If there’s one piece of advice anyone could give to another while on the Himalayan mountains, it would have to be: “never challenge a sherpa”. We learnt it the hard way the day eight of us Singaporeans decided to challenge our four sherpa guides on a baton relay race up the steps leading to Chhomrong/Chomrong/Chhomorung (there are variations in the spelling).

Anyone who has been into the Annapurna Sanctuary will probably be familiar with the infamous Chhomrong steps… all 2000 over of them (It takes at least an hour to climb these steps, tried and tested). The challenge, thankfully, was only a portion of it, some 260+ steps if I recall correctly.

The thing is that, the steps were located at approximately 2000metres above sea level, which meant that the Sherpas had an unfair advantage since they were used to that sort of altitude having practically grown up in the mountains; Singapore is located at sea level for the uninitiated. Furthermore, no matter how fit my team mates were, and they were, we were fairly certain that the sherpas were far fitter than we were.

So to level out the playing field, we decided that it would be eight Singaporeans versus four sherpas and the latter were agreeable to that.

us chhomrong

Okay, if that didn’t look steep enough, how about this:

Steps leading to Chhomrong | Photo Credit: Tom Dempsey

We started the day early as we had a long day of trekking ahead of us.

This was us, “The Merlions”, confident that we would win:

We warmed up with jumping jacks and some stretches:

And so the race began. It was “The Merlions” versus the “Himalayan Tiger Sherpas”. Now when you have eight people racing against four people, there’s no way the former could lose right? Right? Apparently not.

Within a matter of about a minute the race was over, and the winner clear. In fact, before our third runner could start his run, the winner was already clear. No prizes for guessing who won. The winners flew ahead of the losers and won so easily, just like that.

Perhaps we lost because there were too many of us and not enough distance, hence, before each of us could gain full speed, we would have to slow down to pass the baton to the next person. Or perhaps we just lost because we lost. Because we were that slow. Whatever the reasons were, we were defeated, and had to pay the price.

So came the post-run “punishment”. The sherpas wanted to strike a deal stating that the losing team would not get breakfast, but we argued against that; food while on a trek is just way too precious to gamble away. Most thankfully, “punishment” came in the form of 400 push-ups split between the team, which was not too difficult.

A baton relay race and 400 push-ups later, the best advice I can and will offer is, please, never ever challenge a sherpa. Unless of course you want a good laugh, or want to be forever ridiculed by the winners for even harbouring the thought of proposing such a challenge, or  want to simply retain some unforgettable memories of being the only people to ever “duel” these group of sherpas. Then please, go ahead, and let me know the outcome. Don’t say I never warned you.

Photo credits: Lek, HX, HY and Von

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