By Sean Loo
The NTU-National Institute of Singapore (NIE) Everest Team Singapore is on track to being the first Singaporean team in eight years to conquer the world’s highest mountain. The members are about a month away from starting to scale the world’s highest peak.
The team consists of Nur Yusrina Ya’akob, an NIE postgraduate student; Jeremy Tong, an alumnus from the Sports Science Management (SSM) programme; and Dr Arjunan Saravana Pillai, a teaching fellow from NIE.
The trio departed for their expedition on 26 Mar and plan to scale the 8,848m summit by early June.
The team had reached the Mount Everest South Base Camp in mid-April, according to NTU.
They have been taking part in acclimatisation climbs up nearby peaks to get used to the sub-zero temperatures and high-altitude conditions they will face in their attempt on Everest.
On 18 April, the team posted on their Facebook page that they had successfully scaled the 6,119m high Lobuche Peak, 13.6km away from Mount Everest.
They have since returned to the base camp, and will set off for their final ascent later this month.
For Yusrina, it will be her second attempt at conquering Everest.
The 30-year-old was the co-leader of the Aluminaid Team Singapura Everest 2015 team that made an unsuccessful bid to scale Mount Everest to commemorate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee that year.
Team Aluminaid was forced to abandon the climb halfway through due to the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 Apr 2015. The earthquake left more than 8,800 dead and caused an avalanche at Mount Everest.
However, the incident did not end Yusrina’s Everest dream.
She later linked up with teammates Mr Tong and Dr Saravana after learning that they shared her interest to climb Mount Everest.
Both Dr Saravana and Mr Tong are also avid climbers. The former has climbed several peaks, including India’s 6,400m Mount Kang Yatze II. Mr Tong likewise has scaled numerous mountains including the 7,134m Lenin Peak in Kyrgyzstan.
For Mr Tong, the quest to scale Mount Everest holds special meaning
as he looks to raise funds for the Singapore Cancer Society at the same time.
The 26-year-old was inspired by his uncle’s battle with cancer.
He wrote on his blog: “This mission to climb Mount Everest symbolises the will to fight, to not give up and to ultimately grab all of life’s wonderful opportunities.”
I hope to represent this fight in all cancer patients in Singapore by embarking on this ultimate journey to the top of the world,” he added.
The team had been training for the mountain of a task since January last year.
Their preparations include climbing up a 40-storey building multiple times carrying weighted backpacks and hiking around Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
Despite the trio’s prior experience and extensive training regimen, they are not taking anything for granted.
In a 23 Mar Straits Times article, Yusrina said: “You can never be trained enough for Mount Everest.”
She also noted that inclement weather could derail their attempt.
The efforts of the team have been well-received.
Justin Yeo, a first-year student from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, felt that the team’s journey was “incredible”. Yeo similarly has an interest in trekking and mountain climbing but had always felt that climbing Everest would not be achievable for university students.
“I always thought that normal university students can never find the time to train for climbing a mountain like Mount Everest,” said the 22-year-old. The Everest Team’s progress inspired Yeo to dream bigger. “I would want to climb Mount Everest (now),” he said.
Jack Heng, a third-year SSM student who studied in Dr Arjunan’s Growth and Motor Development class two years ago, was also “inspired” by the team’s effort, especially that of Dr Saravana.
Heng told the Chronicle that he was aware of Dr Saravana’s keenness for sports.
Dr Saravana, 47, was NTU’s Sportsman of the Year in track and field for 1995/96, and had also previously represented Singapore in athletics at the international level.
However, he was impressed that Dr Saravana was still willing to take on the challenge of climbing Mount Everest despite his age.
“I was definitely surprised that at his age, he is still willing to climb the highest peaks known to man and face such harsh conditions,” said the 24-year-old.