Getting your foot into the sport of mountain climbing.
Mountain climbing is not everybody’s cup of tea. But thanks to the National University of Singapore Mountaineering Club, the sport has been made more accessible to youth, especially the student community, through a structured Technical Mountaineering Course, yearly overseas climbing expeditions and concession rates.
Working around the common goal of scaling mountains, members meet regularly to plan fundraisers and future expeditions. Every year, the club organizes one TMC and one expedition, spaced out over a span of several months. The TMCs, typically conducted in India (approx. S$3,000) or New Zealand (S$6,000), take about 17 days to complete. Physical conditioning is conducted in Singapore, whereby a normal week of training entails running and hitting the gym twice a week and doing load training at Bukit Timah Hill or HDB stairwells.
Once they touch down at the base camp overseas, a typical day of TMC starts with practical lessons in the morning such as learning the various techniques of walking in snow according to the angle of a slope, creating artificial steps with one’s boots to prevent slipping, crossing crevasses and gauging weather conditions. They also learn roping techniques and the different equipment used. Afternoons are spent on theory lessons.
As with any extreme outdoor adventure sport, weather is a major deciding factor in determining the outcome of a trip. While participants learn the basics of climbing during TMC, sometimes a good judgment call is what makes all the difference.
For club member Jenny Sim, 30, who returned to NUS to pursue a degree in Facility Management after having worked six years in the corporate world, she recalls getting stuck in the tent for 48 hours during a cyclone on an expedition in Nepal last year. The team members had to take turns staying up round the clock in order to beat off the snowfall from the roof of their tents to keep from being buried alive. When the weather cleared, they eventually decided to abort the ascent and make their way down. Upon reaching the base camp, the team learned that there had been a second wave of snowfall—had they decided to continue the climb, it would most likely have spelled disaster.
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF NUS MOUNTAINEERING CLUB|
Why do it, then? To that, Sim replies, “Why not? Wherever we travel to, we fall in love with the place. We don’t just sign up to climb a mountain, but it’s a whole package—getting to know different people and experiencing different cultures.”
Describing the route along Lukla, a town in Nepal, she says, “We saw people traveling around in horse-drawn carriages, with buffalos and porters carrying our luggage. We also saw how the people lived, and how the children walk miles just to get to school—there are no motorized vehicles at all. It really taught us to cherish what we have and not take things for granted.”
The climbs also offer opportunities to reflect on life itself. “One time, while walking through a valley in Nepal, with the summit (our goal) in front, someone took a picture of us. There we were, in a valley of giants, looking so tiny. It was a reminder that in life, everybody walks through valleys.”
She adds, “It’s really all about the journey and learning more about yourself and your friends who make the journey with you. At one point during the climb last year, I was the slowest, yet all my teammates took turns to walk with me and pace each other. My roommate also fell sick. We did not reach the summit but through experiences like these, we have remained good friends till today.”
The next big trip in the pipeline is an expedition to Muztagh Ata in China in July or August of 2011 for the club’s tenth anniversary. Other adventure-themed trips organized by the club include soft treks to the Himalayas.