Speaking of postcards, we’re sending out about 200 totally gorgeous postcards specially designed by Esther, to sponsors, friends and supporters of the team, so look out for yours in the mail if you’re related to us in some way! =)  

So life on the climb has been good so far and now that the rain has cleared, our remaining gripe has to be the permeating smell of pee and poop that pervades our lodge. Someone had the brilliant idea of building a really basic, non-flush, no-proper-door squat toilet on the ROOF. Why on earth pee and poop are made to flow through the building into the sewers, is anyone’s guess. As a result, the entire lodge smells like pee and poop. The only place safe from olfactory suicide is our room and that’s only cuz the smell of our accumulated grime masks everything else. Anyway, rather than whinge about the permanent stench, it has become a source of mirth whenever we attempt to make the distance from lodge entrance to room in the shortest time possible,.all the while trying not to breathe in the noxious fumes. The collective ability to laugh at almost everything keeps us all sane.

And we are officially scaring everyone with our power eating. We actually eat more than a table of Sherpas or caucasians. Never let it be said that girls eat less than guys. I suspect that after our climb, we’ll each be eating rice straight from the giant serving bowl. I’ve got to say, being on a climb is a ticket to unrestricted eating, cuz the physical exertion, altitude and cold burns much more than we can humanly eat anyway. After yesterday’s first acclimatization climb, we ate 3 heaped plates of fried potatoes alone, and that’s just one dish out of 6.

So it’s on to Tingri tomorrow via 4WD. We’ll be there for two days and following that, we’ll arrive at base camp, where the next blog update will be made. In the meantime, do check out the team’s expedition progress update at www.humanedgetech.com/expedition/swe1 for more info on how we’re doing.

Hope everyone’s great in Singapore!

xoxo
yihui and jane at 4200m! =)
yihui and jane at 4200m! =)

Hello from Tibet!

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Hello folks! Yes I know I was supposed to update from Kathmandu, but the past few days have been such a mad rush that I’ve had no time. I’ve been super tired running around these past few days and up until today, I’ve either had no sleep, or been surviving on 4 hours a day. The night before I flew to Kathmandu, I squeezed in a final training session fuelled by plenty of paranoia about fitness. Did a spinning class, a 15km run and then a weights session, followed by no sleep that night and on the plane, making for a very woozy brain that was in no shape to form a coherent blog entry.

Shall do a quick day by day update to fill you guys in:

16 Aug
Arrived in Kathmandu and it looks exactly the same! It’s my 4th trip to Nepal in 5 years and other than the amount of traffic on the congested roads, everything is the same, down to the street hustlers trying to sell mini wooden mandolins. Some of the shopkeepers actually recognize us, down to when we last came and for which climb.

The first thing we did was to check out our barrels of gear that had been air freighted earlier, to make sure that nothing was missing. We’re organizing our expedition logistics together with an american outfit known as “International Mountain Guides”, which uses a local nepal climbing company, “Great Escapes”, to organize things on the nepali side. So upon arrival, we went to the store at the Great Escapes office and man was i amazed. The store was the size of a HDB living room and it was packed full, literally, from floor to ceiling with all our stuff. Talk about a heavyweight expedition. The rest of the day was pretty much spent packing and buying up last bits of equipment and the odd knick knack. I’m terrible in Nepal. I have a great weakness for traditional Nepali and Tibetan silver jewelry and I end up buying heaps of earrings and bracelets cuz they’re so intricate, they’re nothing like what you’ll normally find in Singapore and totally affordable. Plus, I like to think that I’m single-handedy shoring up this cottage industry.

I totally love Nepal. It’s seriously a mess, it’s dirty and small, but also very very colourful and the ppl are really hospitable. Despite the sleepiness, fatigue, aching muscles and foggy brain, boy, did it feel good to be back!

Dinner was at this fantastic pizza place called “Fire and Ice”. It’s almost like a pre/post expedition ritual to eat there. The pizzas are the thin crust, wood-fired variety, are huge and cost like, $6 each. Cheers to cheap and good food in Kathmandu! We also met another all- womens team at the restaurant. They’re from Croatia and surprise surprise, they’re climbing Cho Oyu too! Looks like we’ll be seeing more of them very soon, and I thought we were the first team of the season to arrive.

It’s good to arrive early by the way, not that it’s a kiasu Singaporean thing. Cuz Cho Oyu is such a popular 8000er, the base camp is usually chock full of climbers. This autumn season’s estimate of climbers is 700, I kid you not. Hence, arriving earlier means being able to choose the best site for base camp and eventuallly, being able to climb and get off the mountain ahead of the general fray, so with some luck, we’ll be able to avoid dangerous bottlenecks.

17 Aug
More packing today (there’s never an end to packing it seems) and there was some free time in the afternoon so I took a cab to Nepal’s famous Monkey Temple (it’s the one with the buddha eyes on the white stupa that is always photographed on the cover of travel guides) and made a prayer for a safe expedition. Let’s hope I have accumulated enough bits of good karma for whoever is up there to watch over us. Lihui has taken a really practical approach to divine intervention and says she will pray to whoever is closest at the moment.

I also bought books from “Barnes and Noble” haha. It’s great!!! Thamel, the touristy part of Kathmandu, where we do most of our shopping and eating, has wonderful stores that stocks original books that cost half of what they do in kino and there’s classics and most of the prize-winning fiction titles, plus the mandatory climbing books. I actually managed to buy Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum” and Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss”. I bought 4 books in all, bringing my book tally for Cho Oyu to 12! More to read during recovery periods at base camp.

In the evening, we celebrated Joanne and Peh Gee’s birthdays at this rooftop restaurant with a name i can’t remember. We had fantastic HUGE HUGE HUGE grilled steak for like $7! We ate steak to puking point. Thanks to the huge numbers of ang moh visitors to Kathmandu, the locals have learnt how to make a really good steak. So prior to the dinner, Lihui, Yihui and myself took a detour to search for a birthday cake for the two and we ended up with a cross between a stale brownie and a bar of soap. I should have known something wasn’t right when the “cake” landed on the tray with a solid sounding “thwack” when Yihui took it off the window display. Fortunately, no one died.

18 Aug
We finally moved off to Tibet on a 5 hour road trip by bus to the border at Kodari. We had a lunch of traditional Nepali “dahl bhat”, which is a mountain of rice with green curry at a small eatery by the side of the road. We also met our sherpas and surprise surprise, one of them, Jamling, climbed with yihui and myself on Island Peak in 2004! I’m feeling totally confident about our sherpa team. All of them have summitted Everest at least twice and they’re super experienced, so we’re in good hands.

After lunch, we walked the rest of the way into Tibet. It was kinda surrel to simply cross the “Friendship Bridge” and there we were in Tibet, China. Even the signs switched from Nepali to Chinese over that 50m span.

In Tibet, we transferred to 2 Toyata land cruisers and made our way to Zhangmu, a Tibetan border town. suffice to say that cleanliness or orderliness are not top on the priority list, but at this juncture, we’re all so used to grimy sleeping places, rickety wooden floorboards and hole-in-the-ground toilets that no one batted an eyelid. Hey, it’s all part of the climbing experience in the himalayas. No 5 star Chamonix ski resorts here.

Plus I have something else to crow about!!! Our communications system works!!!! Even though we had to take turns leaning out of the window in a precarious position, with the satellite phone and mobile satellite moden held exactly due West in order to get a signal. So now we have internet on the go for future updates once the team arrives at Cho Oyu advanced base camp! (digress: Cho Oyu’s original “base camp” is actually just a stop over point and expeditions typically make base at advanced base camp, about a day’s climb up.

19 Aug
We woke up at the ungodly hour of 3am to move out by 4am on the 4WDs to the next Tibetan town of Nyalam. There are roadworks going on , which means that the roads are only open for a certain number of hours a day, hence the early start. The road condition was so bad, I can’t even begin to describe it, although I must say that after a few years of climbing in Nepal and China, nothing is too horrible anymore. So even on a 4WD, the bumping was so bad I fell off my seat a few times. Yihui and Joanne, sitting by the left and right windows, received a copious number of hard knocks on the head. To illustrate how bad the road was, the mini bus that took our sherpas was so heavy in comparison to the 4WDs that the mini bus couldn’t get past some of the pot holes and rock piles. At one point, all the sherpas came down and had to manually clear the road of rocks and boulders in the freezing rain, just so the mini bus could proceed.

Although I must say, there were the exciting moments when we literally drove through waterfalls coming off the mountain. At the first waterfall we drove through, Yihui forgot to wind up her window all the way and got wet. Haha. Also, there are the gushing rivers that crossed the partially completed roads that we had to drive through and it was pretty exciting to go downhill, splash into the river for a bit and come up the other side, all the while bouncing about like shrimp in a pan.

So now we’re at Nyalam at 3650m. The food is good and everyone is eating like starved refugees, which is a good sign of acclimatization that I hope will continue way up higher. We all average three bowls of rice each at every meal and double plates of whatever is served. I think we’re beginning to shock the locals who probably haven’t seen girls eat this much.

This afternoon, we went on our first acclimatization climb up to 3980m onto a small ridge. It was a pretty good 3 hour trip, tiring enough to get our hearts pumping and the muscles moving to aid in the production of red blood cells. Active acclimatization is the way to go to speed up the body’s adjustment to altitude by producing more red blood cells. Our two trainers and mentors who are along with us for the climb, were really pleased at how well we handled the challenging terrain and at how quickly we’re adjusting to the altitude. Yay! Tomorrow, we’ll be heading up for another acclimatization climb, but longer, for about 4 hours and we hope to cross another ridge and maybe we’ll get to see Xixabangma if the low clouds clear.

I think this is possibly the expedition that I’ve felt the best about. We’re all getting very efficient at moving out and taking care of ourselves and when we arrived at Zhangmu and Nyalam, I think the sherpas were surprised to see us carrying our own duffel bags up 4 storeys to our room, all managing well without help. Totally proud of how efficient everyone is on this climb. I suppose with the experience of past climbs behind us, everyone is very much in sync. Best of all, because this time the team is really small, with only 5 climbers, it’s a nice cosy atmosphere and at both Zhangmu and Nyalam, we got 5-person rooms so everyone is merrily together. Cramped, but enjoying the camaraderie.

At this moment, everything is going well and the only dampener, literally, is the weather. It’s been raining almost 24 hours a day since we arrived in Kathmandu and according to the locals, this is the first time in a billion years that it has rained in Nyalam. I’m crossing my fingers that the rainfall is the worst manifestation of this year’s reported La Nina over South Asia. I’m hoping that by the time we actually get to Cho Oyu, the weather will clear up.

So I’m blogging from an internet cafe in Nyalam right now to save on the data allotment on our comms system, so this may be the first and last detailed blog entry till I come back to Nyalam after the climb.

In the meantime, check out http://www.humanedgetech.com/expedition/swe1/ for progress updates from the team. Thanks to uber cool contact 3.0 software, we’re able to send dispatches and images really quickly from our satellie internet system.

Do check back here as well for my personal updates and click on the links on the right to go to the blogs of my other lovely team mates. I like Peh Gee’s header photo the best and she actually managed to look cool. By the way, “Hannibal” refers to the famous Carthaginian general, not as in “Lector”. I also like Esther’s header background alot. Very Mondrian/Lichtenstein-esque.

Miss everyone back home loads, especially daddy kyo who I hope is wasting away, pining for me intensely. which I doubt. Haha. Blog again soon!

Seeya guys soon!

xoxo

Satellite Modem

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

it’s amazing. our mobile satellite modem works! i’m uploading this from a dingy 5-person room in Tibet.
we crossed the border from nepal into tibet this afternoon over the “friendship bridge”. we’re currently at changmu for one night and we’ll be making an overland journey via 4wd to nylam tomorrow morning at 430am. roadworks along the way to nylam mean that the roads are only open for a certain number of hours a day, hence the early start.

the team is doing fine and eating mountains of food.

will update again, this is a short test despatch to confirm that the system actually works. =)

t-24 hours…

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

man…this is it! we’re leaving for cho oyu in exactly 24 hours from now. these couple of days have been such an awful frenzy. it’s 6am and i haven’t slept since yesterday. been up all night packing all my gear. well this IS an improvement from previous climbs. at least i’m not packing hours just before the flight.

gosh. this is it! the first 8000er! we’re in the big time baby! at this point, looking at my huge bags blocking the living room passage, i’m completely psyched, but also a little apprehensive and rightly so. eight weeks! i’m going to miss my parents, my dad’s yummy soups and most of all, kyo.

i try to remind myself that it’s only 2 months out of many many many more months together, so what the heck.

whoppee! next update from kathmandu! =D

christmas came early!!!

Monday, August 6th, 2007

i totally love getting new climbing gear, especially when it’s sponsored by generous peeps. =D

imagine my anticipation after a long, hot day of technical training at yishun safra, when panda, peh gee and i trooped off to camper’s corner at capitol building to collect our sponsored marmot gear that had just arrived!

xavier, the chap at campers who handles our gear orders (and who lihui thought was cute, hur hur) had very thoughtfully packed everything into individual marmot backpacks and gave them to us like christmas presents. so yes, imagine our glee when the three of us started taking everything out to try on and coo over. i can’t say this enough, but i totally love new gear! and marmot is great! both the brand and the animal. incidentally, we came across wild marmots while climbing in xinjiang and they’re really hardy, cute and fuzzy looking, but dangerously feisty when they’re captured (trust me, we know).

pictures!


trying on gear at the back of campers. panda attempting the wide-eyed innocent jap anime look.


gloves! these are probably the best pair of gloves i’ve had so far. waterproof gore tex on the outside, with super warm primaloft on the inside and a really nice rubber-feel palm to make handling hardware easier!


really pretty driclime vest! lightweight and great for layering… oops… toes.


and did i mention how simple but nifty marmot’s mountain symbol logo is…


driclime windshirt! another great layering piece and it’s such a nice shade of green to boot. =)


plus, there’s also a matching green cap! we’ll look like woodland elves…


oracle gore tex pants! finally, outer shell pants that bloody fit la. no more wearing ill-fitting men’s pants! suspenders are great for when we all start getting skeletal and the waistband starts to drops lower. haha


this jacket had me squealing in veritable joy. it’s a pro shell jacket!!! so it may not mean much to most ppl, but this is the absolute latest in improvements to gore tex fabric. waterproof, breathable, sturdy and yet totally light! panda and i were completely elated, cuz now we actually *own* our own outershell jacket! previously, we used to borrow the huge men’s sized jackets from the nus mir store cuz outershell jackets cost a bomb to buy. after climbing for years with loaned jackets, panda and i finally own one! yippeeeee


marmot day pack! the size is great for those one or two-day acclimatization climbs and i like how streamlined it is and that there are no superfluous external pockets, loops and zippers that tend to annoy the hell out of me. minimalism is key to having less headaches. and snags.

marmot (www.marmot.com) rocks and the peeps at campers (www.camperscorner.com.sg) are great for getting us the deal. =)

in other happy news…

also received our sponsored buff (www.buff.es) headwear! check it out, it’s this really cool brand of technical fabric that’s wearable in a ton of different ways and oh so warm. not to mention the quirky designs…


fuzzy red fur with completely frivolous flowers!


the bank robber look. flowers notwithstanding.


panda is completely jealous of my great taste at selecting from the kukuxumusu range! i love the inane blur baa-baa look of the cartoon sheep. my kukuxumusu notebooks kept me amused during my uni days.


check out the silly looking sheep! the sheep are actually demo-ing the many ways to tie the headwear! talk about being self-referential. i personally wouldn’t recommend the suicidal “blindfold” though…


and here’s to looking frivolous but happy on the climb. =)

and…

PEEKABOO!

ok i couldn’t resist. the backing on this buff piece made for a hilarious photo op.

only 10 days left till cho oyu!

whooppeeeee!

1st aug

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

so it’s 1240am and i’m super hyper.

just got back from my second (rather late) training session and i feel great! and hyper.

did a 15km run at 630am this morning (technically yesterday morning) before work and i managed to drag my woozy ass for a second 15km run after work at 930pm, followed by a gym session from 11 to midnight. one of the perks of cali gym, is the fact that it stays open till midnight, when there’s absolutely no one around for me to have to share weights machines with. =D

anyway, the best part about training, is getting to eat a hell lot. these days, i’m faced with the happy problem of counting calories to ensure that i’m actually overeating. yep. i’ve been trying to put on weight before the cho oyu climb. on average, a climber will lose about 10 to 12kg for a 2 month 8000m expedition, depending on how much freeze-dried food, myoplex, power gels and chocolate one manages to keep down. from personal experience, once the weight loss seriously kicks in from the cold, the sheer volume of physical exertion and the appetite loss, the energy level drops all the way down as well. hence, anticipating the debilitating weight loss, panda and i have been consciously trying to gain 3 to 5kg within a month so that there’s at least that bit of buffer mass to lose.

unfortunately, the math hasn’t been too kind with the realities of eating. my basic metabolic rate says that i should be eating a ballpark of 1500 calories if i were to stay in bed and sleep all day. add in a very very modest 500 calories to account for walking around doing normal daily stuff, that’s 2000 calories on the low side (not taking into account things like higher BMR based on percentage of muscle mass etc. that’s like verging on rocket science and i prefer not to go there and kill myself). since my total 3 hour cardio session today burned a little over 2000 calories, thanks to my trusty HRM for the estimate, that’s a minimum of 4000 calories expended, not inclusive of my weights routine which i can’t calculate energy expenditure for.

so to gain (or lose) one kg, one needs to eat (or lose) an extra 7700 calories. on average, that’s an extra 1100 calories per day. considering i spend about 2.5 to 4 hours each day for 2 training sessions, with more on weekends, that’s about slightly over 5000 calories i actually need to be eating each day to at least gain 1kg per week.

anyone who counts calories will quickly realise that it’s damn hard to eat 5000 calories. i mean, obviously the easy way out will be to down oil shooters, but erm, no thank you, i would like to avoid a premature artery clog, if ever at all. hence, it figures that the more heart healthy way to gain mass will be through the “body builder theory” of eating more protein and complex carbs, but even then, it’s still damn hard to be eating 5000 calories a day, even with all the 5 full meals a day. anyway, www.thecaloriecounter.com is pretty handy when it comes to estimating caloric values.

recently, i’ve been eating kyo flat under the table, much to his awe and still a colleague asked me today if i lost weight. with two weeks left to go till cho oyu, this is becoming a slight problem for me, especially since i tend to get cold really easily and force-feeding on climbs isn’t really my thing.

i realise i’m sounding damn paranoid, but at this juncture, i would think that having more “padding” is going to stand me in good stead. for once, i’m going to stop laughing at panda’s roundness.

xxx

speaking of food, i had the most decadent ”last day of work” division lunch today at this tiny little authentic (cuz the chef is actually from italy, none of that franchised imagined italian cooking crap) eatery tucked away at the corner of prinsep place. it’s called trattoria lafiandra. i ordered the tagliatelle bolognese, ate a chunk of lasagne bolognese and a tiramisu, all of which were superbly yummilicious. i totally recommend it for ppl looking to pile on the calories, especially since the lasagne came drenched with cheese and it was soaked in some liquid cheese sauce thingy. can you imagine? warm bubbly liquid cheese with hunks of beef.

ok now i’m hungry again.