Hongkonger, 19, seeks to be youngest person from city to climb Mount Everest
Trek just one stopover for ambitious outdoorsman who plans to scale seven highest continental summits plus North and South Poles within the year
If all goes to plan, 19-year-old Benjamin Chan will conquer Earth’s tallest mountain come early May and tick an item off his bucket list.
The Hongkonger is attempting to make history by becoming the city’s youngest person ever to scale Mount Everest – 8,848 metres in height and the highest above sea level in the world.
But the trek will be a mere stopover in a more ambitious goal: to become the youngest person in the world to reach the seven highest summits on all seven continents plus the North and South Poles, a feat known as the Explorers Grand Slam.
He aims to complete everything within the year.
“My sponsor told me this was the craziest, stupidest idea ever,” Chan told the Post from Kathmandu, as he prepared to journey to Nepal’s Lobuche, en route to Everest Base Camp, where he will prepare for the most nerve-racking climb of his life. “Then they told me they just had to support me.”
The idea came to him just a year ago, after graduating from secondary school.
“I left high school and wanted to do something that I would remember for the rest of my life,” the young outdoorsman and former King George V School pupil said. “I also wanted to inspire people to get outside and see how beautiful the world is. I want to show Hongkongers that anything is possible.”
He has raised money for his trips by tutoring and setting up campaigns via GoFundMe. Earlier this year, his school in Ho Man Tin launched a fundraising effort called Everthon. After scouring for gear sponsorship, Chan recently managed to secure backing from Hong Kong outdoor brand Re:echo.
“I annoyed a lot of people, spammed everyone on Facebook ... and visited companies,” he recalled of the funding drives. “In the end, it was all about perseverance,” he said.
Only 61 people have completed the Explorers Grand Slam. The current record-holder for youngest climber is Marin Minamiya of Japan, who completed the feat last April at the age of 20. Minamiya spent several of her adolescent years in Hong Kong.
Inspired by Minamiya’s achievement, Chan has already finished two of the continental summits: Aconcagua in South America’s Andes and Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
That leaves Everest, Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, Denali in Alaska, Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, and 111km skiing trips at both the North Pole and South Pole.
Chan discovered a love of hiking, mountaineering and the outdoors after joining the scouts when he was 13. He acknowledged the possibility that he would not even make it off Everest alive, as at least 290 climbers have died on its treacherous passes over the decades.
He will have to traverse Everest’s deep crevasses, which can only be crossed by ladder, and brave the risks of avalanches and earthquakes. Nepal sits on the boundary of two massive tectonic plates and suffered a devastating quake in 2015.
“I guess my parents are just as crazy as me for allowing me to do this,” he said. “When I told my dad, he sort of just chuckled and said ‘good, you’ll have lived a short but sweet life’. I guess they knew I had already made up my mind. They support me.”
Chan is also entering a video competition, and vowed if he succeeded on Everest to donate all proceeds to a Nepalese charity working with the impoverished and human trafficking victims.