A fellow climber once joked that climbing is “long periods of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror”.
Usually, each climbing expedition factors in anything from a few days, to a few weeks of waiting time at base camp, as a precaution against bad weather, when no movement up the mountain in possible.
Although waiting out bad weather at base camp is less strenuous than a treacherous slog up ice cliffs at higher altitudes, it is by no means easy, physically or mentally. With every passing day spent at altitude, even at rest, the body deteriorates in reaction to the lack of oxygen in the air. This in turn leads to slower brain activity, general sluggishness, loss of appetite and eventually, muscular atrophy. Most of all, waiting takes the biggest toll on one’s mental state. The heightened state of anticipation, when met with the headwall of frustration at being unable to move any higher, can be agonozing to bear, especially when physical deterioration begins to set in after long exposure at altitude.
After climbing around the world for the last 4 years, all of us could probably fill tomes on the downside of waiting, twiddling your thumbs, feeling your muscles shrink by the day and still not having a clear day to move up the mountain. However, we’ve also waited through enough bad weather cycles to know that unforseen halts in our climbing schedule are part and parcel of the entire expedition experience and these also have to be overcome before we can reach the summit.
This year, we’re doing a rather different sort of waiting.
The Singapore Women’s Everest Team will aim to be the first all-women’s team from Singapore to summit Mount Everest in 2009.
We have postponed our Everest expedition by a year due to insufficient funding to send the minimum number of climbers up Everest. We will aim to summit Everest in Spring 2009, sometime in the middle of May, when a suitable weather window opens up and the perennial jet stream on the summit ceases to blast everything standing into Tibet.
Coming after 4 years of climbs, six-day a week training regimes, publicity blitzes and fundraising drives, all of us were heartbroken when the decision was made, but we have accepted it as another obstacle to be overcome in our long journey to the summit of Mount Everest.
Since our decision to postpone the climb, we have been devoting ourselves more than ever to our fundraising campaign. It meant the world to us when our current sponsors received the news with great understanding and support. Some of our sponsors even interpreted our postponement as good news, as we now have an extra year to extend our partnership and generate more public awareness together!
It was especially heartening when our family, friends and supporters rallied around us to cushion our disappointment with their support, at a time when we all needed it the most.
So not to worry, all of us have bounced back with renewed energy and a positive perspective! With an additional year to go, we’ll have more time to execute some ingenious fundraising ideas and extra time to prepare ourselves physically.
Following the stellar success of our Cho Oyu (8201m) expedition in Tibet last year, all of us are confident of our bid for the summit of Everest. The final leap for all of us to make, is to raise enough money within this additional year of time that we now have.
“The mountain is always there”, as one of our wise mentors used to say and what’s more important than recognizing that, is knowing that our team can overcome this unforseen challenge to wait another year. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, then an expedition with the magnitude of Everest is definitely worth the anticipation.
Obstacles are put in the way of success not to deter us, but to allow us an opportunity to reach even higher. When we step onto the summit of Everest next year, figuratively, we would already have climbed it more than once.