Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mountain to Climb, by David Lim

David Lim tells of the 1998 Singapore Mount Everest Expedition and his subsequent neurological syndrome in Mountain to Climb: The Quest for Everest and Beyond. As leader of the expedition, Lim had to build a high-altitude mountaineering community nearly from scratch, as before he began planning the climb in 1994, almost no one from Singapore had climbed a mountain over 6000 meters. Over the intervening years, he would take groups of climbers on successively higher and more technical climbs, including Panch Himchuli and Cho Oyu, to build an experience base from which to build an Everest team. He narrates their experiences on each of the expeditions with a level-headed and analytical style that I was not expecting after having read expedition member Khoo Swee Chiow's Journeys to the Ends of the Earth. Chiow actually gets quite a bit of criticism from Lim for his self-centered actions during most of the climbs, though Lim admits that Chiow has remarkable endurance during the actual climbing. The Singaporeans face an uphill battle, both geographically and logistically, as the highest point in Singapore is a hill and their fundraising is spotty, especially locally, and especially compared to the Malaysians, who climb Everest in 1997 with a giant budget paid for by the government.

The climb goes well, by Everest standards. They climb via the South Col from Nepal during the pre-monsoon season, alongside a number of other well-known expeditions and climbers, including Tom Whittaker's outfit (see his Higher Purpose), Bear Grylls (Facing Up), Ochoa Inaki (Bajo los cielos de Asia), and Wally Berg's National Geographic expedition (that would measure Everest as 29,035 feet high using a fancy GPS beacon). They face much of the politics of Everest, including negotiations over the Icefall, route stringing, weather reports, and oxygen supply issues, but manage to stay out of the worst of the disputes (though maintaining more of a presence than the Iranians). Bruce Niven, of the 1976 British/Nepalese Army expedition (see Fleming and Faux's Soldiers on Everest), acts as Base Camp manager for the Everest climb and several of the others. Their first attempt is foiled by a lack of rope to string the traverse between the South Summit and the Hillary Step, showing their experience level. They return for another climb, placing two Singaporean climbers on top. They are greeted back home with controversy over the nationality of the summit climbers, as they are permanent residents, rather than citizens (as are 25 percent of all Singaporeans).

Soon after his return, Lim is struck by Guillain-Barre Syndrome, rendering him effectively paralyzed. His recovery is long and painful, reminding me a bit of Ahluwalia's Higher than Everest. Lim writes about his hospitalization and rehabilitation in a coda to the climb, discussing his future goals to climb again and making plain the frightening and painful treatments he suffers through to reclaim his life. His subsequent book, Against Giants, discusses his recovery in greater detail and documents his return to the mountains, including attempts on Cho Oyu and the North Ridge of Everest.


  1. I just wanna say thank you for sharing the content and wish you all the best for your website and your whole team.


  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.