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'I have no fear': 2 determined women, aged 58 and 72, set sights on conquering Mount Fuji

'I have no fear': 2 determined women, aged 58 and 72, set sights on conquering Mount Fuji
Bebe Yong (left) and Siag Lan (centre in right-hand photo) preparing for their Mount Fuji climb.
PHOTO: FarmzAsia

This month, 40 individuals over the age of 40 will travel to Japan and attempt to conquer Mount Fuji.

This initiative differs from others as the participants involved may not be the typical elite fitness buffs one might expect.

In fact, many of them struggle with health and physical challenges.

Initiated by food education and consultancy business Farmz Asia, this expedition aims to untangle the narrative of age being a barrier to achieving one's goals.

Dr Mark Leong, CEO of the company, tells AsiaOne that the idea behind this initiative came from a piece of sombre news.

A Farmz Asia committee member had unexpectedly died.

"I was very shocked because she was a very fit and healthy person for someone in her 60s," Dr Mark recalls.

After some self-reflection, he realised there were still a lot of things he wanted to do in life.

He explains: "One of the reasons [why we don't pursue our goals] is that we care so much about how society views us, especially if we fail."

This is how Farmz Asia's ambitious initiative came about, and they've formed a team of 40 looking to climb Mount Fuji.

AsiaOne had the opportunity to speak with two women in the team, aged 58 and 72, about the reasons behind their participation and how training has been so far.

'Testing my limits'

Bebe Yong sheepishly admits that this upcoming Mount Fuji trip will be her first mountain hike in about three decades.

For context, her previous hike took her "about two hours" while the climb to the summit of Mount Fuji can take between five and 10 hours depending on the trail.

"I have been having knee pains and lower back pains," the 58-year-old administrator says, labelling them as typical effects of ageing. 

While she does partake in the odd community activity such as tai chi or yoga, Bebe noted that she isn't a particularly "active" or "sporty" individual.

However, in 2023, she took the initiative to join exercise classes and has seen improvements in her mobility since.

Bebe realised that she can push herself physically—with stretches, squats and runs coming easier to her now.

So when she learned of Dr Mark's Mount Fuji initiative, she was more intrigued than intimidated.

"Why not give myself a chance to show how far I could go?" Bebe asked rhetorically.

She has actually been to Mount Fuji before, and just last year, two of her friends took the trip up the mountain but Bebe was not keen on joining them at the time.

So what has changed this time around?

It seems like regular exercise classes have added a sense of self-belief and a desire to test her limits.

With Dr Mark and his team running the programme, Bebe believes she's in good hands.

She added: "So I have no fear from trying to do something out of my comfort zone."

This isn't to say that Bebe overlooks the potential challenges she'll face in conquering Mount Fuji, as well as training for the climb beforehand.

Two-hour walks carrying a 5kg bag is already part of her preparation routine. And with that comes the inevitable post-workout pains from muscle aches and soreness.

At this stage, people may begin to question the reasons behind their bid to get fitter.

But Bebe understands her motivation to keep at it, saying: "I want to look good. I want to walk and have my freedom to move around."

While reaching Mount Fuji's summit is the objective of the climb, Bebe mentions that it isn't the only goal for her.

This climb is also about making friends, supporting them and living in the moment.

"As the quote says: 'take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints'," she says.

Preparing for Mount Fuji

Challenge accepted.

This was Koh Siag Lan's response when she found out about the Mount Fuji expedition.

In her eyes, the alternative option of joining a "normal tour", which focuses on sightseeing, wouldn't be as fun.

Conquering a mountain isn't for everyone, and Siag Lan's age makes her participation in this activity all the more impressive. as there can't be too many 72-year-olds eyeing Mount Fuji as their next climbing destination.

In the lead-up to the big day, we spoke to Siag Lan and asked if she was experiencing any pre-climb jitters.

"I don't have the word 'scared' in my dictionary. I just want to try," the semi-retiree responded, confidently.

This gung-ho attitude continues to show up throughout our conversation.

Siag Lan candidly explained that she may not have many opportunities to join such events in future.

According to her, living out such experiences adds meaning to life.

She sees little value in "sitting at home every day" or "chit-chatting at the coffeeshop".

"To me, that's not part of living," Siag Lan said.

This is why, over the years, she has made an effort to keep active and live a healthy lifestyle.

That means getting up early for daily walks in the morning.

As part of her own individual training programme before jetting off to Japan, Siag Lan has ramped up the intensity of her walks.

On days where she has more time, these walks can last up to 90 minutes.

"I am an adventurous and risk-taking individual with a passion for learning and embracing challenges," Siag Lan said.

ALSO READ: This 78-year-old Singaporean grandma does pull-ups and strength training exercises to stay healthy

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