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Everest Base Camp’s Got Nothin’ On Aishah Sinclair & She’s Telling Her Tale

For many, experiencing a 12-day trek up the Mount Everest Base Camp (EBC) at an elevation of 5,380 metres seems like an unattainable dream, let alone climbing up to the daunting peak of the earth’s tallest mountain soaring at 8,848 metres. While it boasts a lower altitude and is increasingly achievable for people of all walks of life, the EBC trek is by no means a walk in the park as it still requires a union of relentless willpower and optimum physical fitness levels.

With very minimal trekking experience and get this – only nine weeks of intense training prior, one daring woman who successfully conquered the EBC trek and has brought home life-changing memories forged throughout her strenuous expedition is none other than Aishah Sinclair. No stranger to the Malaysian entertainment industry, the actress, television host, radio DJ, mother and emcee, embarked on her great crusade in October and now she’s telling us all about it.

Our chat with the sweetheart of mixed British and Malay heritage has attested that the EBC trek signifies way more than we could have ever gathered from simply reading or hearing about it. Beyond the world’s most spectacular mountain scenery, the monasteries and historic gems of Kathmandu is rich, profound and spiritual culture embedded into its people, and the rewarding sense of achievement acquired from completing the trek is what truly makes it unforgettable.

Q: Tell us about the roles you play in your day-to-day life.

AS: Wife, mom, radio partner, daughter, sister, business partner and overall, trying to be a decent human being. I don’t think my case is unique from any other working moms. We have tons of responsibilities and there are many hats we have to put on every other day.

Q: Can you detail what a full-day of normal life entails for you?

AS: I wake up around 4.30am and leave home at 5am. I get to work and immediately start searching for current issues we have for the day. We get into our first segment and if I have to write anything for the show, I’ll do that. From 6am to 10am daily we are very busy, either on air or thinking about ideas and topics.

After we are done by 10am, we head for our planning meeting where we sit with our content manager, music exec and producer to brainstorm about topics for the next day. Once that’s out of the way, we have about half an hour to either record phone calls or interviews. Sometimes, we have to be at the production studio too.

I leave around 12.30pm. I only pick my daughter up from school two days a week and if I have my daughter, then there’s homework and getting lunch ready. On a day that I don’t have shoots or emceeing jobs, I try to squeeze in time for the gym or a run, but mostly it’s full-on mom stuff.

I try to spend time with the kids as they are still very demanding of my time. If I can, I’ll cook and if not, it’s dinner at my mom-in-law’s home. In between, I’ll try to get a one-hour nap if I’m not emceeing because with everything going on, I get tired real fast.

I get the kids fed and put them to sleep at around 8 to 8.30pm so I can have downtime and spend time with my husband. I’ll be in bed at around 10.30pm latest and I only get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep daily, but these are the kinds of sacrifices I have to make.

Q: What would you say are your strong suits and weaknesses?

AS: I’ve got tunnel vision. Whenever I set myself towards something, fortunately or unfortunately, I get very focused. Sometimes, there’s collateral damage. Determination is one of my strengths. I’m also very down to earth! I’m your typical girl next door, shy but friendly.

Although it isn’t easy, I always try to see the silver lining to everything and I believe that there is a reason behind everything. Whenever there is a problem, I try to fixate my mind on the positive side. It helps me take control of the situation and then I’ll be able to assess it better.

One of my downsides is that I cannot say no. I find myself in situations where I didn’t want to do something, but I do it anyway and end up feeling upset later. And when I do say no, I feel like I have to explain it, when in actual fact it’s okay not to. You have to put yourself and your emotions first, if not how are you going to sustain?

Linked to that, I have this need to be liked. I’ve been like that since I was a kid and I don’t like confrontation. When someone messes up, I’ll always say it’s okay rather than putting it out there and telling that person to be responsible for something he or she had done.

Q: How long have you been climbing beforehand, or if you have ever?

AS: The only other trekking experience I had was three years ago at Mount Kinabalu. With that said, I do trail-running once or twice a week. I’ve done two full marathons and numerous half marathons. Hence, endurance was fine, but trekking was still quite new to me. I hadn’t done Gunung Nuang either. I could only do running and gym because of my schedule.

Q: Before you embarked on your journey, what were the biggest fears you had?

AS: Altitude sickness was scary because I couldn’t bare the thought of not getting to base camp. Some people who had done it had to be airlifted down due to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). My husband made me promise that I would walk slow, but I realised you had no other choice over there. You have to walk slow because you’re so tired.

I knew endurance-wise, it was okay, because it is six to seven hours of walking daily and that was manageable. I was worried about spending time away from the family, I knew I’d miss them. The other thing was the living conditions and staying in unfamiliar places. I was also scared I didn’t have all I needed. I’m never fully packed.

Q: Have you always wanted to check off the Everest Base Camp?

AS: Actually, no. I have always wanted to go to Nepal and see the Himalayas. I thought I could go to the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) because it’s more scenic, has a lower altitude and it’s not as physically challenging. I was waiting for a group to come along because I wanted those with experience.

In February, a gym mate of mine said she was doing EBC, so she introduced me to a group. They had been planning from the year before and had done ABC together. They started sharing and agreeing on dates. I didn’t know when the next opportunity would come about, and to be able to do Everest Base Camp was quite something.

Only when I bought my flight tickets it felt real. Then, I had to pay the downpayment for the trek and that was non-refundable because of the agreement and terms with the agent in Kathmandu. At the airport on the day we left, I met my group for the first time because eventually the lady who invited me couldn’t make it.

I didn’t know anyone, but I knew that it would be part of the adventure. I met new people, and I knew that we would bond because there was going to be extreme physical challenges to overcome together. I knew it was going to be fine, and it really was.

Q: How many months did you train, and what sort of training did you do?

AS: I’ve been running for the past six years and I go to the gym regularly, but I really upped my training nine weeks before I left. I got cold feet and was about to pull out. Then, I found a personal trainer with Fitologist Habitat. I followed her on Instagram and she posted a throwback picture of when she did EBC about four to five years ago.

She’s a personal trainer and she’s got the experience, so I decided to train with her. She knew exactly what I would be facing physically, hence, she created a training programme for me around that. I would suggest starting training earlier though, at least six to eight weeks.

However, there were people of various fitness levels on the trek and they were fine. I met a 70-year-old dad who was doing it with his son and they just walked slower. There were also couples in their 60s and 70s, and that didn’t stop them. No matter how fit you are, you will be exhausted and it’s just willpower that will keep you going. It all boils down to the mind.

Q: What did you tell your family?

AS: The older kid, I explained about Everest and showed her pictures of the Himalayas. I sent them pictures and videos everyday so they could keep track of my progress. My husband has always been supportive and he’s good at reminding me to slow down if I have been working too hard. He has been amazing at helping with the kids and holding up the fort when I was away. Also, I have a nanny. She’s my lifeline. I don’t think I would have been able to do any of this without her help.

Q: How long did your EBC journey take?

AS: It was 10 and a half days of trekking. We spent two days in Kathmandu, then we flew to Lukla, which is the airport up in the Himalayas. We started trekking from there. It took us seven and a half days to get up to base camp and three days down. Then we spent another two days in Kathmandu to do our shopping and then home. In total, about two weeks.

Q: Everyone from your group came from different backgrounds and have various strengths. How did you guys support each other on that journey?

AS: We kept each other company. We were constantly keeping an eye on each other and sharing our food. Your food was never your food, because you’re always sharing. We had one lady who didn’t realise she climbed up with a fractured toe. She had a swollen toe and eventually it affected her back, so somebody else helped to carry her bag to reduce her weight.

Some others had food poisoning and you just help out in many ways. My roommate made it all the way up to Base Camp with AMS. She had severe vomiting and couldn’t hold down even her water, but she made it all the way. There was another lady who would come over every night to give her a massage. We had many healers in that sense.

I loved the group. They were so supportive and everybody gelled.

Q: Were there any moments that stood out to you or that you would carry on for the rest of your life?

AS: There is this village called Namche Bazaar we were heading to. I was walking pretty fast because we were going downhill. I was chasing to book a room that had an en suite toilet and to have one is a luxury, especially one that flushes, because the higher you got, the toilets didn’t even have a flush.

I remember we had four and a half days of no showering because it was too cold. I was really pushing myself and I stopped to ask one of the villagers about how far our destination was and she said an hour and a half. There was no way I could walk any longer. I didn’t know what to do because I was just so tired.

I stopped for a while because there were these pretty ponies and the guide suddenly arrived. He chased me and I was so happy to see him. He walked with me after and pushed me to keep on going. It was just a reminder that you should always listen to your body. Your body will never lie to you.

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WARNING, LONG POST AHEAD: . A bit late to post this, but YES(!!) we made it safely to Everest Base Camp (5364m) last Thursday. . To tell you the truth, when I first saw EBC from the ridge you trek before you reach, my first reaction was 'Is that it?? Where are the tents? The climbers? The signage?' . There wasn't anything much, other than a few prayer flags and many other trekkers taking pictures. It wasn't climbing season, so no climbers. . We could have decided to stay on the ridge, take a few pictures and get a head start on the two hour trek back to Gorak Shep. But we decided to climb down the steep path to the base camp, we had come all the way, right? . When I got there, I realised it was more than just a pile of rocks surrounded by a beautiful mountain range. . It was a place of great importance for everyone there because they had overcome themselves and whatever physical, mental and emotional boundaries that could have held them back. . EBC was more of a personal achievement than a physical place. . As Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the two to first summit Mt Everest said, 'It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.' . I could not have said it any better. . #trekkingaishaharoundtheworld #yakmetoebc #RoadtoEBC #everestbasecamp #indexadventure

A post shared by Aishah Sinclair (@aishahjennifer) on

I was glad that he was there and it was good to have company. Number one – To slow down, listen to your body and number two – You don’t have to be a superhero and do it alone. Sometimes, it’s okay to have support, and in this case, I really needed it. I’m so grateful that it arrived just in time.

There is this other thing – I had expected to see tents, other climbers and signages at EBC, but it was just a pile of rocks. And you might think that it’s ridiculous to go through all that trouble to get to these rocks, but when you get there, the energy is so potent. It just hits you and that’s obviously when the emotions come.

Yes, I had just walked all the way to get to this pile of rocks, but what I had to go through to get there is far more superior. Everybody had that journey and that story to tell. It was just so beautiful. I guess it’s very hard to choose, but those two were the strongest and I’ll take with me definitely.

Q: How did you keep yourself motivated?

AS: I talked to my daughters and I saw them everywhere. I saw them in the village kids and in the female backpackers. I imagined them to do something like that – to challenge themselves, to be inspired to do something, and to be able to see the beauty of the earth when they grow up. I felt that this was their success too, and I hope they’ll be inspired.

Q: What do you have to say to people who constantly make excuses for their dreams?

AS: I think people come up with excuses because they are scared. What if I fail? What if I don’t get to do it? I think that’s it. You never know until you try. If you keep coming up with excuses, you need to ask yourself if it’s something you really wanted in the first place.

Honestly, if you really wanted to do it, you will find a way. Is it something you feel would be the right thing to do? Or it’s something you want to do because your friends are doing it? If you can find a reason that is strong enough, you will find that the excuses will slowly disappear.

Aishah Sinclair’s #RoadtoEBC story surely inspired us to do something as spectacular for ourselves, and we really do hope it stirs up something for you too. For more updates on Aishah’s thriving life, follow her on Instagram.

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Carmen Chong
YouTube-obsessed and a beauty junkie at heart. Find her on Instagram: @carthemen