Archive for August, 2007

Personal Tent

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

The day before, we went for an acclimitisation hike trying to hit the base of the ‘killer’ scree slope of Camp 1 (or lakeside camp) but we stopped short of 1.5hrs of destination and turned back. By far, it was the most demoralising tasks that I have ever undertaken in my life. I know that it was demoralising when half the time I was hoping to see the never ending point and the morale dropped 50% after Kami (our chief sherpa guide) said that we were still 3.5hrs away from where we want to be. By then, I was gripped by a pressing headache. Felt like the Monkey God (Sun Wu Kong) with the metal crown pressing tightly against his forehead. At some point, we were debating to go on or not, whether the altitude gained was worthwhile or not, Yihui decided that we would go on until 1230hrs and turned backed.

Well, we had been walking since 8am, bypassed the ‘vivo city’ a mega campsite 20mins walk from us; ice blocks filled with morraine and ice formations and crossed a side of the mountain that could give us an idea of the scree slope of what we were going to climb; where we could see Camp 1 on the snow line. During dinner time, Kim Boon asked us what do we think of Camp 1 and no one made any sounds. Guessed that each of us were in deep thoughts on how to overcome this journey; we have to clear the scree slope at least 4 times. I was seriously doubting whether I can overcome it, but I figured out if Mark Inglis (the double amputee Everest summitteer) can do it, I don’t see why I can’t. Fatigue and exhaustion are bound to have, sooner or later, I’ll reach it.

Climbing gives you the weirdest dream. I dreamt that I had sashimi amongst all the things that I had dreamt. Slices of salmon (orange slices with white strips) and maguro filled up my plate and I was savouring each of them with wasabi and soy sauce. Then, my eyes opened up to a brightly lit orange ceiling and I found myself in a sleeping bag; far away from any possible sushi restaurant in this part of the world. I was rudely jolted back to reality that I have not finished climbing this mountain. Waking up at 6.30am; I felt a bit warm, for the first time that I was here in ABC, realised that the snowfall was not as heavy the previous night. Went out and was pleasantly surprised to see 5 pheasants roaming in our campsite. I took a lot of photos of them; they really provided a welcome change to the greyish, white dreary background of our campsite. They were plump and fluffy and I was happy just taking close up shots of them. According to the book ‘Medicine for Mountaineering’, birds can fly higher for much longer periods, but no mammals, including humans, live permanently above 5300m, suggesting that this is the upper limit to which they can acclimitise. This might explain why we only see alpine sparrow, pigeon and crows and now pheasants. Alpine, a convenient word that we coin for the birds that we saw. No baca, no marmots, no rabbits, no deers on this height that ABC was on.

Today, we tested our climbing gear, crampons and boots, down suits and harness. I was super disturbed that my harness was denounced as one that would give me a lot of inconveniences especially when we had to put on and remove it for peeing. At that altitude, every single movement is going to take up a lot of energy. One has to find every way to conserve our energy, including weighing every single item that we are going to carry up. Have to travel ultra light, no unnecessary item to bring up. This is one important lesson that I will not repeat in Everest.

Frost Nip!

Monday, August 20th, 2007

 

Suffered a tiny frost nip at my right ear..my team mates said that it was because my hair was too short..I do not enjoying itchy scalp hair and with a long expedition with no shower facilities in sight, I would rather keep my hair extremely short. With a lot of moisturisers applied on it, it should heal in no time.

And I should be keeping myself busy with the early birthday gift that Jane and Yihui has given me..Medicine for Mountaineering and Other Wilderness Activities 5th Edition…it is definitely a more useful book than the 8th habit by Stephen Covey (Jane, don’t sulk)…hahaha..

Grandmother has passed on

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Was busy packing the whole night on 15 Aug 2007..when my father broke the news to us..Grandmother has passed on..

My paternal grandmother who had been suffering from a weak heart (only one quarter of it was functioning) and diabetes that weakened her legs so much that she cannot move around for long; had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair had moved on after struggling with her sickness for quite some time.

As such, during last weekend, we went up to Ipoh to spend some time with her, as I do not know whether will she still be around by the time I return..

She was a simple woman whose life revolved around her family. She did not like to travel and was contented with simple indulgences such as playing cards and smoking..She was illiterate and started off her life as a rubber tapper when she showed me once how rubber was being taped..it was a hard life where one had to wake up in the wee hours in the morning to make a few cuttings on the tree to let the latex drip into the cup. After which, the backbreaking job of collecting the latex from the cups..tried as hard as I could, I could not get the latex out from the cuts which I had made (in fact, the tree was in danger of being ‘killed’ by me). A rubber tapper’s life is difficult.

She could cook very well and made very good herbal soup and kaya..over the years, as sickness ravaged her body, she relegated this job to the maid..and we did not have the chance to taste her excellent culinary skills. Eventhough she could no longer stand for long in the kitchen, she still fried two eggs for us upon our brother’s request during our last dinner with her in Ipoh..

Although some said that she favoured sons over daughters, I had never felt that her love for me was any lesser from my brother. She constantly lamented on my singlehood and urged me to settle down so that I have someone to take care of me..and she cried whenever she thought about this..I guess that this remained her unfulfilled wish and it stayed as a regret in my heart that I could not let her go in peace.

Grief was a feeling that I had not experienced before..but I know that it’s a feeling of sadness that will not go away..that it will bring tears whenever one thinks about the person…

There is ever this regret that I did not spend enough time to hold her hand, to hug her and talk to her when I had the chance to do so…even the time I spent in Ipoh, I was so concerned that I did not spend enough time on training that I went to train in a nearby hill with my backpack instead of being with her which the rest of my family did. Or that I had wanted to come back earlier to Singapore so as to settle my packing and communications stuff instead of staying on for that few extra hours with her.

Even as I can accept that life still had to move on, lessons had to be learnt, regrets for us to keep, it still does not negate the feelings of sadness and sense of loss that will not go away with the passage of time.

Departing for Cho Oyu

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Had a final session with Simon before departing for Cho Oyu..we discussed about issues such as fears which I had raised to him earlier…on how to cope with them and my intention for this climb.

I told him that at this time, I had learnt to accept that fear is a double-edged sword, it can protect you and also propel you forward..Protect you from the danger arising as well as to motivate you to push forward. Simon shared that fear is a label that we used to codify our experience..that when we break down our experience into tangible steps and analyse it..a potentially negative experience could be due to inexperience or inadequte training..and that the label ‘fear’ that we conveniently put on may not be present at all..

My intention for this climb is also to enjoy myself on this journey..something that I had not been able to experience for all my previous climbs..to be with one with one with Mother Nature and not being distracted by all the physical discomforts that I have to deal with such as the cold, the fatigue and the pain..

Climbing at extreme altitude is a struggle not only against the mountain but with yourself.

As such, I would have to learn to let my mind and body function as one and not against each other..four steps to achieving that:
1. creating an intention for every act that I do
2. tune out (pay attention to the surrondings)
3. awareness of my body (to be aware which part of it is tense and relax it, move it such that it is congruent with my intention)
4. visualisation of the technical aspects of the climb. setting my intention and attention.

Not easy to do all of them at all times, yet every change begins with awareness..once we have the awareness, we have a choice of what to do about it.

Confidence

Monday, August 6th, 2007

I still remember thinking to myself when I saw Xavier scaling the slab wall in SAFRA Yishun using his trekking boots, that what he did was ‘crazy’. That was my first encounter with the 18m artificial rock wall some years back and I was struggling to get up in rock shoes.

Half of the time while I was up there, I was coping with my fear of heights and being a newbie to rock climbing, it was a struggle for me to move my way up. To force myself to move higher despite all the quivering and trembling of my quadriceps and calves.

Yet, just today, I managed to scale the slab wall with trekking boots and a 17kg backpack. Going up on a jumar helped a lot, and I can now climb up high and look down below..it used to be that I will be the one standing farthest away from the ledge or platform. Even had a nice chat with Jane on the top of the ledge while hanging off a safety anchor and trying to negotiate my way through a transverse point.

It also gave me a certain sense of satisfaction to know that I can now abseil. The first time I did it in my training days, it was a topsy-turvy experience with my body rotated all around as I lost my footing when I tried to form the L shape to go down.

I think that it is only natural to be fearful when we are confronted with the unknown, yet it gives me great comfort to learn that one will always have the ability to make the best of it when one persists in meeting the challenge and not running away from it.

Learn to manage fears…Courage is not an absence of fear but how we cope with it.

A sense of quiet confidence is building up from within.