Motivated by mountains

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2008, 12:00am

Rock climbing is an arduous and risky sport in most people's eyes but it's a passion for Chung Kin-man - mountains are his motivation.

Before Chung achieved the feat, only five people had climbed the highest mountains on each of the world's seven continents, and reached both the North and South Poles, and none were Chinese.

The accomplished mountaineer has spent more than 30 years scaling Alpine peaks and has faced death on more than one occasion.

Chung nearly fell into a crevasse on his trek to the North Pole and narrowly avoided another in a glacier on Mount Everest.

Then he almost lost his left ear due to frostbite on Mont Blanc in the Alps.

On a different venture, a set of oxygen tanks rolled off a cliff and hit his head, and he luckily escaped an avalanche on another trek.

'There are people who say climbing mountains is dangerous. But I think it's about as risky as driving a car. There are so many unexpected things in life that we cannot worry too much,' Chung says.

'According to my philosophy, 'mountain wants you, mountain takes you'. If your time has come, you will not be able to escape no matter how many precautions you take.'

The mountaineer clearly thinks carefully before making a move. He has stayed at the top of his game because he views success as getting back down the mountain safely after reaching the summit.

'I make full preparations and never take risks. I will only proceed if I know that I can make it. Otherwise, I will not go ahead,' he says.

Chung's principal goal was to conquer Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

He had climbed the tallest peaks on six continents but had failed four times in the Himalayas.

On his first attempt in 1992, he had to turn back at 6,000 metres when his strength failed. In 1999, he missed out because of a debilitating stomach infection.

In 2000, his dream was shattered by a snowstorm and, on his fourth attempt in 2002, he had to give up at 7,000m after facing overwhelming psychological pressure.

Most people would admit defeat after four failed attempts but Chung is different.

He learned from his experiences, and on his fifth attempt, in May 2003, he reached the summit.

'It takes time to excel at everything,' Chung says. 'You need to put in the effort; you cannot just rely on luck. That's the lesson I've learned from my expeditions.'