Former pupils of first Hong Kong woman to summit Mount Everest recall inspiring teacher who never quits

They describe someone who challenged them to achieve even before she made history

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 May, 2017, 9:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 8:42am

From biking 2,000 kilometres across the Tibetan plateau to trekking Hong Kong’s hilly terrain, school teacher Ada Tsang Yin-hung had embarked on countless journeys to teach her pupils life lessons that went beyond the four walls of the classroom.

Former pupils recalled how Tsang had begun to inspire them to achieve lifelong goals long before she went down in history as Hong Kong’s first woman to conquer the world’s highest peak on Sunday.

Tommy Ng Chun-lun, who was one of the first batch of pupils Tsang taught in 2000 at CUHKFAA Chan Chun Ha Secondary School, said she was the main reason he was able to finish biking 2,000 kilometres across the Tibetan plateau in 2008.

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“We were in our early 20s at the time and the high altitude and scorching sun were really hard to adapt to,” he recalled. “We thought about all these other alternatives. We wanted to give up so badly.”

“I remember her telling us that we’d made this decision to bike 2,000 kilometres together so we needed to finish this together. We couldn’t just give up so easily.”

Catharine Leung, another former pupil, said Tsang made up her mind to scale the 8,848-metre summit after seeing pupils become frustrated with seemingly impossible goals.

A lot of people asked her if she wanted to give up, but the thought never once crossed her mind
Catharine Leung, former pupil of Ada Tsang

“There were pupils who had dreams of becoming lawyers but they were failing in English,” Leung said. “She was telling her students to chase after their dreams, but she didn’t want to just talk the talk – she wanted to walk the talk.”

Leung said she was overjoyed upon hearing Tsang’s history-making news, especially as she was able to witness her seven-year journey of hardships and training.

Tsang made her first attempt in 2014 but was forced to abandon her trek after an avalanche near the base camp killed 16 Nepali Sherpa guides, leading to the suspension of all expeditions that season.

The next year, the former life education teacher was caught up in an avalanche triggered by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that killed 17 climbers. Tsang suffered a fractured skull and multiple serious injuries.

“She had lost two litres of blood from her injuries in that last attempt,” Leung said. “A lot of people asked her if she wanted to give up, but the thought never once crossed her mind. She said: ‘As long as my body can handle it, I will try to do it.”

Tsang made it to the mountain’s second camp, at least 6,000 metres above sea level, from the summit on Monday with fellow Hongkonger Elton Ng, a physiotherapist, and Zhang Jianguo, an amateur mountaineer from Jiangsu province.

They were on track to reach the base camp at 5,300 metres by Tuesday.

Tsang and Ng are among 10 Hongkongers to have made it to the top.

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Ng said he dreamed of seeing the view from the top of Everest himself ever since he saw a picture of the mountain at the space museum when he was a teenager.

His colleague, Horlick Ho, said she was proud that he had achieved his lifelong dream.

“I couldn’t stop crying once I heard the news,” Ho said. “It was his dream to climb Mount Everest for over 20 years. Now he’s proved to himself that he could finally make it.”

“We’re going to celebrate with a big dinner. He said he missed Hong Kong food.”