Today has been a day of
celebration and concerns.
At 9.30am, E-Fung stepped
onto the summit of Everest, his voice announcing the event loud and clear. It
had been a grueling climb of just over 12 hours.
Then it was a finger-biting
wait until 11.38am when Yen Kai repeated the feat, thus becoming the first
Singaporean to stand on the world’s highest peak. (Edwin Siew and Khoo Swee
Chiow, who summitted Everest in 1998, were then Malaysians and Singapore
permanent residents. Both have since taken up Singapore citizenship.) This
fact will be recorded in the annals of mountaineering.
But as all mountaineers know,
"going up is optional, coming down is mandatory". And more accidents and
deaths occur during the descent than the ascent.
E-Fung arrived at South Col
(Camp 4) at 3pm, totally exhausted but in good spirits. It was a relief until
he noticed, while resting, that the toes on his left foot were numb. Two of
the toes were slightly purple. He sought medical advice from Base Camp, and
the assessment made was that of a touch of frostnip.
It was difficult to tell if
the toes would swell the next day. If they did, E-Fung would not be able to
put on his boots to walk down the mountain. That would mean that he would have
to descend there and then. But it was already 5pm and crossing the icefall in
the dark would be too dangerous. Besides, E-Fung was very tired.
Without looking at the toes,
it was a tough guess as to whether they would swell. So Dave Morton, an
experienced mountaineer and guide, and a good friend from the Cho Oyu climb
who was in the tents nearby, was asked to look at the toes. Having seen many
frostbitten cases, he would be able to make a good judgment.
"They don't look very serious
to me," Dave’s voice came on the walkie, to the relief of all. "It seems to be
superficial frostnips." Medication was prescribed and E-Fung slept with his
inner on just in case the toes swelled during the night.
But where was Yen Kai? There
have not been any walkie contact for hours. His descent had taken an
inordinately long time. We could only guess what his condition would be like,
having spent over 18 hours on the mountain since leaving Camp 4 at 9pm the
Finally, at about 6pm, word
came that he had arrived at Camp 4. He was very tired, but otherwise in good
There was relief all round at
Base Camp, but not letting down of our guard.There was still the descent from
South Col the next day. The two exhausted climbers would have to come down the
infamous Lhotse Face, Western Cwm, and down to Camp 2. And the final crossing
of the Khumbu Icefall, by now crumbled and melting. Lulin Reutens
It has now been reported
that they now all at base camp...
is a Principal Member of Technical Staff in DSO National Laboratories.
Born on 22 September 1965, he holds a PhD in Aerodynamics. He and team
mate Edwin Siew climbed Mount Xixabangma in Tibet in 2002 in alpine style,
the first in Southeast Asia to reach over 8,000m without sherpa support
and supplementary oxygen. Other achievements include skiing to the South
Pole as Co-leader of Antarctica 2000 and reaching the South Summit
(8,751m) of Mount Everest as a member of the Singapore expedition in 1998.
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