“Climbing is physically tough, but I really like the suffering that comes with it. As you go higher, you’ll have to make that hard decision of whether to turn back or not. It’s quite sadistic, but I like the mental challenge and being at the mercy of the elements.
I started climbing when I was 14. I was in the National Cadet Corps, and the first mountain I ever climbed was Gunung Ledang in Malaysia. But it was only after I climbed Kota Kinabalu at 15 that I thought, if I could climb 4,000 metres, why not 5,000 metres, or even more?
In terms of altitude, my toughest climb was definitely Everest. Everest was my 40th mountain, and I climbed it just to prove something to myself. I was also raising money for the Singapore Cancer Society, which has been my sole beneficiary since 2015.
Cancer was a good cause to climb for because my uncle suffered from stage three nose cancer. He told me he didn’t want to die because he had kids to live for, and recalling how he survived cancer inspired me to live my life to the fullest and do something for someone else.
Yeah, I missed my family a lot during my Everest expedition. When times got hard, I’d look at their pictures on my phone to get my mind right. When I was suffering, food always made me feel better too. I had these yummy ready-to-eat meals by Prima Taste, so that sorted me out.
A moment I cannot forget was seeing a dead body when I was about two hours away from the summit. In the darkness of night, I thought it was an oxygen cylinder that someone left behind, but when I got nearer, I realised it was a corpse with a blackened face.
My eyes instantly widened. It was a wake-up call, and you realise just how thin the line is between dying and staying alive; it’s only a matter of making one wrong decision. No matter how strong you think you are, you’re just a piece of flesh up there.
I am ambitious, but I do have an appreciation for life; that’s why I decided not to summit. I only had about 150 metres to go, and at 4am, I told my guide my feet were getting very cold. I tried kicking my legs to get some circulation going, but it didn’t work.
I was very frustrated. I had trained so hard, why did this have to happen when I was so close to the summit? It was a painful decision to make, but I knew that if I had continued, I might have lost my toes, so I turned back.
Three months have passed, and I’ve been fixated with returning to Everest ever since. My goal is to be the youngest Singaporean and first Chinese Muslim man to summit via Tibet in the north.
My biggest takeaway from that experience is to never give up on your dreams. As long as you’re still alive, it’s never too late or difficult to achieve it. You may not be successful at the start, but learn to appreciate the process and continue to pursue your passion.” – Jeremy Tong, 27
Interview by: Arman Shah