Last month I spent some time to think about my life and write down some plans. Out of the many things I wrote down, one of the personal goals under ‘hobbies/interests’ was to climb Mt Kinabalu by June next year. I shared this plan with some friends, and they were excited and wanted to do it together. We decided to go on this adventure next February around the Chinese New Year period, and even talked about the physical training we would do to prepare for the climb.
Then, last week an earthquake struck in Sabah (where Mt Kinabalu is) and resulted in the deaths of several children and teachers who were on a school trip to scale the mountain. Many of them were on the via ferrata route when the earthquake happened, a highly steep route with little vegetation but made safe due to steel cables pegged into the rock wall. This was the same route I was planning to climb as it provided a unique experience of mountain climbing (not every mountain is via ferrata certified). After the news was released, there was an outpouring of comments on social media in Singapore, and everyone had something to say about it. I read of many parents questioning why young children were climbing such dangerous mountains, of why the school would propose something preposterous like that. Some said that as a parent they would never have allowed their child to go on such a trip. I wondered if perhaps they were right; were twelve year olds too young to attempt it? Also, I must admit that the accident made me have second thoughts. It put a little fear in my heart that maybe I should reconsider, that perhaps it was reckless of me to want to climb the mountain. Maybe I should just get these silly thoughts of wanting another ‘adventurous expedition’ out of my head.
(photos not mine)
Then I read this blog, and it just put things back into perspective. (Click on title to read entire article)
The rocks have done enough damage. Don’t allow it to further kill the spirit of adventure and discovery in our youths.
The last thing we should do is to shrink back and start bubble-wrapping our kids.
We must not succumb to fear and start playing safe.
We must not over-react and over-compensate, allowing Mount Kinabalu to cast a looming shadow over our next generation. Let the avalanche come to a halt at the foot of the mountain. Don’t allow the fear to cascade down into the hearts and minds of our youths.
It was a totally unexpected accident. Even five-year-olds have climbed the mountain before; twelve is not too young. If someone dies in a car accident, am I not going to sit in a car then? If people die after running, am I not going to exercise then?
Reason and logic reigned again. Of course it doesn’t mean that I am going to be reckless and take unnecessary risks, but I shouldn’t let fear dictate my life. And the response to this tragedy is not to start to bubble wrap ourselves against any possible harm, but to improve and see how we can prevent such tragedies from happening again (I’m not just referring to the earthquake but to any accidents in general). That’s how we don’t let those lives go in vain. Let’s go on to make things better, to live even better. That’s how we honor their memory, their sense of adventure, their courage, and their selflessness in their last moments. People say your true self comes out when you face death. If so, I think those teachers and children are admirable and we should live on in honor of their memory.
Chantal Phuay, twelve-year-old: “We see and comfort each other. One day, I’ll go to Mount Kinabalu and try it again just to ensure that the TKPS spirit continues.”
That’s the spirit!