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Turning back 150m from the summit of Mount Everest

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Singapore mountain explorer, Jeremy Tong, tells us why he turned back 1.5 hours away from the summit.

My dream to climb Mount Everest started when I was 14 years old.

It all came about when my uncle was struck by Stage 3 nose cancer in 2005. He survived the cancer and lived his life to the ultimate fullest. He inspired me to make full use of life's opportunities.

Sports science and management graduate Jeremy Tong's 3rd Mount Ophir climb in Malaysia.

When I summited the Lenin Peak in Kyrgyzstan in 2015, I decided to take two years to plan for Everest.

After graduating from Nanyang Technological University in 2016, I embarked on the ultimate journey to climb Mount Everest, and reached the South Summit at 8,700m.

I started training and looking for sponsors in early 2016 and the training leading up to Everest involved stairs training with a 17kg bag pack and running up to 21km for endurance.

Training at Bukit Timah.

With the backing of Prima Taste, National Youth Council, NSSL Global, Kyden Property, Osports and Lurve, I was on my way to climb Mount Everest in 2017, to raise $13,000 for the Singapore Cancer Society.

On Mar 26, I left Singapore and flew to Kathmandu to embark on my long journey.

A grand send-off at Changi Airport.

I started climbing towards Everest Base Camp (EBC) on Mar 29. The trek to base camp took around nine days.

At Namche Bazaar (3,500m), I suffered my first bout of diarrhoea, where I was sick for four days.

Before Everest, I had never suffered from diarrhoea in the mountains, and this totally caught me off guard. I felt a bit disappointed that my first setback would actually be this early in my 2.5 months expedition.

From Camp 1 to Camp 2 on Mount Everest.

After reaching EBC, we had a do a couple of rotations up Mount Everest, one of which was to go as high as possible to Camp 3 at 7,000m before getting ready for the summit push.

We started our first rotation on Apr 26, and I managed to go all the way to Camp 2 after two days.

However, after reaching Camp 2, I started to fall really sick with cold legs and I had to be evacuated to Kathmandu.

Resting on Camp 2 before heading up to Camp 3, Camp 4 and summit.

We used ladders to cross huge crevasses, which are common on Mount Everest.

One of the most difficult decisions I had to make was deciding if I should return to the base camp to try to continue my expedition again.

If I had decided to go up again, there was a high possibility that I would get sick again, and the insurance and doctors would not cover me this time.

Dangerous snow bridges in the Khumbu icefall.

Personally, I felt scared because I would have to go all the way up to summit this time, and I would enter into the infamous Death Zone, where oxygen would be at a third of the sea level.

In the Death Zone (8,000m) at Camp 4.

After returning to EBC, I came back with a stronger mind and decided to push for a summit push. I was feeling extremely good on this next attempt and we then decided to continue to the summit of Mount Everest on the night of May 21.

We left at 9pm, and I was feeling very strong. After climbing for seven hours – and passing by several dead bodies on the way up – I finally reached the south summit at 4am in the morning.

However, it was at this point that I started to feel that my feet were feeling extremely cold. It was then I had to make the toughest decision of my life.

I had to turn back just 1.5 hours away from my life dream. I was just 150m from the summit of Mount Everest!

With my sponsor, Prima Taste, above the balcony at 8,600m.

I have turned back from summits before, in fact, quite a number of times. In the 40 mountains that I have climbed, I have had about 33 summits only.

But this time, it was different. I felt that I was ready to turn back anytime. 

The conditions were perfect for the summit, but the mountain had decided that I would not be on its summit this time around.

The view of the summit from Camp 4.

At first, I felt disappointed with myself because I had put in more than 1.5 years of planning, training, and getting sponsorships to get myself at that very spot.

However, I knew that it was the best decision as turning back is always a good decision. In my years of climbing, I learnt that dying or losing toes for a mountain is never worth it.

With my sherpa, Datuk Bhote, in the tent at Camp 4 after the summit attempt.

As I made my way down, I knew that I had to return to achieve my dream as I had worked so hard for it.

After returning from Everest, I have learnt to treasure my love ones and life even more. In fact, I have been busy planning my wedding in September and changed my job.

I'm currently managing the sales and marketing at Ground Up Pte Ltd, giving back to younger climbers. By creating programmes and organising fun climbs, more people can try their hands at sport climbing in Singapore.

At the same time, I'm also in midst of launching my own company called JTrace Adventure, focusing on adventure consultation, coaching people to summit mountains, trips around the globe and also corporate motivational speaking engagements.

Walk The Talk 2017 with Singapore Cancer Society and Yishun Town Secondary School students.

My next expedition is called YENS (Youngest Everest North Summit). I hope to be the youngest Singaporean who will attempt to scale Mount Everest via the North side (Tibet), while raising funds for a chosen beneficiary.

I'm also aiming to be the first Chinese Muslim man in the world to summit Mount Everest.

Looking forward, I intend to continue my climbing career by completing the seven summits and other adventure races like the Gobi March.

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