WALKING ON HIGH

Written by root. Posted in BEST OF BRUNEI

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Published on November 07, 2016 with No Comments

The Bruneians that made it to the Himalayas.

Words Jacqueline Wong
Images Shukri Zain

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There are many ways to discover the ancient kingdom of Nepal. Perhaps the most exhilarating and memorable manner is trekking some of its iconic mountains. For Shukri Zain, trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp, lying 4,120m above sea level, was an easy choice. The harder decision was, in fact, getting himself ready and fit – both physically and mentally – for the journey ahead.

Shukri’s decision to trek Annapurna came at the heels of a serendipitous meeting with Ravichandran Tharumalingam, the first Malaysian to summit the epic Mount Everest solo. In Malaysia then to attend a mountaineering course conducted by Ravichandran (or Ravi, for short), Shukri found himself taking on the idea of Annapurna when Ravi suggested he took a team of Bruneians together with him.

Upon returning to Brunei, Shukri developed the thought further and then just as quickly, promoted the idea on his Facebook page. The response was quite unexpected. Many reached out to him with interest – some out of curiosity. After much deliberation and vetting, the plan whittled down to a party of five, with him included.

The beauty of the Annapurna Base Camp Trek lies in the fact that very few of the Himalayan treks combine as diverse a landscape as it. The trek also lets one reach the base of 7,000 and 8,000-metre peaks in a relatively short time. Trekkers go past trails with views of terraced rice paddies, lush rhododendron forests, thunderous gorges that are threateningly beautiful, quaint Gurung villages that defy development, and spectacular and majestic peaks that change colours under sun and shadow.

The group, consisting of Shukri Zain (Expedition Leader), Reduan Hussin, Romie K, Pg Sulaiman Pg Metali and Zulamri Emran, set their target to trek in May, springtime in Nepal, and one of the better seasons to trek. However, the weather took an unexpected turn for the worse when the group was there, with heavy rain and thunderstorm, turning the trails into slippery mud paths and challenging them even further. But thanks to their three-month training preparation, under the watchful eye of Ravi, that included a basic mountaineering course and training at Tasek Lama and Shahbandar, these all but prepared them to face these new challenges.

The 14-day trekking expedition to Annapurna Base Camp (4,130m) was a superb experience for the Brunei Mountaineer Team. They reached the base camp on the sixth day, a day ahead of their original schedule. Their level of fitness and endurance were highly praised by Ravi.

On 12 May, the team caught the sunset at Annapurna Base Camp. Then on 13 May, the team managed to catch the breathtaking view of the sunrise. With time to spare, they headed to Mount Himchuli (6,441m) as an alpine mountaineer special training exercise and made it up to 6,000 metres before bad weather hampered their summit. However, despite the bad weather it was an exhilarating and rare experience for any team to hit the Annapurna Base Camp twice within 24 hours!

Documenting the climb was important for Shukri as a way of encouraging the rest of his countrymen to follow. As he sets his eyes on the next target – the Everest Base Camp in 2017 – he is confident that more will follow in his footsteps. For now, it’s back to training and getting ready to strike off one more trekking from his bucket list.

Shukri will attempt his first solo climb to the Everest Base Camp in November.

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