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Wednesday September 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday September 4, 2013 MYT 8:22:49 AM
by sheela chandran
Yogaranee hopes to motivate her daughter, Dr Sherina, to venture into mountain climbing.
At 69, Datin Yogaranee Balaratnam is planning to hike up the Mt Everest Base Camp – for the fourth time.
SEXAGENARIAN Datin Yogaranee Balaratnam is living proof that age is just a number when it comes to scaling greater heights. In the last 18 years, Yogaranee, 69, has tested her fitness level, having scaled some of the world’s toughest mountains, including Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (5,895m), Nepal’s Everest Base Camp (5,364m) and Mt Kala Patthar (5,545m) in the Himalayas. In 1997, at the age of 53, Yogaranee chalked up another milestone when she clinched a spot in the Malaysia Book Of Records as the oldest woman in the country to reach the Everest Base Camp.
The grandmother of two only took up mountain climbing when she was 51, and to-date she has climbed 18 peaks. She has scaled the Everest Base Camp three times and climbed Mt Kinabalu four times. Other conquests include Japan’s Mt Fuji (3,776m) and Jomsom Trail (3,850m) in Annapurna, Nepal.
“I have always enjoyed the outdoors. My interest in the outdoors expanded after I married Datuk Dr C. Balaratnam who is a fitness enthusiast. When our three children were young, we would bring them along on outdoor expeditions, so they grew up with a great love for the outdoors,” said Yogaranee, a former nurse.
“It all started in 1997 when I was following the progress of the first Malaysian expedition to Mt Everest, on TV. I was inspired to climb the mountain. Soon after, I heard about an organised trip to the Everest Base Camp and I signed up immediately.
“After returning from Base Camp, I was bitten by the climbing bug. Since then I have scaled many mountains, each with its own challenges. I have encountered extreme weather conditions, and faced steep terrain and narrow ridges.”
Last month, Yogaranee added another feather to her cap after conquering the 3,726m-high Mt Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia. For the trip, she roped in her daughter, London-based cosmetic surgeon Dr Sherina Balaratnam, 39, son-in-law Jonathan Langridge, 35, and close friend Sitta Poopalasingam, 64. Sitta and Yogaranee are mountain buddies, having scaled many mountains together, including Mt Agung in Bali, Mt Kinabalu and Everest Base Camp.
Mt Rinjani, an active volcano, is the second highest mountain in Indonesia, and offers trekkers a breathtaking view of its huge crater lake. The two-day trek up the mountain is said to be arduous due to the challenging terrain of gravel and ash.
“Climbing Mt Rinjani was really strenuous,” said Yogaranee, shaking her head. “The rocky gravel made the climb extremely challenging and tested my endurance.”
To keep fit, Yogaranee does one and a half hours of brisk walking up Bukit Kiara Hill or Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur every day. On Sundays, she heads to Batu Caves to climb the 272 steps.
“It is important to train daily to build stamina, strength and endurance. It helps that I love the outdoors and look forward to my daily exercises,” she said.
Dr Sherina, who was on holiday in Kuala Lumpur recently, admitted that her mother’s enthusiasm to climb mountains served as her biggest motivation.
“It was a wonderful experience climbing Mt Rinjani with her because she motivated me the entire way up. She helped me with my trekking gear, and constantly reminded me to keep a steady pace and take small steps so that we would not experience fatigue, and that’s what got us to the top.
“It was so inspiring watching her pull and climb her way to the summit, and to think that she is 30 years older than me,” said Dr Sherina. Both mother and daughter trekked up Mt Kinabalu last year, and Mt Agung in Bali in 2009.
Dr Sherina admires her mother’s grit and determination.
“There were so many times during the final stretch of the climb when I wondered what we were doing up there, but she kept encouraging me to soldier on. Every time she gets back from a climb, she would tell me she had lost a toe nail due to friction or the cold. She lost a few more during our climb but she didn’t make any fuss. She goes through challenges with a smile. From her, I learnt that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it,” said Dr Sherina, who raised £1,735 for justgiving.com – an online fundraising charity website – after scaling Mt Kinabalu with her mother last year.
Not one to sit idle, Yogaranee is already making plans for her next climb up Everest Base Camp. But before that, she will mark her 70th birthday next February by hiking up Mt Kinabalu with Dr Sherina.
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Lifestyle, Senior, Mount Everest, Datin Yogaranee Balaratnam
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