Archive for October, 2007

desert of death

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

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 Finally met up with Rezal and Jamie after months! it’s such a nice feeling to catch up with the old familiar faces, and it felt as though we picked up exactly where we left off months ago! its no wonder how people can sit around a Starbucks table for hours and hours doing the same thing. i used to think the whole idea of ‘chilling out’ is a waste of time. but as i get older, i’m starting to enjoy this relatively non streuous activity (as compared to running 2.4km under 10 mins), as well as the amount of satisfaction it can bring. friends are such great inventions! i suppose you can also try talking to yourself, but well it’s easy to run out of topics to talk about ( how many different points of view can one person have?) and it’s also quite easy to get bored of yourself, unless of course you have a super inflated ego. so, having a friend / friends to share a conversation with is much more interesting. Friends are also the people who can share and help fulfill your dreams and your goals. Just like how Charles Blackmore together with a team of British, Chinese, Uyghurs (an ethnic group found in Xinjiang, China) and a caravan of 30 camels (animals are friends too!) embarked on a journey to cross the Taklamakan Desert in Central Asia. I highly recommend the book, “Conquering the desert of death: Across the Taklamakan” to anyone who has been sitting around a Starbucks table for far too long, who is lacking some crazy inspiration and is in need of a few  doses of adventure into his/her life. Read below for book description:

The ferocious Taklamakan desert in Central Asia, one of the largest sandy deserts in the world and the harshest on earth, is known by the Chinese as the “desert of death” or the “place of no return.” Its unknown depths are said to be haunted by demons and spirits and legend has it that ancient cities filled with treasure lie lost and buried beneath its dunes. The only certainty is that no human being in history had ever crossed it from end to end. But, after five years of planning, in 1993, Charles Blackmore together with a team of British, Chinese and Uyghurs and a caravan of thirty camels, set out to accomplish the seemingly impossible: they would cross the Taklamakan, west to east, directly through its unmapped, untrodden centre. Conquering the Desert of Death is at once a deeply personal journey and the story of an adventure that will go down in history as one of the great achievements of exploration.”
– taken from Amazon.com

it’s time ……

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

i feel like taking a break from this all…..Everest is less than 5 months away and we all know how fast time flies, especially when you’re busy. ever since i came back, i’ve been feeling so overwhelmed with work, as if to make up for all that i didn’t do when i was away. yea serve me right. maybe i shouldn’t be complaining, especially so when all my colleagues are probably working much harder than me. well, i love what i do but there is also this gnawing feeling in me that i should just take a break and focus on the right things at this moment. perhaps i might sound a little obsessed and extreme, that my whole life simply revolves around Everest. but well, climbing Everest with my team is also a once in a lifetime dream and if i don’t truly give my best shot now, i am not sure when the chance will come again, if ever. dreams are free, but being able to pursue and realize them requires sacrifice and hard work. i don’t want to cut myself any slack in terms of preparation and training because of ‘work’, and possibly face the prospect of failure or in the worst scenerio, injuries and death on Everest. i know it can be humanly possible to balance full-time work and preparation for Everest, and that there is the possibility of failure on Everest but i know i wouldn’t be able to live with it if the failure is a result of me not giving it my best effort.  i suppose i could simply slack at work and give like 20% effort but i don’t think i would be able to live with that either.

how?? i guess decision making is never easy. i pray that God will provide me wisdom and courage…..

cuz on a mountain like Everest, there is simply no room for error, and no room for regrets.

Ski Korea anyone??

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Ski in Korea!

i fear……

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

i met up with a friend recently and was just recounting to her some of my climbing stories. one of her comments that struck me was how she referred to my ‘indulgence’ in mountaineering as an ‘insult to the preciousness of life’ – referring to all the perils, risks and dangers involved in the sport.

it’s a known fact that mountaineering (as well as sports like motorcross, parachuting, skydiving and kayaking down Class 5 rapids) is an inherently risky sport (oops i hope my mum isn’t reading this).

and it’s also a myth that all people who do such sports are adrenaline junkies, looking for that vaunted adrenaline rush. well, all i can say is that huffing and puffing up a 70 degree slope in soft slushy snow isn’t an adrenaline-rushing experience at all. The only adrenaline rush you probably experience in mountaineering is when you fall into a crevasse, which is actually a nightmare for all mountaineers.  

in response to my friend’s remark, i told her that i definitely do not think that my life, or any life for that matter is not precious.  i do not think that a person who sits in an armchair at home with the TV remote control in hand does justice to the ‘preciousness of life’ in any way better than people who engage in seemingly risky sport (no offence to people who sit on armchairs watching TV, i’m just giving an example) . 

ever since i began to climb in 2003, and having encountered what i thought was my personal almost near-death situation on the mountains before,  i’ve come to developed a renewed appreciation for life. i’ve witnessed how one can be robbed of life by the harshness and unforgiving nature of the natural environment, human life is indeed fragile.

But i think that realization shouldn’t stop us from engaging in adventure activities and exploring, pushing the frontiers….. ultimately what prevents people from engaging in such ‘risky’ sports is fear. somehow, people are supposed to avoid experiencing the feeling of fear at all costs – it’s not a nice feeling afterall.  but somehow, the paradox is how the power of fear can sometimes drive and motivate people. 

people who climb everest from the south side would be most fearful of the section of the khumbu icefall,  due to the ever shifting seracs and falling blocks of ice. so naturally, they would pay more attention and become more attuned to their surroundings, such that they can try to make a dash (in the correct direction) if they foresee any potential falling blocks of ice.  

recalling an experience on cho oyu, i actually fell and turned upside down (yes my legs were hanging in the air) during my abseil down the ice cliff from Camp 2 to Camp 1.  i was actually abseiling down on a traverse rope, meaning the rope ran horizontally to the next ‘anchor point’ instead of vertically down. And that particular ‘anchor point’ wasn’t actually anchored into the snow, it was just made up of a knot for one to clip into. so as i was abseiling across the rope, i felt a very swift and sudden tug on the rope and before i knew it, i lost my footing and turned turtles. what was holding me and keeping me alive was my figure of 8 abseil device.

i lay there for awhile, too shocked to react and breathing extrememly hard at the same time.  when i finally regained my composure, i realised i was actually hanging upside down and that my crampons were cutting into the other fixed ascend rope.  as i did not want to destroy the rope and face the wrath of the climbers who were jumaring up the same rope, i had to somehow maneuver back into an upright position as fast as possible, which left me all the more breathless.

at that point, i did not remember experiencing fear, as everything happened too fast and i suppose it was too fast even for fear to set in. what an irony – you spend so much time fearing for all the ‘what ifs’, but when something seemingly ‘fearful’ actually happens, you don’t feel the fear at all.

back to the life that seems familiar……

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

Back in S’pore for about a week now…. and somehow, i feel that i haven’t left at all. Everything feel and look the same, except my room – which looks alot cleaner and neater. My mum has been busy cleaning up my room, knowing that when i return, i will also return with about 100 tons of gear. i’m glad she did not faint when she saw all my gear when i came back. my backpack and duffels are still lying around and although i know i should unpack my stuff, i feel slightly reluctant to do so.  i think the presence of all my gear provides a little comfort, especially when i feel like i’m being sucked back into the mundanes of the life here. 

i went back to work 2 days after i came back and for awhile i regretted my decision. it’s like i forgot how working life felt like and i couldn’t wait to plunge right in. haha. but now i’m wishing i could be back in the mountains, or simply travelling in tibet. sigh, the grass is always greener on the other side – you spend most of your time wishing you could be somewhere else. but having said that, ymca has really given me support by allowing me to take such a long period of leave to go away and climb. Hearfelt appreciation goes out to my boss jacq, melissa and wendy for taking over my work when i’m away! it’s never an easy task to take on additional workload, on top of grappling with your own share.

i’ve also been having mild diarrhoea ever since i came back, which is ironic cuz i never had diarrhoea up in the mountains. it must be the overly clean and hygenic food that i haven’t really gotten used to. or perhaps cuz i’ve been over stuffing myself with all the yummy food that i could only dream and hallucinate about up in high camp.  i’m also feel like i’m falling sick…been getting runny nose every morning and sometimes my head hurts – an effect of too much oxygen?? up in the mountains, for fear of falling ill, all of us have been religiously taking our vitamins and supplements. Centrum multivits has done a fantastic job in keeping us well and healthy on the mountains. i remember thinking how it’s bright orange pill makes a great contrast compared to the white diamox pill – a trivial observation if you think about it now, but up in the mountains, it made alot of difference, especially when you are constantly looking for things to amuse yourself 😛

and it’s back to local training soon. running, gym, stairs, bukit timah, rock climbing and technical training at Safra Yishun. i missed running when i was in cho oyu – so you can imagine the feeling of pure ‘liberation’ when i finally had the chance to put on my favourite adidas running shorts and dri fit shirt to run on friday morning before work. i started off slow and easy, just so that i can regain the ‘feel’ of running again. I only ran for about 1hr 15 min, before i felt that my leg muscles (or the lack of it due the amount of weight i’ve lost) felt strangely weak. My breathing rhythm seems ok, just that i feel that i’ve lost leg strength to continue running at a pace that i was previously comfortable at. Then i realised i made the fatal mistake of forgetting to stretch before i started my run. How could i?!? i haven’t ran for about 2 months and for my very first run i forgot to stretch. during the climb, all of us lost alot of muscle mass due to the high altitude and all the strenous climbing. so now, it’s gonna be intensive gym time!! to put back all the mass that we lost! perhaps eating some weight/mass gainer might help……