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  • Nina Salina Bte Suandi

Conquering the Everest

Note: This article was originally published in the 4th issue of ELEVEN Magazine and contains sponsored content. Coming from a family of outdoor enthusiasts, it is not surprising that Muhd Hilwan bin Muhd Idrus has developed a love for the outdoors since a tender age. His love for the outdoors has manifested in many forms such as rock climbing and hiking, among others. Despite bagging many accomplishments, from completing 22 days of Technical Mountaineering Course solo at Mount Shitidar in the Indian Himalaya, Kullu Valley, to canyoning in the freezing cold canyons at the Swiss Alps, Hilwan’s thirst for challenges is far from being satiated. He is currently preparing for his greatest hurdle thus far- climbing Mount Everest, which would be realized in 2015 together with his team, ‘Team Singapura Everest’. Taking inspiration from Singapore’s early beginnings and his mother, who is his own personal inspiration, Hilwan believes that in the end, it is not merely about conquering Everest, it is about conquering himself.

What are the preparations for your journey?

Mental and physical preparedness are the first two things to think about. We prepare physically by training three times a week doing staircase climbs 40 storeys for five sets with 18 kilogram load. Mental preparedness is achieved by being mentally prepared for the conditions there.

To know and to accept that there would not be proper sanitation, that we will be camping out for a full 27 days in tents, that we will not get proper food, that temperatures can drop to -20 degree Celsius or below, that bad weather may cause our expedition to fail and that I may not return from the expedition. To know and to accept all these conditions are part of mental preparedness. Being prepared financially is also very important. At the moment I work fulltime in TBWA, an international advertising agency and I diligently set aside a sum of money from my salary to finance my climbs.

To prepare spiritually, I need to let go of everything that I am attached to here in Singapore and go with a peace of mind; to seek forgiveness from my parents and to prepare some sort of a will in case I do not come back.

Were there any challenges that occurred during your mountain trips?

I remembered when we had to trek up to Mera Peak (6,467m) and we left high camp (6000m) at about 2 a.m. and the winds were howling and the temperature was so cold that icicles formed under my nose. We had to trek in that condition for 6 hours to reach the summit. I passed out and fainted less than half way up because of lack of oxygen. There was just not enough air up there and every inch of your body is fighting to absorb any amount of oxygen there is in the air. When I passed out, my team stopped to rest while they tried to wake me up and get me rested. 10 minutes later, we were up and continue walking through 50cm deep snow for the next three hours before reaching the summit. Eventually whatever challenges that comes your way, you just have to stop and take a breather before taking one step at a time and punching right through your own limits. You will be climbing the first two hours with your body and the remaining four hours with your mind. This is just one of our challenges that we had on the mountains.

How do you fulfil your daily obligations as a Muslim on the mountains?

As best as I could, I will solat standing up. But if it is too cold, I have to do my solat in my sleeping bag. That is the only way that I can do it without freezing. I will try to take wudhu with water if the water is not too freezing, but if it is, then I will do tayammum on rocks or even on the inner walls of my tent. I would say that it was a privilege for me to do my solat in such harsh conditions. It is only then that you would treasure the ni’mah of taking wudhu or of solat standing up in a warm room. Being able to do my solat surrounded by all the beautiful creations makes me feel very small and insignificant. When I recited Surah Al-Imran ayat 190 while I was hiking up the mountains, I felt really humbled as I see all the mountains around me. With regards to food, the guides cooked mostly vegetarian dishes for us and they brought canned halal meat that they bought from Kathmandu town.

What do you hope to achieve by going through this journey?

I hope to firstly be a better Muslim, to humble myself and see Allah’s greatness and His magnificent creations. I hope to share these experiences with those who see the outdoors as a platform to bring oneself closer to the deen. It had been a beautiful journey for me and I hope more people can see what I saw and experience what I have experienced, either through videos or photos. Everyone has their own ‘Everest’ to conquer - an obstacle that they cannot seem to overcome. I never thought that I could do what I did, but I did it anyway. In the end, it is not the mountain that you have conquered, it is yourself.

How does this journey help you to better prepare for subsequent journeys in your life?

After the expedition to Nepal and experiencing some near death, some frost bite and other near death experience, I realised that what we are going through here is incomparable with that. Suddenly everything here becomes easy. As long as it does not require me to walk 10 hours in 50 cm snow, and facing -20 Celsius temperature, nearly falling off from a cliff, losing a limb due to frost bite, then it is not that bad after all.

Team Singapura Everest would like to thank their sponsor Onsight Climbing Gym, for their support and provision of training grounds. They are currently still looking for sponsors to come on-board.

This article has been edited for the online platform.


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