CATEGORY: ADVENTURERS & EXPLORERS
JANE LEE, SIM YIHUI, JOANNE SOO, LEE PEH GEE, LEE LI HUI, ESTHER TAN
It was five years in the making. In May 2009, after more than 1,700 days of rigorous training and practice climbs, the Singapore Women’s Everest Team made it to the top of the world. Three members of the team – Lee Li Hui (born 1981), Esther Tan (1982), Jane Lee (1984) – made it to the Everest summit in the early hours of 20 May. Two days later, Joanne Soo (1970) and Lee Peh Gee (1976), also summited. The sixth team member, Sim Yihui (1982), had to turn back because of persistent chest pains.
Jane and Yihui were undergraduates at the National University of Singapore in 2004 when they set out to form Singapore’s first all-woman mountaineering team. Thirty women responded to their recruitment drive. After interviews and physical tests, 19 were left. Over the next five years of training, 13 dropped out. The six that remained had diverse backgrounds and experiences but shared the aim of challenging their personal assumptions and boundaries. In May 2009 they showed that the world’s highest mountain was not an insurmountable challenge.
The women of the Singapore Women’s Everest Team were Her World magazine’s “Young Woman Achievers” in 2009.
“The ability to manage fear does not mean the absence of fear. Fear can be a stumbling block or another action driver. Fear has a place in my heart, for to live without fear is to live without a challenge.”
– Joanne Soo
“We’re only around on this planet for 80 years or so. I can’t sit around being afraid I may die from climbing a mountain. I don’t want to become an armchair mountaineer and, at 60, tell myself “Gee, I could have done that.”
– Jane Lee
“It’s not the half-an-hour on the summit that changes you, but the five years of growth that enables you to stand on top of the mountain for half an hour.”
– Lee Peh Gee
“Being in an all-women’s team has its advantages. We were sensitive and open with each other, and communicated a lot with one another during expeditions. … As women, we tend to sympathise and empathise with each other, and issues of pride and ego were never at the forefront of our relationships.”
– Sim Yihui
“In seeing this dream of ours come to fruition, I have also redefined the threshold of impossibility for myself.”
– Lee Li Hui
“The journey towards Everest also kicked me out of my comfort zone, every single day… It pushed me to think beyond just the usual.”
– Esther Tan