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Attitude the Key to Conquering Altitudes

By Tracy Chan

Tsang, fully geared, conquered Mt Everest in 2009

It is 7.30 on a fine morning with a light breeze. John Tsang Chi-sing, a tanned 41-year-old with a broad smile, is limbering up for his regular outdoor training, preparing to time himself for a run and cycle ride. Tsang is the founder of an adventure education company and a mountaineer. He is best known for being the first climber from Hong Kong to reach the summit of Mount Everest from both its south and north sides.

His mountaineering credits do not stop there. Tsang has conquered four of the world’s 14 highest mountains with summits higher than 8,000 metres. Among them is Mount Manaslu, known as the “Killer Mountain” because of the high fatality rate of climbers who attempt to scale it. But while his deeds are filled with adventure and adrenaline, his manner is composed as he tells his story.

Tsang enjoyed hiking and climbing hills as a young man and first became interested in hiking during a school trip in 1991. His love affair with mountains began on a winter climbing expedition on a snowy mountain in Nagano, Japan when he was 19 years old.

“Mountains cannot speak, but they can show you the reality in life,” he says. “If there is a gusty wind, you have to make adjustments in managing time and gathering momentum.”

Tsang says that, unlike in his childhood, people today are constantly busy. They barely have a moment to think about their lives and make plans for the future. They may find themselves putting on different masks to please others, while their true selves are hidden under a splendid cloak. For Tsang, mountains are a sanctuary, and climbing is a time for people to rediscover and better understand their authentic selves.

“On the mountain, you are not pleasing anyone. The mountain doesn’t know how to laugh, if you laugh here, it is straight from the heart and if you are displeased, you are free to lose your temper,” he says.