Mountaineer says he's at a peak as he nears 50

Mountaineer says he's at a peak as he nears 50
Khoo Swee Chiow, a Singaporean mountaineer who climbed Makalu in Nepal on May 19. He has a wife, Wee Leng, 46, a son Khoo Sheng Feng,11 and a daughter Khoo Sheng En, 8.

On the morning of May 23, Singaporean adventurer and mountaineer Khoo Swee Chiow sent the press a terse e-mail. It read: "(I) reached the summit of Makalu 8,463m on 19 May, 6.45am Nepal time. This expedition was very long and tough. One of (my) team members died..."

Behind the brief message lay a reminder. Mr Khoo, 49, who conquered Mount Everest in 1998, dices with death every time he climbs.

This time, 39-year-old Yannick Gagneret did not make it down the mountain, the fifth peak above 8,000m (there are 14 in all) that Mr Khoo has climbed.

The Frenchman, whom Mr Khoo met last year, succumbed to altitude sickness after rejecting advice to descend.

Mr Khoo reached the summit after a gruelling 121/2-hour push from Camp 3 at 7,500m.

He has walked in death's shadow for years. He has lost friends.

Last year, a Chinese climber fell to his death on Makalu mountain. "I know exactly where he died," he said. Last June, two friends were murdered while climbing Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, in a notorious attack by the Taleban.

In 2012, on the way up the 8,611m high K2 - considered the most dangerous peak in the world - he negotiated a treacherous area where 11 climbers died in 2008 in various incidents including ice falls and avalanches.

One out of every four people dies climbing K2, the second highest mountain in the world.

"I was very aware of where I was," he said back then. While descending, four of his team members nearly died when they fell into a crevice.

Another Sherpa friend died a few years ago climbing Mount Everest when an ice tower fell.

The list goes on. Mr Khoo paused when asked how this nearness to death has affected him. His reply shows he is not one to tempt fate.

"My first reaction is one of sadness, of course, you lose a friend... but the thought quickly turns to: 'I'd better be careful. What mistakes did he do?'"

Climbers should only take risks they can manage, he said. "You don't do something you're not comfortable with. That's how some of my friends died."

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