Nur Yusrina Ya’akob, 30, Mount Everest Summiter

CLEO Change Makers is a movement celebrating the grit, bravery, and tenacity of young women in Singapore. Do check back here for CLEO Change Makers 2019, which will kick off on Aug 1. 

“It’s always been a dream of mine to represent Singapore for something. I used to be a track runner and I played badminton in school, so I guess that’s where it stemmed from. But I was never a good enough athlete to represent the country, so when I was assembling a climbing team for Mount Everest, we decided to do it for SG50 in 2015.

We started on our training back in 2010. Together with my climbing team mates from Aluminaid Team Singapura Everest 2015, we would train three times a week by climbing staircases and hitting the gym in simulated low-oxygen environments. Finally, after five years of preparation we were ready, but when we went on the actual expedition, the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake hit. The team had no choice but to turn back from Everest Base Camp. While I’m grateful that I wasn’t hurt in the earthquake, I also felt like I had wasted five years of effort. And it’s not like I could just pack my bags and go again – I had to look for funding, sort out my finances, try to take a few months off work again and nobody else from the original team wanted to make a second attempt.

But the thought of summiting Mount Everest bothered me for a really long time. I decided that I didn’t want to give up on my dream, and I resolved to make the attempt one more time. It was very difficult for me to reach this decision – there was the issue of finding the money and time, and some self-doubt crept in. But I knew that if I overcame this obstacle, it might inspire someone else to chase after their own dream, so that really motivated me.

I managed to find two other people to form another climbing team, NTU-NIE Everest Singapore, and embarked on the expedition to Mount Everest again. It was scary, of course – it wasn’t the safest journey to make, you know? The slopes were steep and icy, there were times when we couldn’t continue  due to strong winds, we heard a small avalanche in the dead of night as we were leaving the base camp and we even walked past dead bodies further up. It was a frightening sight, but it also served as a reminder that we should remain alert and focused on the climb. My teammates eventually had to abort the climb due to hypothermia and frostbite, but I pushed to the summit with our two guides, and on May 22, 2017 at 11:55am Singapore time, I reached the top of the highest peak in the world.

I was so emotional when I got up there. I cried because I was so happy to finally stand on the summit of Mount Everest. I felt this surge or appreciation for the Almighty because I was given this incredible chance to be here. I stayed there for about 30 minutes, just taking photos and enjoying the view.”

*This story was first published in August 2017.

The CLEO Change Makers 2017 is presented by SK-II.