Mountaineering

Hong Kong teacher Ada Tsang aims to conquer both Everest and Lhotse in double Himalayan feat

Thwarted by tragic avalanche last year, Ada Tsang now hopes to become city's first woman to climb Mount Everest - before scaling Lhotse

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 January, 2015, 5:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 January, 2015, 5:49am

A schoolteacher who failed to conquer the world's highest peak last year due to a deadly avalanche will set out again to tackle Mount Everest in April.

But this time Ada Tsang Yin-hung is eyeing an even bigger prize: to reach the top of the highest and the fourth-highest mountains within 30 hours.

If Tsang succeeds in her challenge, she will become the first Hong Kong woman to conquer the 8,848-metre Everest. If she scales the 8,516-metre Lhotse mountain, she will also be the first Chinese mountaineer to achieve the feat.

"Climbing Mount Everest is my goal," says Tsang, a life education teacher at CUHKFAA Chan Chun Ha Secondary School in Ma On Shan. "I told my students about this goal last year and I want to show them that when you decide to do something, you need to be responsible for your decision."

Tsang was forced to abort her trek last year after an avalanche near the Everest base camp - at an altitude of 5,364 metres - killed 16 Nepalese Sherpa guides in April. She was already in Nepal when the tragedy happened, and she returned to Hong Kong after Sherpas suspended all mountain expeditions.

The avalanche was triggered by a large block of ice breaking off the hanging glaciers. Tsang says there is still a crack on the remaining glaciers, making it possible that another block of ice could fall off.

"This is my biggest concern this year," she says. "The route on the southern slope is very well-maintained by the Sherpas every year but an avalanche is the greatest risk because it's unpredictable."

Tsang has set herself a daunting task in tackling two mountains over 8,000 metres high in one go. Her plan is to reach the summit of Everest, descend to the base camp and then take another route from there to the top of Lhotse.

"Climbing Everest won't be much of a problem," says Tsang. "The biggest uncertainty is if I will still have enough strength for Lhotse. The base camp is also at a very high altitude, so I can't recover there. My strength will only keep decreasing. The challenge is unimaginable."

To build up her strength, Tsang spent last summer climbing sheer rock faces at more than 5,000 metres and icy mountains reaching up to 6,000 metres high in Sichuan province. While others took three days to scale these demanding peaks, she climbed them in nine hours.

As part of her preparations, Tsang also took part in various mountaineering or orientation competitions, such as the HK168, which requires people to cover 168 km with an accumulated elevation gain of over 6,700 metres within 38 hours; and the HK Top 10, a race covering the 10 highest mountains in Hong Kong.

Tsang also competed in a race that involved a 10km mini-marathon, orienteering and a 45km mountain foot race in one day.

"People may not know this but Hong Kong's mountain trails are internationally known to be challenging, because there are many ups and downs," she says.

After last year's tragic avalanche, the Nepalese government decided to raise the life insurance and other benefits for Sherpas, which would cost each expedition group up to US$20,000. Tsang says.

This is on top of a permit to climb Mount Everest of US$11,000 per climber. The government also charges each climber another US$12,000 for reaching the peaks of Everest and Lhotse, she adds.

Tsang says she is now raising money to cover her costs, which will amount to HK$500,000.

She will fly to Nepal on April 1 to join her all-woman team, which includes four mainlanders. The team is China's first all-female Everest expedition team.

They will set off for the base camp on April 15 and should reach it around May 8.

There the team will wait for favourable weather and, if all goes to plan, they will reach the summit on May 19.

"My students are pretty relaxed about this," she says. "They often go mountain running with me and they see me joining all the competitions.

"I think they wouldn't even be surprised if I landed on the moon one day."