I spotted a COBRA

January 29th, 2009

Witnessing slithering reptiles crossing trails at MacRitchie Reservoir Park and Bukit Timah Nature Reserves happen just too often these days. The probability of seeing these creatures are high as my number of visits to the parks increase. But I definitely never expect to spot a black COBRA at my recent run at the Tampines Bike Trail.

The cobra was fully exposed on a grass patch. Its hood and forked tongue extended, clearly aware of my presence (I had two loud scream, but of course), and the snake seemed to be in no hurry to escape, as if giving me a subtle warning of its power and speed. When a friend came close to me, the cobra had already disappeared. Having a blush with a cobra is a different matter. Its bite can be deadly. Instantly, I felt that I was given a new lease of life, more so when this encounter happened on the first day of the Chinese New Year.

I cannot help but to wonder – what if I got bitten by the cobra? Will I be able to get treatment timely before the venom spread all over my nerves? Well, who would carry a snake-bite kit with them for a run here in Singapore? I don’t even have one in my expedition first aid kit.

According to a website, tens of thousands of people in Africa and in Asia are estimated to die from the bites of different cobra species every year. Farmers and plantation workers in rural parts of Asia are the most common victims. A venomous life-threatening bite may not produce symptoms immediately and observation of a bite victim is recommended for 24 hours.

Spraying (or “spitting”) venom is a defense found in a number of species of true cobras. Experiments show that the snakes deliberately aim for the eyes in humans and animals. Being struck by sprayed venom is not life-threatening. However, if the venom enters the eyes, it causes instant pain and can damage the mucus membranes and cornea, sometimes resulting in blindness.

What is important to know, and I am glad to know, is that snakes generally attack only when provoked. What is more important is that, we need to know how to provide first aid treatment while awaiting professional medical aid after a snake bites. Here we go:

The lymphatic system is responsible for systemic spread of most venoms. This can be reduced by the application of a firm bandage (as firm as you would put on a sprained ankle) over a folded pad placed over the bitten area. While firm, it should not be so tight that it stops blood flow to the limb or to congest the veins. The bitten area should be immobilized to reduce movement and the victim instructed to stay still in order to delay systemic spread of the venom. These findings were from the research done by Struan Sutherland in the 1970s and reported in medical journals (Sutherland, 1981)2. This “pressure-immobilisation” technique is currently recommended by the Australian Resuscitation Council, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.

If the bandages and splint have been applied correctly, they will be comfortable and may be left on for several hours. They should not be taken off until the patient has reached medical care. The treating doctor will decide when to remove the bandages. If a significant amount of venom has been injected, it may move into the blood stream very quickly when the bandages are removed. They should be left in position until appropriate antivenom and resuscitation equipment have been assembled. Bandages may be quickly reapplied if clinical deterioration occurs, and left on until antivenom therapy has been effective.

Start bandaging directly over the bitten area, ensuing that the pressure over the bite is firm and even. Do not take off any clothing as this will in the process cause movement and assist spread of the venom. If you have enough bandage you can extend towards more central parts of the body, to delay spread of any venom that has already started to move centrally. A pressure dressing should be applied even if the bite is on the victim’s trunk or torso. Immobility is best attained by application of a splint or sling, using a bandage or whatever to hand to absolutely minimise all limb movement, reassurance and immobilisation (eg, putting the patient on a stretcher). Where possible, bring transportation to the patient (rather then vice versa). Don’t allow the victim to walk or move a limb. Walking should be prevented.

Bite in the arm
Bandage as much of the arm as possible, starting at the fingers. Use a splint to the elbow. Use a sling to immobilise the arm. Do no restrict chest movement. Keep the patient still.

Bite in problem areas
Bites to the head, neck, and back are a special problem – firm pressure should be applied locally if possible.

What should not be done
DO NOT cut or excise the bitten area. DO NOT apply an arterial tourniquet. (Arterial tourniquets, which cut off the circulation to the limb, are potentially dangerous and are no longer recommended for any type of bite or sting in Australia.) DO NOT wash the bitten area if snake identification is to be attempted with venom detection kits. Removal of the bandage will be associated with rapid systemic spread. Hence ALWAYS wait until the patient is in a fully equipped medical treatment area before bandage removal is attempted.

The following take home messages help to rationalize our approach to snakebites and their venoms:

  • Venomous snakes often do not attack unless provoked, so leave them alone.
  • The propensity to bite varies with the species. Sea snakes are very toxic but seldom bite even when roughly handled. Vipers are aggressive and tend to bite.
  • For the rest, it is no harm to apply the pressure-immobilisation method as first aid unless one is quite sure the snake is harmless. A pressure bandaging-immobilisation first aid using the method of Prof Sutherland and adoped by the Australian Resuscitation Council helps to slow down systemic envenomation if the bite was truly venomous. The bandaging pressure to achieve is like that used in bandaging a sprained ankle. It should be firm bandaging but comfortable and can be left for some hours.
  • Thankfully, some 80% of bites from venomous snakes are dry bites containing no venom. Anyway, if uncertain, it is better to apply pressure bandage rather than not.

Alright friends, would you carry a first aid kit with you when you go for your next run in the wilderness? Bandages, we need plenty of them … :D, and perhaps a snake-bite kit too …!

Source on first aid treatment: The Singapore Family Physician Apr-Jun 2002: Vol28 – Snake Venoms by A/Prof Goh Lee Gan





Lazy joanne

September 26th, 2008

Lazy and lazy but lazy … that’s the only word to describe me now.  I am getting lazy to write these days.  What have I been busy and lazy with? I am trying to list down the things that I have been doing for the past 2 months since we launched our AMP.  I am thinking hard, what kept me away from writing on this blog.

I still do my regular runs at ECP & MacR; I skipped stairs for two weeks (oops, hope zhenzhen won’t read this); you still see me at Bukit Timah trail training with my favorite pack that is 13yrs old (yes, I treasure my gear, more so, it was a gift); I have completed my standard first aid course which took two evenings per week for this month (when I was almost done with the course then I realized that my current license will only expire in January 09 *grin* – too busy or too lazy to look up on my current license?); and for sure, working on a tight schedule for my up coming adventure race!

Reflect. Not too busy actually. I am plain lazy. I need motivational speakers like such …


Nice quotes

June 22nd, 2008

I found some worthy quotes, and would like to share it with you:

The desire to improve must come from within, not because your team is pushing you – Nancy Coulter-Parker, an avid outdoor athlete for more than 20 years. She is also managing editor of WomanOutdoors.com

This quote is so apt for us. This is one binding principle that SWET adhere to. We need to be self-motivated and be self-reliant.  Set expectation on yourself and not on others.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe – Anatole France, Writer, critic, one of the major figures of French literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1921.

Yes, believe in yourself, because …

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right – Henry Ford, the American founder of the Ford Motor Company.


My new record!

June 5th, 2008


Yay, finally, I have some breakthrough!

I managed a 10km run below 60mins, not once, but twice!

What’s next?

MacRitchie loop. Cut another minute. But to qualify to be a MR25 runner, I’ll need to cut another 2mins or so for my first 5km.

Uphill task. But can be done! Don’t know when. I’ll try.



Your Everest; My Everest

May 30th, 2008

Of course, I have been following closely on the climbing news of Mount Everest this season. We seem to have missed the best climbing season of all. Never mind, I reminded myself, the mountain is always there.

And of course, I followed Linda’s progress on her attempt on Mount Everest. She is the first woman climber from Singapore to climb the world’s highest.

Linda did not just make an attempt on Mount Everest, she climbed it. It does not matter if one summit or not, the journey in itself is remarkable. In 1998, David Lim led the first Singapore team to scale Mount Everest, and he had successfully placed two climbers on the summit. David did not summit Mount Everest in 1998, he led another expedition in year 2000, and again, he did not get to the top. However, often in our local reports on mountaineering related matters, it has always been reported that David Lim has climbed Mount Everest. Well, I have no doubts about it. Therefore, the same connotation shall be accorded to Linda as well. Linda Tan has climbed Mount Everest. No one can take that away from her.

In a recent report on AsiaOne about Linda’s Everest quest, I read comments posted by readers. As in most cases, there are some who would support, some would condemn. For those with kind words, we thank them; to those who condemn, we can ignore it and move on. But we cannot ignore the fact that those condemning remarks can be hurting. If one cannot understand why climbers climb, and still want an answer to it, then try looking at it from a different view. Why are there people who would commit time and money to do a MBA, a PHD? Why would people stay in a queue for hours or even days just so to be mocked by the superstar judges? I do not have the answers for that and I will not question them. I admire their efforts, their guts. I admire them for taking action. I respect their intention, I respect their dreams.


Why climb? I have posted this quote before:

One cannot stay on the summit forever
One has to come down again.
So why bother in the first place? Just this.

What is above knows what is below
But what is below does not know what is above.
One climbs, one sees
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!

There is an art of conducting one’s self in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.

When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.

~ Rene Daumal

Climbing is a metaphor to our life journey. Climbing is more than having an awesome view; it is more than a thrill; it is beyond the summit.

Frankly, if you asked me why I choose to climb Mount Everest, (other than being the world’s highest and that it is a mountain) I cannot give you an absolute answer to it. As my teammate, Lihui, said “Mt. Everest is a mountain, not the mountain’.

We explore challenges and test our limits in different ways. There is no one challenge that is greater than the other. Each of us has our own Everest.



May 28th, 2008


  • ~ Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.
  • ~ Be decisive even if it means you will sometimes be wrong.
  • ~ Know when to keep silent; know when to speak up.
  • ~ Have a grateful heart, acknowledge those who help you. No one makes it alone.
  • ~ Take charge of your attitude; do not let someone else choose it for you.
  • ~ Happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
  • ~ Focus on making things better, not bigger.
  • ~ Do not be afraid to say: “I don’t know”, “I made a mistake”, “I need help”.
  • ~ Never give up on the things you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts!


Twin Sisters

May 11th, 2008

I have heard of friends who told me that they have met a “mini-joanne” somewhere out there. Once, Jane and Yihui told me that they have a friend from NUS who looks like me. I was wondering if the circle of friends were refering to the same person.

I have been curious about this “mini-joanne”. What is meant by “mini-joanne”? Is she a mini version of me? and in what ways?

Ironically, she has already presented herself around me for quite sometime just that I was slow to notice. She is Chew Yien, a bubbly sunshine girl. Like Jane and Yihui, Chew Yien is also one of the NUS Make It Real programme participants. Apart from mountaineering, she does adventure racing, I think she dives too (ok, I only know this much of her so far:)) She took part in the adventure races I organised, mainly Ace Adventure Challenge, Adventure Singapore, SAFRA AVventura Race…wow.. the lists never end! This little iron lady is very active in all the adventure activities! (ahem .. so am I!)

I finally took noticed of her at the SAFRA AVventura Race in 2006. She took part in the race, and I have captured her in my camera. When browsing through the photos, I spotted her and mistook her as me. I was curious about how I would appeared in the race as a participant when I was one of the race officials. At that instance, I fully agree that she resembles me in appearance to some extend, and I could finally put her face to “mini-joanne”!

chiuyen.JPG Joanne or Chew Yien?

Well, as if looking alike is not enough, we do have the same interest, at least on mountain climbing & adventure racing. We have met in Lombok climbing the same mountain just weeks ago. Of course, we would not let the chance slip, we took a photo together.

chiu-yen-and-joanne.JPG Chew Yien and Joanne, photo courtesy of Melissa Mak

I must say, the above photo did not fully portray the resemblance in us. You probably need to see us in person. Anyway, Chew Yien was whining about being nicknamed as “mini-joanne” and that I should be nicknamed as “Big Chew Yien” instead. Hello girl, yours truly existed before you, so it’s obvious you know!

Have you ever wonder how two person can be alike when they have no connections in all ways other than sharing the same interest?

A luxurious experience

May 7th, 2008


Work, training and regular meet up for team matters had taken up lots of personal space. I can hardly breathe, and have been trying very hard to finish a book I have started months ago – Untill I Find You by John Irving. I have come to realize that having a good time reading a good book is a luxury for many of us. Nevertheless, my recent work trip to Mount Rinjani in Lombok was a good break. That was my 7th trip to Lombok since 1997.

Lombok, situated west of Bali, has much similarity with Bali. At least, both islands have a beach called KUTA. Over the years, Lombok has increased its visibility to tourists and promotes itself as an “unspoiled Bali”. The infamous Bali bomb in 2002 had affected Lombok’s tourism in some ways.

Lombok is dominated by centrally located Mount Rinjani, which rises to 3726m. The island’s inhabitants are mostly the Sasak people, who are closely related to the Balinese (language & race), except that the Sasak people are Muslim, while the Balinese are Hindus. There are also a small percentage of Chinese, and Javanese in Lombok.


Landscape of Sembalun Lawang (photo courtesy of Ms. Hayati Sofian)


I have only been to Bali once and that was in 1998. I am not sure if the beaches in Lombok are better than Bali, but Lombok has a bigger volcano, and varied landscapes.

Bali’s highest point is Gunung Agung at 3142m. The weather of the surrounding rainforests of Bali is almost always cloudy, and the potentially awesome view of the entire island spread out beneath is extremely rare. On the other hand, Mount Rinjani is often visible above the clouds.

Here, I’ll share with you the scenic views surrounding Mount Rinjani, and perhaps, perhaps one day, you will consider Lombok as one of your climb & travel destinations. Getting to Lombok is easy, SilkAir has direct flights to Lombok.


And not forgetting to introduce the wonderful climbing mates I have with me this time 🙂 .




The Flora



and Fauna





img_3311.JPG The start of trek to base camp


img_3403.JPG With Eng Kiat, Cindy and Claris

img_3381.JPG With Xiao Ping

img_3322.JPG Adeline & Belle

img_3336.JPG Siti & Lee Ing

img_3409.JPG My good trekking Buddy!

img_3426.JPG At the Crater Rim, 2600m a.s.l. (Polar AXN 300), view of summit trail on the background

img_3474.JPG View of Segara Anak at dusk

basecamp-by-yati.jpg Base camp (courtesy of Ms. Hayati)

img_3507.JPG Start of trek to the summit at 3.30am, with Irene in the lead

img_3513.JPG Hayati, with her camera 🙂 enroute to summit

img_3514.JPG Susan, enroute to summit, going strong

img_3527.JPG Ariffin, the self-motivated chap who can go without sleep for 48hrs and still perform his best.

sea-of-clouds-by-yati.jpg Clouds surrounding Mt. Rinjani (courtesy of Ms. Hayati)

img_3559.JPG A line of determined people trekking up to the summit

lake-view-from-summit-by-yati.jpg Summit view of Segara Anak (courtesy of Ms. Hayati)

dsc_73671.jpg With Kyan at the summit of Mt. Rinjani (courtesy of Mr. Nicholas Kwok)

img_3589.JPG With my trekking guides & crew

img_3600.JPG Descent with Jaslin from summit

segara-anak-by-yati.jpg Another beautiful view of Segara Anak (courtesy of Ms. Hayati)

img_3631.JPG With Sharlene, a positive young lady, enroute to the lake

at-the-segara-anak-by-yati.jpg The lake, Segara Anak (courtesy of Ms. Hayati)

the-team-by-yati.jpg The team, at the campsite at Segara Anak

img_3586.JPG The team, at the summit of Mt. Rinjani

The successful ascent of Mount Rinjani by more than 20 climbers did not come by chance. The team trained for 3 months prior to the trip. It was a total commitment by everyone – Thursday evening stairs climb at Commonwealth 40-storey HDB block, and Saturday trek circuit at Bukit Timah! Kudos to everyone.

If you ever wonder are they regular trekkers, I can tell you, more than 50% of them are trekking for the first time or have little exposure to climbing mountains. Their determination and humility on Mount Rinjani will guide me through my journey to scale Mount Everest.

Say Cheese, everybody! You too can climb a mountain.

Ice Climbing

January 29th, 2008

We are back from China.  We spent 4 fruitful days in Shuang-Qiao-Gou to ice climb.  What made this trip more interesting was that there were other Singaporeans ice climbing with us.  The SWET team was never lonely 🙂

the-ice-climbers.JPG                                        The group making our way from the airport to Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel.

We stayed one night in Chengdu, and the following morning, we headed direct to Shuang-Qiao-Gou (3400m a.s.l).

tibetan-homestay.JPG                                         We stayed at the Tibetan homestay lodge.

Each day, we made day trips out to the nearby ice falls to ice climb, and return to the lodge for dinner.  Shuang-Qiao-Gou offers interesting trails that lead to various ice falls.  For one of the ice falls, we had to cross a “half-frozen” river … 

 river-crossing.JPG                                     Kim Boon set up a line to make crossing easier. We crossed it the way Peh Gee did … but … 

yihui-did-it-differently.JPG                                       Yihui chose to do it differently :p

We took another 30mins to trek up the overgrown trails and the majestic ice falls appeared right before our eyes.

ice-slopes.JPG                                        The icey slope – our play field!

We were geared with Marmot shell (top & bottom), Marmot beanie, Black Diamond helmet & ice axes, Smith sunshades & goggles, and Buff neck warmers …

the-ladies-with-axes.JPG                                          All ready to hit the ice fall!

We started with ascending on fixed rope with an ice axe.  For the first two days, we moved around the ice fall without carrying a pack.

yihui-on-fixed-rope-with-ice-axe.JPG                                     Yihui making her way up a near vertical ice fall [Good front point technique is crutial].

joanne-abseil.JPG                                                                  That’s me, abseiling off the ice fall.

peh-gee-lock-off-on-an-abseil.JPG                                                Peh Gee lock-off on an abseil using a French-prussik.

karen-marzuki-went-up-the-ropes-too.JPG                                                                      Karen and Marzuki went up the ice slope too. 

The remaining two days, we trained with a 16-18kg load (we put rocks into our packs to make the weight).  Kim Boon and his technical crew fixed up a 400m fixed rope circuit for us to practice.  On an average, we took about 1hr 20mins to complete one circuit. The time taken is equivalent to a 12km road run.  We managed 4 circuits, about 1.6km of fixed ropes at 3,600m a.s.l.  The ice climbing trip was to prepare ourselves for a 1.3km fixed ropes at Lotse Face of Mount Everest at above 7,500m.

team-on-circuit-with-load.JPG                                                Jane, leading the team on the fixed rope circuit.

peh-gee-on-fixed-rope-with-18kg-load.JPG                                        Peh Gee ascending with a 18kg load.

esther-preparing-to-abseil.JPG                                                                      Esther was preparing to abseil after a traverse.

 with-ren-qing.JPG                                        That’s me again, a photo with Ren-Qing (one of the 3 technical support crew) while waiting for Esther to clear the abseil line.

For lunch, we had tibetan bread, eggs, and PowerBar gels from Hivelocity!

esther-yihui.JPG                                    Esther & Yihui with their hard-boiled eggs and getting comfortable with their Smith goggles.

lihui-eating-boiled-egg.JPG                                                                         Lihui so engrossed with peeling the egg shell …

with-jane.JPG                                               Jane & me, fighting to have the biggest bite on the tibetan bread.

team-trainers.JPG                                                   SWET with Kim Boon, and the three technical support crew from Chuan-Zang Gao-Shan Xie-Zuo Dui.

Ice climbing is a sport enjoyed by many, and over the years, I have made new friends.

with-alvin-low.JPG                                       Alvin Low, a fellow Singaporean and an outdoor enthusiat, was in Shuang-Qiao-Gou too!

with-kb-shang-zhu.JPG                                                         Shang-Zhu (centre), a tibetan, is one of the climbing instructors from the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA).  I climbed with him in winter 2004.  He is part of the CMA team to conduct advance ice climbing course this winter.

with-xiao-fei.JPG                                    Another climbing instructor from CMA, Xiao-Fei.  I met her in Beijing, 2005 winter.

We returned to Chengdu on the 26th Jan.  Back to the city, we unwind with a foot massage, and enjoyed the many good food in Chengdu.

team-unwind-at-shamrock.JPG                                                 The group unwind at Shamrock, an Iris pub in Chengdu.

at-shamrock.JPG                                                                                                                  Bacardi breezer, 25Rmb (=S$5) per bottle.

kb-at-shamrock.JPG                                                                    Our most respectable Lin-Jiao-Lian.  Mr Lim Kim Boon, the mountain man, he is the one who taught many Singaporeans how to ice climb! Kudos! 

We have less than 50 days to departing for Nepal.  It is now back to stairs climb, running and trail circuit.  Way to go!

No Glory

January 5th, 2008

Mountain climbing is somewhat different from many sports. Perhaps it is not thought of as a sport by some.Unlike triathlons and running races or even racquet games, where there are throngs of people watching, to see how one performs at different stages, and more so to cheer, to welcome athletes at the finishing. When we climb, we are pretty much on our own, no spectators to greet us at the summit.

There is no competition in mountain climbing. I mean, we don’t race to get to the top, and hence, there’s no excitement to that extend, therefore, no audience to woo.

In principle, it is between me and the forces of nature, or me and my weakness. No other forms of human considerations, my decision dictate my fate in the mountains. It is this simplicity that draws me to want to keep climbing.

I am thrilled by the view and sense of achievement when I stood on top of a mountain. Instinctively, I know that it is only half a journey done, I still have the other half of the journey to battle with.

Whatever, there is no podium to stand on, no medals to win, no spectators to wave to. There is no glory for mountaineers, and I am perfectly fine with that.