Youngsters with a mountain to climb

Youngsters with a mountain to climb

A gruelling expedition through the Himalayas wasn't just a physical test - it took huge mental strength from the team too, writes Joyee Chan

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The team faced 12-hour hikes and tough weather conditions, but eventually made it to the summit.
The team faced 12-hour hikes and tough weather conditions, but eventually made it to the summit.
Photo: Youth Endurance Network

coverhimalayaexpedition.artg6bdvjrd.1youthendurancenetwork528b1680ed.jpg

The team faced 12-hour hikes and tough weather conditions, but eventually made it to the summit.
The team faced 12-hour hikes and tough weather conditions, but eventually made it to the summit.
Photo: Youth Endurance Network

coverhimalayaexpedition.artg6bdvjrd.1youthendurancenetwork528b3404ed1.jpg

The team faced 12-hour hikes and tough weather conditions, but eventually made it to the summit.
The team faced 12-hour hikes and tough weather conditions, but eventually made it to the summit.
Photo: Youth Endurance Network

When the white of the sky and the white of the snow-covered ground merged into one, the intrepid explorers couldn't see even 10 metres in front of themselves.

Many would have given up, but not the team of 15 youngsters who had travelled from Hong Kong to the Indian Himalayas with one mission - to conquer the 5,600 metre-high Parang La Pass.

The expedition, led by the Youth Endurance Network, had trained too hard to just turn back - even when faced with poor visibility and metre-deep snow hiding deadly crevasses.

And just to make things even tougher, the team knew a lightning storm was approaching.

Fortunately, a group of veteran mountaineers set off ahead and cleared a path, making it safe to continue and eventually become the youngest team ever to climb the pass.

When expedition manager Sam Inglis, 22, put together his crew, he was looking for people ready to face almost unimaginable challenges.

"We city-dwellers from Hong Kong aren't equipped to properly process the Himalayas," says Inglis.

"It's like staring at the universe and trying to [imagine] all of it. You brain doesn't compute because the Himalayan landscape is phenomenal and unique."

In April, Inglis selected his group from 24 candidates, aged 16 to 22. All completed a gruelling assessment in Sai Kung and Lantau Island, and then two months of intensive gym training and hiking across Hong Kong.

On July 10, the group arrived in Kibber in India, which is one of the world's highest villages. They ended up in Leh, an ancient trade hub on the Silk Road.

On their way, the team climbed mountain passes through the Spiti Valley, passing Buddhist monasteries and the awe-inspiring glacier lake Tsomoriri.

But it was not an easy journey. The team hiked for up to 12 hours a day, sometimes covering more than 20km.

"When we were trekking, we'd think we were really close, but we'd still have a great distance to cover," says expedition member Andrea Chan, 17, from Sha Tin College.

The team had to learn to pace themselves. Because of the heights at which they were climbing, altitude sickness was a real threat.

"Altitude is a weird thing," says Inglis. "If you forget about it and underestimate it, that's when it makes you suffer."

Because of the severe weather, the team had to drop one of their goals, which was to conduct a scientific study of the impact of climate change on the region.

The experience taught another of the expedition members, Tim Tsai, 20, who studies at University of South California in the US, that you always need to be adaptable.

"Nothing goes perfectly and when something goes wrong, you have to improvise," says Tsai.

The experience should prove valuable, even when back in Hong Kong. After spending cold nights in the mountains, the team now appreciates the perks of modern life - like a warm shower - even more. At least until the next adventure.

 

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Youngsters with a mountain to climb

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