Thursday, May 31, 2012

NYP Alumni to Climb Everest in 2015

Ismail, Hilwan and Sufian, three NYP alumni looking to literally scale new heights.
It was painfully cold as the blizzard raged on.  High on India’s Mount Shitidhar, members of Team Singapura Everest 2015 struggled to reach their camp. They were drenched and the white-out meant they could not see beyond their arm’s reach.

As the team hurriedly entered the warm reprieve of their camp, the remaining stragglers in the team received a chilling warning from their Sherpa - move quickly because an avalanche is coming.

That moment served as stark reminder of the inherent risk in climbing a mountain. Death and injury is so commonplace that Sherpas point out incidences of death with a matter-of-fact nonchalance. Reaching camp brings no guarantee of safety.

Some climbers are even buried by avalanches while they sleep in the assumed safety of their camp. It is a way of ‘mountain life’.

Aside from the dangerous terrain, there is also the risk of acute mountain sickness (AMS) – an illness that first manifests itself as a severe pounding in the head before turning into confusion; water later forms in the lungs and brain and becomes fatal if it turns into ice.

Despite these potential dangers, NYP Alumni Mohamad Sufian Bin Sulaiman, Ismail Bin Latiff and Muhd Hilwan Bin Mohd Idrus remained unfazed. These three NYP Alumni are part of the seven-member Team Singapura Everest 2015.  

Sufian - The Team Captain and Strategist
Sufian taking a short break at the base camp of Mount Shitidhar
“It’s a calculated risk,” said Sufian, a Senior Officer in the Singapore Civil Defence Force. This alumnus from the School of Business Management (SBM) said that the team is like a family and they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They avoid pushing each other unnecessarily and draw a clear line between accomplishment and dangerous bravado.

As Sufian discusses the risks, it quickly becomes clear that his focus on safety and strategic-planning makes him a perfect leader for this expedition. This former SAF officer said that what he learnt from NYP helped him in preparing for this trip.

“I learnt how to think ahead from my lecturers,” he said, “especially from Ms Helen Tan the Advisor to the SBM Club. I learnt a lot from her, like the importance of following your passion.”

Ismail - The elite SCDF Officer and Trainer

Ismail coiling ropes after reaching the base camp of Mount Shitidhar.
To prepare for Everest, the team is embarking on a series of 7 climbs, with each successive climb being higher than the last. Their journey up Mount Shitidhar was the second climb in the series, with the team recently completing their climb of Nepal’s Mera Peak, Amphulaptsa Pass and Island Peak in May. The team’s recent trip to Nepal was their first attempt at climbing multiple peaks in one excursion.

Ismail, an alumnus from the School of Engineering (SEG) and an officer in SCDF’s elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART), oversees the team’s training with fellow team member Nur Yusrina Yaakob. He said that the team trains 3 times a week. Each two-hour session varies from climbing with heavy loads, to cardiovascular exercises to technical training.

“We are preparing for something big. To me, training is never enough. You can’t really be fit for any mountain. And we have full-time jobs so we make do with what we have. We also get feedback from other Singaporeans who have climbed Everest. I take it one mountain at a time,” he said.

Hilwan - “The fittest programmer around”
Hilwan undergoing a Technical Mountaineering Course at the base camp of Mount Shitidhar.
Hilwan’s motivation for scaling Everest? “The brave do not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. I want to say that I’ve lived.”

So far, the arduous climbs and the strenuous training have not an issue for Hilwan, an alumnus from the School of Interactive and Digital Media (SIDM). Unlike Suffian and Ismail, Hilwan’s job as a Digital Developer at an advertising MNC is not physically demanding.

Whereas Sufian and Ismail were adventurous since they were students at NYP, Hilwan only began participating in marathons and ironman competitions after he completed National Service.

“I’m the fittest programmer around,” he joked.

Fortunately, he has not suffered any asthma attacks during any climbs so far.

But Hilwan’s climbs have not been without incident. During his first climb, he experienced acute mountain sickness (AMS). “Yusrina had to carry me on her shoulders and I can’t remember what happened after that! Things like that make us strong and bond our team together.” he recalled with a laugh.

When he had to undergo a 26-day acclimatisation climb by himself due to a scheduling conflict with the rest of the team, he underwent a period of the intense solitude.

“You have too much time to think and reflect on your life,” he said. “When you reach the top, you can see as far as your eye can see. But I felt so lonely at the top, I wanted to call someone to let them know this awesome feeling and to share the view with someone.”

A gift of inspiration to Singapore on her 50th birthday
The team is quick to point out that no one ‘conquers’ a mountain. “It’s an awesome and humbling feeling, “Hilwan said.

Sufian agreed. “When you are at the peak, you see the clouds below and you feel blessed to be there.”

19 March 2011 -Team Singapura Everest 2015 at the summit of Mount Kinabalu. The team's first climb allowed them to iron out teething issues and gel together as a team.
The team wants to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 2015 as a birthday gift to Singapore on her 50th birthday. They hope that this gesture will also inspire others to pursue their passions and follow their dreams.

The team wants other Singaporeans to know that there is more to life than just work and it is important to realize your dreams, no matter how busy you are.

To support Team Singapura Everest 2015, leave words of encouragement on their facebook page. You can also learn more on their website.

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