Theresa Tan

Elim Chew’s Quest For Ong Teng Cheong Mountain

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City Harvest Church member Elim Chew is scaling two special mountains in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan this National Day week.

(From left) Elim Chew with ultra marathoner Marie Choo and CNA presenter Glenda Chong

As you are reading this, City Harvest Church member Elim Chew is preparing to climb not one, but two mountains.

When you think of Elim Chew, you might think of “social enterprise” or “77th Street” or “I M Kim” or even fishing, if you follow her on social media.

But right now Chew somewhere in the midst of the Tien Shan mountain range which runs along the border Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Today (August 8) she is scheduled to climb Oh Siew May Peak and tomorrow—on Singapore’s 53rd National Day—she and her team mates aim to stand at the peak of Ong Teng Cheong Mountain at dawn.

Ong Teng Cheong Mountain is a 4,743m-tall mountain, named after the late President Ong, Singapore’s first elected head of state. It was first conquered by a Singaporean team, which included veteran mountaineer David Lim in 2005, but only formally recognised by the Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Federation of Kazakhstan on June 28, 2017.

Ong Siew May Peak is a mountain next to Ong Teng Cheong Mountain, named for President Ong’s late wife.


In March this year, Chew went on a 40-day fast. Not only did she witness healing miracles among friends she had been praying for, she also lost 14kg in weight. “I wanted to do something to keep off the weight, since I worked so hard!” she explained with a laugh. On the final week of her fast, Ong Tze Boon, the younger son of President Ong and Chew’s good friend, told her about his plans to bring a team to scale Ong Teng Cheong Mountain on National Day.

“At first, I thought I would just introduce him to friends who like sports,” recalled Chew, adding that she linked Tze Boon with Marie Choo, a trainer and ultra-marathon racer. Choo, who immediately took up the challenge as “it’s a natural progression from ultras, and I love to hike”, insisted that Chew be part of the team.

With earnest encouragement from her two friends, Chew gave in and said yes, despite the fact she had never climbed a mountain. In fact, she had not engaged seriously in sporting activity for quite a number of years.

“What really motivated me was Boon,” she said, adding that the two had met many years ago as part of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO), a non-profit network of entrepreneurs and professionals. Tze Boon is an architect with Ong & Ong. Given their many years of friendship and traveling together, this is a buddy-trip of a totally different nature. It is a significant quest for Tze Boon to conquer both peaks this week, as a celebration of his parents’ lives and love story.

Chew began training in earnest in May, climbing many many flights of stairs daily—in the final week, 48 flights of stairs four times—and hiking Bukit Timah hill every weekend. She also had to train with a backpack that was half her weight, and in mountain boots, to simulate conditions which she is currently experiencing.

There is no wifi up in the mountains, so updates from the team—which includes Channel News Asia presenter Glenda Chong and a group of experienced Everest climbers—may not happen till after National Day.

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