Come 2017, Singaporean mountaineer Jeremy Tong Zhi Hao, 25 will attempt to scale the world’s highest peak – at 8,848m above sea level – to raise funds for Colon-Rectal and Breast Cancer victims.
Everest has always been his dream
Explained Tong, a Bachelor of Science university student in Sports Science and Management, “Everest has always been my dream when I was young. At the age of 14 in 2004, I climbed Mount Ophir and I started reading about the first Singaporean Everest team, which managed to get two climbers on the summit. And they were ordinary people. So if they could do it, why not me? Everest is the ultimate test of human ability, similar to that of cancer, which pushes the body to its extreme limits.”
He continued, “The inspiration came about when my uncle was struck by nose cancer in 2008. He managed to successfully battle the cancer before it spread – and is now fully recovered and living in Australia. So the funds will help provide cancer patients with the hospital and medicinal costs as well as starting a trial to test for any medicine that can help decrease the spread of cancer in the body. This would be crucial to people who have very high costs for their trials and they would not be able to afford it.”
The undergraduate hopes to raise SGD20,000 before his climb, which will begin in March 2017.
Started trekking since the age of 14
Tong has been involved in trekking since the age of 14, and since 2011, his interest in high-altitude mountaineering was sparked. Said Tong, “The initial interest started at Mount Ophir, at 1,276m above sea level, and then on Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, at 4,095m. After that, I thought to myself, that’s half of Everest, so maybe I could do Everest.”
Has learnt from his prior experiences
Throughout his years of mountaineering, each of Tong’s adventures have enriched him in terms of learning experiences. He said, “Every adventure has its own set of learning points and i have learnt thoroughly from all of them. One of the most memorable expeditions that I went on was Stok Kangri in 2013. This mountain, in the Indian Himalayas, is 6,153m in altitude. It was my first time in India and my good friend and I decided to go and climb this mountain without any support or guide.”
He continued, “We totally underestimated the mountain since it had a reputation of being a not very difficult 6,000m peak. We reached base camp at 5,000m on the 3rd day and decided that we would leave on the 4th day at midnight. We woke up that night and without any breakfast, we went to try for the summit. We made it to about 5,700m but in the end, we were so exhausted that we had to retreat from the summit attempt.”
Another of Tong’s memorable adventures was his recent three-week long expedition to Lenin Peak in Kyrgyzstyan, at about 7,143m above sea level. He said, “This expedition was an emotion-filled journey where I experienced what it was like for me to cancel my expedition due to a bad feeling in my chest. I also experienced what it was like to recover from that and became super strong at high altitudes. It was a really great lesson, which I will be able to use for Everest.”
Nothing can fully prepare him for Everest
But to Tong, none of his previous expeditions can fully prepare him for what he will face on Everest, though. The mountaineer said, “I believe Everest will be the toughest trip to date, since I am climbing from the north, which means from Tibet, which is famous for its high winds and exposed summit ridge.”
Continued Tong, “For Everest, I foresee the summit ridge to be the hardest part, as well as from the base camp to the interim camp, which is a big jump in altitude – of between 5,666m to 6,400m. For the summit push, it will be tough because I will start from 8,300m, which is known as the death zone (because the amount of oxygen is not enough to sustain human life) and mountaineers will be sleeping with the use of supplementary oxygen.”
Added the mountaineer, “Then from the summit, I will experience three cruxes of the climb, known as the first, second and third step. These steps will consist of ladders and mix-climbing which means climbing in snow, ice and rock, using crampons to navigate. But the biggest challenge of all, will be the altitude.”
Nevertheless though, Tong is confident that his vast mountaineering experience should set him in good stead for his maiden Everest attempt. Said Tong, “I believe that the experience I have had on mountains around the world will help me to adapt to the environment and feel more confident in the high altitude. Having already experienced what it is like at 7,000m above sea level, I know where my strong points and weaknesses are in mountaineering and I will use this experience to avoid committing the same mistakes.”
Training for Everest
And to prepare for his Everest expedition, Tong started training in May this year. He said, “I have clocked my altitude mileage of 5,000m, 6,000m and 7,000m peaks. This year, I climbed Kilimanjaro (5,985m), the highest peak in the African continent, and also Lenin Peak (7,134m) in July. The training will continue to go on for the next few expeditions laid out in 2016.” In 2016, Tong plans to summit Aconcagua (6,982m), the highest mountain in South America and Cho Oyu (8,201m), the sixth highest mountain in the world.
He continued, “The training will also include long distance runs of up to 21km or more per week, stairs training with 15 to 17kg back pack, weights for 10 sets of 31 storeys and also cross training session such as speed intervals and long distance bike rides.”
Tips for aspiring mountaineers
With his vast experience in the field, what tips does Tong have, for aspiring mountaineers? He said, “The only advice I can say is that the first step is the most important, so go for it. I have also experienced many failures in mountaineering and it is fine to fail. Just remember to stand up and be stronger the next time around.”
Continued the mountaineer, “And the last thing is safety. The summit might be the pinnacle of the climb or the expedition, but you can always come back again to give it another shot if you are alive.”
However, that said, Tong quickly added that he still considers himself an aspiring mountaineer – who is trying to realise his own dreams.
To donate to Jeremy Tong’s cause, click here. And remember to put “Everest for Cancer 2017” into the description when donating.
Other blog posts
- Singapore Blade Runner to run Everest Marathon
- A motivational Talk by the Singapore Blade Runner
- Running 250km across the Sahara Desert
- He has completed 170 marathons and counting