Lofty ambitions drive quartet up rock face

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 January, 2004, 12:00am

Four of Hong Kong's best mountaineers yesterday set their sights on the familiar slopes of Lion Rock in a charity climb to raise funds to help their peers reach more adventurous heights.

Lai Chi-wai, Chu Ka-wai, Angel Liu Hiu-ying and Elaine Choi Shun-yuk smashed their target time for scaling the Golden Wall, a 60-metre cliff face at the top of the landmark rock north of Kowloon City as they reached the summit in just 42 minutes, easily beating a previous practice run.

They estimated they would raise $30,000 for the Hong Kong Mountaineering Athlete's Development Fund. The faster they climbed, the more money they would raise.

Donations, topped up by by skincare company Kiehl's, will give local climbers the opportunity to compete and climb overseas. Donations are still being collected until the end of the month.

Waiting at the top was Chung Kin-man, founder of the fund he set up in October and the first Hong Kong mountaineer to scale the highest peaks on all seven continents.

'After I returned from climbing Mount Everest [in May last year] I gave a lot of talks and used the money I earned to start the fund,' he said. 'Rock climbing is still not a recognised sport. It's hard for climbers to find sponsors or funding to trek or climb overseas. We hope this fund can help climbers and help us get more support from sponsors and the government.'

Despite trekking for an hour to reach the top of Lion Rock before abseiling down the cliff to start the climb, the two male climbers, Lai and Chu, still managed to scale the Golden Wall in just 25 minutes as their teammates belayed them from the bottom. Liu and Choi then finished the climb up the vertical face in just 17 minutes.

Elated from the thrill of the climb, 20-year-old Chu said the support of onlookers helped drive him upwards, while 21-year-old Chu said the practice run last week had made the climb easier.

The most practical response, however, came from Choi, 35. 'It's simple. It was so hot. I was burning up. I just wanted to get it over with as fast as possible,' he said.

Faced with efforts of the four climbers, 49-year-old Chung said that a new wave of Hong Kong climbers was taking over. 'They are the new generation. They have better skills, better equipment and are much faster.'