REAL lessons from the mountains

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18 September 2020

In a country with no mountains, what would be a viable alternative considering any cross-border travel is now a distant reality? Over the past year NUS Mountaineering – Make it Real (MIR) had to cancel their summer and now winter technical mountaineering courses, which has been unprecedented in 20 years of MIR.

With learnings from 5,000 metres above sea level, they have figured out the perfect plan on how to hurdle over this COVID-19 stump to reach for new heights.

Nathaniel Soon, MIR 20 President talked about his challenges and shared new plans to keep student life going amid this global pandemic.


Physical meetings have become a thing of the past. This was MIR’s first meeting as they discussed the year ahead for MIR over Zoom.


Nathaniel explained:

First, to reach out to the NUS community who had a keen interest in mountaineering, we organised online sharing sessions at the e-Student Life Fair to pique the interest of over 100 new NUS students.

Following which, we put together MIR TV, which is a Wednesday weekly online webinar that focussed on interesting topics like “Women in Mountaineering”, “Training for the Mountains” and “Planning for an Expedition”. These topics were shared by MIR current and alumni members. That became our new touch-point for the NUS community to find out more about MIR. 

MIR-Women2 MIR-PhyPrep
Left: A publicity photo of one of the MIR TV weekly sessions, on “Women in Mountaineering”
Right: Post-publicity snippets of one of MIR TV weekly sessions, on “Mountaineering vs. Hiking or Trekking”

Second, we resumed our regular wall climbing sessions at U-Town, where we adapted to the zoning regulations and decentralised our sessions by working with the Climbing Club to share the wall space and meet new members across all zones on four days per week. The climbing wall has been a central space for MIR as rock-climbing skills are transferrable to mountaineering.

In the past, our wall sessions have allowed our close-knit alumni community to return and bond. Unfortunately, this was not possible anymore and we are looking forward to the day we can see everyone face-to-face again.

Third, we have organised “Hang Tight!”, a 2-day programme to incorporate both a Singapore National Climbing Standards (a Level 1 climbing course) and an introduction to abseiling session with our external instructor. Our aim was to introduce basic technical skills to new members who may not be certified. That was a chance for us to include members from all background and give them a hands-on experience.


Our new participants getting a hands-on experience at rock climbing through our two-day Hang Tight! Programme.

Lastly, another big pipeline project for us this semester is our digital challenge, “NUSummiteers”, which will see 100 NUS students and staff clock elevation through individual physical activities like hiking, running and climbing over the soon-approaching Recess Week.

They can submit their activity entries, gain points and win exciting prizes. We hope that through this friendly, remote competition, we can allow the NUS community to not only challenge themselves physically and be exposed to the outdoors over the break, but also have a small taste of one aspect of mountaineering – which is elevation. We are certainly looking forward to this first-of-its-kind digital challenge led by NUS Mountaineering.

OSAY-200911-SummiteerPublicity photo of our launch of NUSummiteers, which is a digital challenge for the NUS community, set to take place over Recess Week this semester

Furthermore, we have taken the time to look inwards in the coming year to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. Spearheading the anniversary project is myself together with four other key team members - Lim Joel (MIR 17 President), Nicholas Goh (MIR 18 President), Wang Chiew Hui (MIR 19 President) and Gawain Pek (current MIR 20 Vice President). We are writing a book on MIR's 20-year journey as a student mountaineering community in Singapore and we aim to launch the book in early 2021.

It’s fair to say there are keen parallels with dealing with such uncertainties now, as part of MIR, as there is when we are actually in the mountains. Equipment malfunction, sudden freak weather, getting lost or running out of supplies have often forced us to adapt quickly, and perhaps in a strange way, that has so far been the story of MIR 20 and how we have put what the mountains have taught us into good practice, albeit not by choice.

This is an abridged article of its first publication on NUSync news post.


Nathaniel Soon, NUS Mountaineering (Make It Real) 20 President