SINGAPORE: Three months after an earthquake struck Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, injuring and killing pupils from Tanjong Katong Primary School here, some of their parents are planning to go back to complete what their children set out to but could not do - reach the summit.
More than a dozen parents - including those of the victims and survivors - will attempt the feat on June 5 next year, the anniversary of the tragedy.
Bit by bit, preparations for the trip are taking shape, with some parents looking up flights to Kota Kinabalu, checking insurance plans and designing training plans.
Among those who will be making the climb are Jaidipsinh Jhala and his wife Karen, both 48, who run a company providing safety training materials. Their 12-year-old daughter Sonia was one of the seven pupils who died in the quake. Two teachers and a Singaporean adventure guide accompanying the group also lost their lives.
"We want to finish what Sonia couldn't finish, to be where she would have been," said Karen, adding that the trip would bring some closure for her family.
Mandeep Tamana, 43, whose 12-year-old son Jayden Francis hurt his ankle during the expedition, said: "I want to be at that spot, at that time when the earthquake hit, to reflect and pay my respects to those who passed away."
She will be tapping her expertise as a freelance personal trainer to come up with a fitness programme for the working mothers planning to trek up the mountain.
In the initial weeks of training, the mums will undergo sessions of brisk walking on the treadmills, but at an incline. Then, they will go on to endurance activities like running, and exercises targeting specific muscle groups such as squats, lunges and stair climbs, before going outdoors.
"This has to be built up very slowly. We will train together, and I will try to push them as much as I can," said Ms Tamana, adding that the training sessions will begin after the children's Primary School Leaving Examination next month.
"I want to do this for my friends whose children didn't make it down the mountain. I want to be there to guide them, hold their hands and help them up."
Earlier this month, a part of the trail up to Laban Rata point at 3,272m reopened to climbers, while the remaining portion of the trail to Low's Peak at 4,095m will remain closed until the year end.
A few pupils who survived are also planning to return next year.
Amal Ashley Lim, 12, one of the first pupils up on the gentler Via Ferrata route when the quake hit, hopes to reach the peak with her parents and seven-year-old sister. Ashley's helmet, jacket and backpack had protected her from the rock falls during the school trip, and she escaped with a back injury.
"I would like to make it to the top and finish the climb for my friends," she said. Ashley, who still suffers back pains sometimes, is now afraid of being in the dark and in enclosed spaces.
Ashley's mother, housewife Farhan Darlan-Lim, 43, said: "This trip is good for her; she can finally say goodbye to her friends."
The climb will be her second one. Her first took place barely three months after giving birth to Ashley.
"We want to go up and see for ourselves what our kids have gone through, and after that, to move on," said Madam Farhan. "It is going to be an emotional trip, but it is also closure for us." - The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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