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1997: President Ong Teng Cheong included us in his annual TV charity fundraiser – the President’s Star Charity Show – which garnered quite a bit of controversy as many people did not see us as a charity. But many arts groups had benefited from this event, and for some reason, this did not seem to beout of place despite them not being viewed as a conventional “charity’. The President’s event, after all had been described as supporting “worthy causes, as deemed by the President”. The team had actually for a number of years been running climbing clinics, publci education talks, and been behind the Fire and Ice exhibition at the Science Centre. Very few, if any Singapore national athletes would ever have to raise the funds for their own training and meets, conduct all the PR and communications, plus participate and organise community events for the benefit fo the public. And yet, this is what we did for several years.

A key decision that year was to either complete the pre-Everest training with a climb of two difficult 7000-metre peaks in Tajikistan; or going to Cho Oyu, an 8201-metre peak, and the world’s sixth highest peak. Bruce Niven, our Scottish basecamp manager was adamant that Cho Oyu would be the best pre-Everest training, and this was without doubt as our use of bottled oxygen, and tactics on an 8000-metre peak would replicate what we would face on Everest in early 1998. But it meant spending an extra $50,000. Bruce promised to underwrite the amounts persosnally if we had a shortfall, and refused to discuss when and how the team would repay him

The Cho Oyu expedition in the autumn of 1997 had it’s share of drama and issues, but ultimately was successful , placing half the team on the summit. The other half of the team would also have been succeesful but for a windstorm that swept in the following day prompting a hasty retreat. The team was the first SE Asian team to climb Cho Oyu. However, owing to some sad and totally avoidable incidents, Lim Kim Boon, on the team’s return was considered unsuitable for the final climb on Everest. This unfortunate matter was covered extensively in David’s book “Mountain to Climb” in the chapter ” A House Divided”. On a brighter note,  Messrs Leong Chee Mun and Edwin Siew from the Development or reserve team were co-opted onto the main team heading for Everest.

The stage was set for Everest.

Cho Oyu – sunset

Lila Tamang ( behind) and David Lim high on Cho Oyu - summit day

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