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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR DAVID

1) Why is this website called everest.org.sg?

The original 1st Singapore Mt Everest Expedition 1998 website ran from 1996 – 2001 on a different URL. In 1997, I registered everest.org.sg to better serve specific pre-Everest climbs and events. This everest.org.sg site now carries events and climbs in which I was involved or led from 1994 to the present day. This includes ” non-Everest” expeditions. I own the website.

2) Where is Singapore?

The Republic of Singapore is a small, diamond-shaped tropical island in Southeast-Asia; just south of the southern tip of it’s northern neighbour Malaysia ( which is much bigger ). It also includes about 60 smaller islands. It runs to about 23 km from north to south and about 42 km from east to west. Singapore has a population of 3.8 million and enjoys a high standard of living and political stability. It is a parliamentary democracy and has sometimes been described as the ” Switzerland” of Southeast – Asia – though we sorely lack snow and mountains. The highest peak in Singapore is Bukit Timah ( Tin Hill in the Malay language ) and ‘ towers’ at 163m. Our highest building stands at 280m. You get the picture – it’s very urbanised here.

3) How many climbers are there in Singapore?

Singapore has over 50 artificial climbing walls and a small granite quarry where rock-climbers can enjoy scaling the real stuff. Technical climbing of any sort began in 1987 and our climbing ‘culture’ and ‘ ethics’ are constantly evolving and becoming closer to international views/ positions. Perhaps over 10,000 people have had a go at rock-climbing but only about 1000 – 2000 who are really active. An annual national climbing competition attracts up to 800 participants annually. A competition circuit exists. There are far fewer alpinists with about 60-70 such climbers and maybe only about 10-20 who are really serious about technical alpine or expedition climbs and go out to feed their habit 1-2 times a year.

4) Why do you climb? It's so dangerous!?

This would take a book to explain. People climb for many reasons. Some climb to be the best; maybe set “records” or for glory. Those things aren’t my main reasons for climbing. I climb to explore my physical and mental limits in an extreme and often beautiful environment. If certain records are set along the way, so be it. Considering how new the sport is in Singapore, it’s “easy” to be a record setter. Climbers in more mature climbing societies have to push the very edge of climbing challenges to get recognised – or differentiate themselves in other ways ( First Pogo-hopping Expedition to the summit of Mt Everest , etc ). Here in Singapore, we should’t kid ourselves in terms of where we are in the pecking order of adventure!

In many ways. climbing (even in local quarries) provides an escape from the high-pressure, failure-intolerant, immigrant society that Singapore is. In a world where we seek to insulate ourselves from pain, discomfort and fear; climbers represent a somewhat anarchic and subversive element.

Factors that make climbing attractive is the lifestyle of training, scaring yourself on rock-climbs every week, hanging out with like-minded friends and sharing stories afterwards. Big expeditions are part of my livelihood and business. This makes climbing slightly less ‘ fun’ these days but allows me to spend up to five months a year in the mountains – which is great. Some projects (such as ASCENT 8000) can benefit certain segments of the community. The success of the 1st Singapore Everest Expedition in 1998 which I led, for example, led to greater recognition and financial assistance to the sport at a national level. Funding for subsequent projects have been easier. Pretty good compared to when this young sport was once viewed as part of the lunatic fringe in Singapore.

5) What do you eat up there?

In the basecamps of big expeditions, you usually hire cook-staff to prepare meals as close to what you are used to eating at home. This means lots of rice, pasta, breads and potatoes plus root vegetables ( they don’t spoil so easily ), canned meats and high energy drinks and snacks. Singapore delights like honey-roasted pork slices, preserved eggs, fruit and beancurd also helps. You need to chow down when at basecamp.

Up high, where appetites wither, you survive on various freezedried foods like FD rice, chicken cubes, vegetables – all kinds of food which just need to be re-constituted with hot water – which you get from cooking snow. It takes a long time to make a litre of boiling water. On the move, energy gels, bars , and such high-calorie snacks help. On an average climbing day at high-altitude, you may burn off 8000 calories but only be able to eat about 2000 calories or less. This is due to reduced appetites at altitude and the time it takes to prepare food.

6) How do you train?

Singapore has a tropical climate with an average daytime temperature of about 31 degrees Celcius and humidity of 90% (! ). This makes physical exercise a very hot and sweaty time. For climbers, a lot of the technical ropework used on rock / alpine-climbs can be learnt in Singapore. For ice and snow, you have to go elsewhere; usually New Zealand or Nepal.

Physical training in the form of running or stair-climbing is recommended as is some weight-training. Personally I train about four – five times a week with different cycles depending on whether I am a bit wasted after a long expedition ( mass-building and strength work emphasised ) or building up to a Himalayan climb ( endurance and strength ). With my disabilities, I have to work much harder on the mountain and back home, do exercises which help my stability ( my lower right leg is pretty disabled ) and endurance. I typically jog 1-2 times a week ( shuffle, really! ), lift weights to a special programme 1-2 times and try to clock in a 1-3 hour long endurance session like stair climbing with a 15 kg pack 1-2 times a week as well . I vary the intensity and variety depending on what I am aiming for. I still have to do some specialised exercises because of my disability. Endurance sessions can last for hours!

I try to eat well and take simple supplements such as a multivitamin/mineral tab most days. Whey protein in mass building cycles helps as does small amounts of creatine monohydrate, lecithin and ginseng.

6) How do you go to the toilet?

At basecamps, human waste is concentrated in pit-style latrines or in plastic barrels eg. at Everest basecamp ( Nepal ). You squat and you do your business. Up high on the mountain, you tend to do it as far as safety, smell and hygiene permits from your campsite. Don’t eat the yellow snow! In certain popular areas like Denali National Park in Alaska, USA; climbers have to pack their ( frozen ! ) waste out in plastic bags. Shitting in a ziplock bag must be an interesting exercise. Climbers usually have clothes which allow for dumping without needing to take the whole garment off ( it’s cold!! ). Usually, zippers or flaps can be dropped down and the zipped back up to allow rapid, ahem – …’dumping’. The highest dump I’ve seen is at 8200-metres and in temperatures around -20 degrees C. Well done, Guy!

7) How do I get to climb a big peak like Mount Everest?

Climbing Everest is a process, not an event. For most serious climbers, Everest is just another large peak that requires more altitude experience than others before a realistic attempt can be made. Owing to the fact that you can hire professional guides to get you up has detracted from the ” adventure” experience somewhat to most climbing purists.Since Everest is unique in that it is still the highest peak in the world, you do attract, in addition to the more serious climbers, a certain ‘ punter’ type of climber who couldn’t , on his own, do routefinding on a classic route in the Alps and climb it competently – but wants to have a crack at Everest.

The beauty of climbing is that there aren’t any rules that say you can’t do it this way.

However, you might want to ask what these kind of people are doing on such a serious mountain. Events of 1996, 1998 and 2001 have, to me, confirmed that a large number of these people on the mountain only serve to endanger other teams’ lives or chances of success. An ignorant media often can’t tell between the merits of a well-oiled publicity machine that champions some relatively mediocre climber going to Everest and the quality of some unknown climb executed in good style by some all-round skilled alpinist from the same country. This propagates a shallow public attitude towards altitude ( ” higher is better” ) and demeans sometimes more worthy ( in mountaineering terms ) ascents.

However, if you do want to climb Mt Everest and dont have much experience, my $0.10 worth of advice is this:

do log in plenty of rock-climbing experience year-round. Plan on acquiring all-round ice and snow skills plus navigation work on lesser peaks. Professional help can speed up your learning curve. The Cascades, the Euro/ New Zealand Alps are classic training grounds. Then move to bigger peaks and soak in some independent expedition experience ie without sherpas and guides. Some climbers I know have never left the cradle, preferring to climb exclusively with guides. This is a very individual decision. However, I feel that un-guided climbing speeds up maturity and helps independent decision-making. This is especially critical in situations where you might have to find your way back off the peak without the guide.

Overall, I think there is more satisfaction in knowing how you performed on your own skills and judgement. However, success is also important and perhaps overly important to some climbers; so getting a guide stacks the odds of success in one’s favour.

Typically, some destinations in the 5000m – 6000m bracket may include Alaska, the India Himalaya, Nepal’s trekking peaks ( the harder ones ), Mexico. Bolivia and some great parts of the Andes. After this, a great primer is to go for a high 7000er or low 8000m peak for the final test before Everest. Your timeline may be about 3 -5 years depending on your inclination, talent and ability to raise the $$$ to go.

Getting along with a team ( even with one other buddy ) is important as is keeping the goal in perspective. Some scary things happen when a bunch of highly egotistical climbers with not much experience and/or team spirit come together; paying guides to help them to the top. I have seen summit fever killing a friend and nearly killing another when their clients kept going up when they should have been going down. I have seen team players working their butts of in lousy weather doing team chores when others on the team slouch around. Some of the most successful, well-known adventurers have also been rather selfish and poor team players. The rise of commercially guided expeditions have allowed some of these individuals to make a career of climbing within a team ( and thus increasing their personal chances of success ) and yet not be fully engaged or responsible when the s**t hits the fan.

Of course it isn’t as black and white as all this. There have been numerous successful and happy guided, commercial expeditions and some outstanding individuals who joined to fulfil their dreams without forsaking team ideals.

If you don’t summit, you have to think about what else the trip meant to you and friendships last a lifetime. But to some, the summit, lucrative film/ endorsements/lecture deals count for more. You choose.

The more climbs you do and the harder they are, the better your chances will be at coping with stuff that Everest will chuck at you. Good luck.

9) Are there animals up there in the mountains?

You can find a great variety of mountain animals; at least up to a point where beyond which you find little vegetation or smaller animal life to sustain larger animals. In Argentina, you can find mice and guanacos ( a kind of llama ) as high as 5,000 metres. In the Alps, common creatures include the ibex ( a kind of mountain deer ), marmots, rabbits and more nice. Spectacular winged animals include the Andean condor in Chile and Argentina as well as as the lammergeier ( Tibet ) . Many of these animals are now endangered and the encroachment on their grazing grounds or wanton poaching or illegal hunting has reduced many of their numbers.

10 ) How do you feel when you get to the top?

Most of the time relief and then some elation. Most sobering is the thought you have to make an equally if not more arduous descent down, often in the last daylight hours.

11) Are the mountains very polluted these days?

Yes and no. It largely depends on how well -managed certain areas are in terms of regulations; deposits demanded from climbing groups ( in case their leave litter everywhere ) and climber’s own attitudes. Areas that are heavily impacted need the most care eg the Everest region. But due to greater awareness in preserving the environment things in the Himalaya are somewhat better than , say 20 years ago. Large fines and bonds demanded of expeditions also help somewhat to enforce the rules. It should also be noted that whilst mountaineers are high profile and sometimes make easy targets, much of the pollution ( controlled or otherwise ) are generated by trekkers and mountain walkers who outnumber climbers by 100:1. It needs a concerted effort by local authorities and those who visit the mountains to keep them as pristine as possible.

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