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Pushing the Limits

Like any typical teenager, Aahana and Aarna are always looking out for the next challenge and they recently found it during a trek to the base camp at Mount Everest. After eight gruelling days of trekking over 65 kilometres at an altitude of 5364m, they successfully reached the Everest base camp and waved the Tanglin Trust Flag euphorically. What inspired them to take on this challenge?

Aarna: My dad did it in 2015 with some of his colleagues and when he returned, he promised me that he would take me. That was when I was about 8 years old. Now that I’m old enough, I decided to go with my dad and invited Aahana along because we are family friends. All in all, there were about eight people in the group.

Aahana: I went because this was something on my mom’s bucket list and I wanted to experience it with her. I also felt that this opportunity would be a good experience for me as it will be useful for university applications in the future. I wanted to create memories with people I love such as my mom and others who had come on the trip.

How did you prepare for it?

Aarna: The preparations started around six months ago and a lot of it was exercising and building up our stamina. There were a lot of outdoor walks in our hiking shoes because we had to break into them. We also did a lot of walking in the gym so we can work on our lower body and shoulders because we were going to be carrying around 5kg worth of weight. I myself made it a point to run and weight-lift in order to train my muscles. Aahana did a lot of swimming.

Aahana: Yes, swimming has helped with my lung capacity so it was easier for me to breathe, especially in high altitudes. I also did a lot of cardio activities like incline walking on the treadmill. We trained every day and there was definitely a lot of stair-climbing involved. It wasn’t particularly hard for me because I’m quite active but I know the adults in our group like my mom struggled a little due to the intense cold. 

Any memorable moments?

Aarna: The best part for me was the memory I made with my family and the scenery was absolutely beautiful like they were straight out of Pinterest. It was like nothing I had ever seen before and it made the entire experience memorable. I felt really happy that I had managed to reach this high in eight days, which to me was pretty impressive. 

Aahana: It was the same for me. I really enjoyed the views and the happiness I felt when we reached the base camp was unforgettable. I also enjoyed the amount of time I got to spend with my mom as I got to experience something unforgettable with her. My favourite moment in particular was the trek from dingbouche to dengbouche. I liked this trek as I felt it was a very easy incline for me while others thought it was steep. I felt proud knowing I would go back to school and share the experience and memories of the trek with my friends.

How about obstacles or challenges? 

Aarna: Altitude has always been a huge problem for me because it made me feel nauseous. I felt like I was being suffocated and I couldn’t breathe. I often felt faint and there was a time when I almost turned back but I knew that I shouldn’t. The lodgings we stayed at weren’t very well insulated as well, so it was extremely cold. Putting on more layers of clothes kept me warm but they also compressed my chest and made it difficult to breathe. The adults in our group took Diamox for their altitude sickness but Aahana and I decided not to take it because we weren’t sure if it’d help. 

We also had to sleep in sleeping bags and it was often not warm enough. We had to use hot water bottles but we often woke up with frozen fingers. The food wasn’t that nice either. Aahana’s mom even got food poisoning so that was a hurdle we had to get past. As we trekked up, many people in the group also suffered from headaches so we had to take medicine for that as well.

Aahana: I think it’s mainly the altitude for us. I felt really nauseous and sick. My mom, on the other hand, felt fine although she felt very cold due to the windy conditions, and that slowed her down a little because she had to wear extra layers. Like Aarna, I also felt that the jacket was making me feel extremely uncomfortable, especially during the last three hours of the trek when the altitude really was a struggle for everyone. Even at night in the sleeping bag, I often felt claustrophobic due to the 4-5 layers I had to wear at night to keep myself warm. I often wore two fleeces, an inner and a base layer, and when we went outside I wore my down jacket on top of all these layers.

Why do you think such an experience is beneficial for students like you?

Aarna: I think that such experiences are beneficial because I’m still young and it’s a great learning experience that takes us out of our comfort zones and allows us to see how far our bodies can be stretched physically. It’s also great for my portfolio when I apply to schools that are looking for extraordinary students, plus it was such a character-building experience for me. 

Aahana: It was a good challenge for me because I wasn’t really into trekking or hiking before. Like Aarna, I believe it will make a good addition to my university application! Such opportunities give me an opportunity to explore and get out of my comfort zone. I discovered that the trek itself was not such a struggle for me, it was the living conditions we were trekking to at the end of the day. 

What are your future plans after this?

Aarna: Maybe when I’m a little older, I want to try trekking to the summit with Aahana or maybe we may try to trek up Annapurna.

Aahana: Yeah, because we’ve already done the base camp so trekking to the summit will be really testing our limits. 

Any advice for your peers who want to attempt something similar? 

Aarna: It may sound extremely cheesy but a lot of us wanted to give up at the end because we saw the camp in the distance. We could have given up and taken a helicopter back to comfort but the amount of satisfaction you will get is totally worth the effort you put in; like the light at the end of a tunnel.

Aahana: I agree. Don't give up. Try your best and remember that you can do it because if you believe that you can't, then you can't. One thing I always thought about to help me was that with every step I take, I get one step closer to my final destination. Without this motto, I would have never believed in myself to be able to walk so many hours during the day.

  • Student Achievement
  • Trekking

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