Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Graduation Expedition – Mount Nanhu 2014

Going for a trekking expedition to Mount Nanhu (3742m above sea level) in Taiwan seems like a fun thing to do. Indeed it is. But a lot of hard work and preparation is needed before one sets foot on the base of the mountain. Before every expedition, one has to train to ensure that he is physically fit and mentally prepared for the trip.

And our Taiwan Expedition, which we sometimes call our Graduation Expedition, is no exception.

This is our Graduation Expedition because some of us will graduate after the climb, which is was our final expedition with the NYP Adventure Club (ADC). This expedition happened for me in March, a cold season.
We had a total of 16 members, one alumnus and two staff members at the expedition this year. Four months before the expedition, we started training twice a week. This was not easy as we alternated between training with a heavily loaded backpack as well as doing cardio-vascular exercises.

As it got closer to the expedition date, we did backpack training twice a week to condition our bodies to the trekking environment. Each load was at least 18 to 20kg for the girls and 20 to 26kg for the guys. To push ourselves harder during training, we gave ourselves a time limit to complete stair climbing exercises with our loaded backpacks.

While the training was really tough, and challenging as it was during examination period, the attendance was always close to 95%. This was probably one of the main factors why the expedition went so smoothly despite the challenging terrain and weather conditions we faced.
Gear check
Before we left for the trip, we had our gear checked by Mr Wilfred Toh (NYP ADC staff advisor) to ensure that we had the right equipment for the challenging terrain and weather in Taiwan.

We had much to look forward to. Everyone was ready and excited for the next meet-up at Changi airport. However, just a few days before the trip, one of our juniors was struck by dengue fever and was unable to join us. We felt sorry for her as she had been training hard.

Upon reaching the airport at Taiwan, most of us were already reaching out for our phones, looking for a WIFI signal. Some contacted loved ones while some used Twitter and Instagram. Shortly after, we went to the Taipei Main Station for lunch, and some of us sorted out our personal gear. When everyone was ready, we headed to our hostel at Xi Men Ding to settle down for the day.
At the hostel. Pre-expedition briefing by Mr Wilfred 
After resting, we met up to do some food planning. The entire expedition group was broken into three teams to work on our expedition menu and we were given a budget to work on. We headed out to buy our groceries and headed back to the hostel quickly to get our personal gear, team logistics and expedition rations ready. It was a challenging day even before the start of the expedition as we didn’t have much time.

At the start of the base, before the journey begins
The next day, I found out that I wasn’t the only one having difficulties during the trek. Day 1 of trekking was supposed to be quite relaxing as the gradient was relatively flat. Maybe it’s been some time since we last went for an expedition, and we haven’t gotten used to the environment and weather.

Nonetheless, we all made it to our designated checkpoint for the day and settled down for the night in our tents after filling up our tummies.

Meals were just as exciting as those of our previous expeditions. My team had a delicious warm pot of tom yam ramen (like a mini steamboat session!) for dinner with lots of ingredients to keep us full and warm. My group definitely had a filling dinner to replenish our energy for the second day of the trek! During the expedition, we saw lots of fashion disasters. Look at the pictures and you’ll understand.

Breakfast the next day was pancakes with strawberries! The day’s journey was short. This allowed us to slowly acclimatize to the weather and terrain. By early noon, we reached a very nice hut. The weather was great and it was very cozy outside the hut so most of us took out our sleeping mats and bags to lounge outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. It felt like we were having an impromptu picnic. It was really nice.

Soon we had to gather for a briefing on how to use and wear crampons, as well as how to use and keep our ice axes properly as the equipment can be dangerous when not used or handled properly. It was an interesting lesson and most of us were excited as we had a chance to walk on snow or even ice next few days.

Oh, yes, the toilet at the hut was really interesting! It has a slide, and when you do your business, everything will just slide off. Or get stuck halfway.
Training to walk in the snow
We continued ascending on the third day. The weather got progressively colder, and we also encountered a cliff which looked dangerous but we had to get past it. Most of us were also freezing. I had not been doing well for a few days and was lagging behind. Although my teammates were motivating me, my legs just couldn’t go faster; I started panting more. However, I pressed on as I told myself that I could not disappoint them and be a burden to the group. With Mr Wilfred behind me and helping to carry some of my load, we managed to pass the cliff safely.

Moving on, we went downslope! That was my favourite part of the trek as I felt better during the descent. We reached the same hut to settle down, and started boiling water to prepare dinner and warm ourselves.

We stayed in the same hut for three nights as it was our “main base” to complete a few summits, namely, east, west and main peak! With the  help provided by team members, everyone managed to reach all 3 summits safely, including a black dog that we named Xiao Hei (Blackie), which decided to follow us while we were trekking.

The feeling of walking in snow or ice  was very different from walking on normal terrain as ice is often very slippery and you have to use different techniques to walk up and down the slope. It also took more effort to walk on snow, although the loads we carry are easier on our shoulders. We also learnt how to use the ice axe when ascending and descending in snow. This is a crucial piece of equipment because if we slide off the slope while traversing, the ice axe is used to arrest the fall.

We also had lots of fun playing with snow! We slid everywhere, and even built a huge snowman and made a video with it. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Even the staff played too!

As we only went to one peak each day, we had sufficient time to rest and recuperate for the next day. This also meant we had sufficient time to prepare our meals properly nourish the expedition group! Our alumnus, Qing Ying was such a gem, baking chocolate fudge cake for us one day and cooking glutinous rice balls on another!
Who says going for expedition means eating maggie mee and canned food? Sorry, such food does not exist in the ADC menu. In fact, they are prohibited from all expeditions in NYP Adventure Club.
Looks like a vegan burger right?
Nasi Lemak
With good weather and in good company, we headed to another campsite after three nights. The new site had only two little huts that could fit eight people.  So the rest of us had to sleep in tents! Time was on our side as we made it to the campsite early. Thus we got to spend some quiet time alone for the rest of the day.

We were told to find a spot amidst the vast greenery and everyone had to be at least a few metres apart. We had the choice of resting, doing reflection, writing a letter, or anything else we preferred. It was a time for solitude and self-reflection. I chose to write in my diary while enjoying the warm sun. I couldn’t resist but started to tan myself after my “bed” was laid out nicely.

Sometime later, Mr Wilfred blew his whistle, which was a signal for us to get back to the hut area, and the place was filled with laughter again. Dinner for our group that evening was Japanese curry rice!

Time passed so quickly that we were only left with two more days of the expedition!  Midway through the 7th day of trekking, we learnt some survival skills from our Taiwanese guide, and the two Taiwanese students that tagged along with us. We learnt to leave no trace of our campfire. It was quite amazing.

During the campfire, we did not sing campfire songs but instead we had heartwarming sharing sessions. It was nice enjoying the warmth from the fire with everyone, having sharing sessions and also gazing at the stars high in the sky before we turned in for the night.

Sharing session

 It was finally the last day of trek! All of us were hyped up, but we had Mr Wilfred’s words in our minds: not to be complacent but still be careful while we descended. As we headed to the base, we some had solo time again. This time round, I was thinking about my future plans when I get back to Singapore, and what to do after I get my results.

We met at a designated place after reflecting and completed the last stretch of our trek together. When we saw our bus waiting for us, everyone was so happy. We started separating the trash and arranging the backpacks neatly, ready to get onto the bus. We then bid goodbye to Xiao Hei (Blackie) the dog, who had been with us for almost the whole trek.

We went for a scrumptious lunch before heading back to our hostel to wash up and unpack our bags. Then we got ready to “attack” the night market in Taipei! We visited a few places in Taipei and enjoyed the local food, hot springs and the weather before we returned to the hot and humid Singapore.

Twelve days passed so quickly, I wished we could do it all over again. During some parts of the trek, I told myself that I had to cherish the time spent with this group of people. Most of them were from the same year as me, and this trip definitely added more  memories to the ones from the first year we joined  NYP Adventure Club.

I knew that when we return to Singapore, everyone would have their own commitments, be it serving the nation, pursuing studies, or starting their working life. These will keep all of us busy, but I am sure that we will still be meeting up, especially for ADC’s activities.

My entire poly life was centered around ADC. In fact, I probably spent less time with my own classmates. But the commitment given to ADC was worth it and the things I learnt will never be forgotten, because NYP-ADC is more than just a CCA to me.

By Lee Jia Yan, President of ADC Club 2013/2014 

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