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Grandma’s epic climb

Grandma Suzie proves that age is no barrier to achieving greatness

JOHOR BARU (ANN/THE STAR) – At the age of 73, an age often associated with quietude and rest, Suzie Oliver defied norms and scaled the heights of the Everest Base Camp, no average human feat, let alone for this grandmother, lovingly known as the ‘Iron Lady’.

Oliver reached the base camp at 5,364 metres above sea level after a gruelling eight-day hike, describing the journey as an emotional one, in view of her age.

 “Everyone wanted to take photos with me as I was like the oldest person on the trail.

“The youngest was a teenager whom I met on the way back,” she said.

Travel to Mount Everest Base Camp signpost in Himalayas, Nepal. Khumbu glacier and valley snow on mountain peaks. PHOTO: ENVATO

Prior to her 15-day trip to Nepal last month, she ticked off two other items on her to-do list: she made it to the peak of Mount Kinabalu in May and trekked up a G7 mountain in Cameron Highlands.

“I wanted to prepare myself for the trip to Everest as it was the last item on my bucket list,” she said in an interview.

Despite the challenges during the trail, especially where her vegetarian diet was concerned, she was determined to complete the adventure.

She and her friends started their expedition as soon as they reached an airfield in Lukla, which is 2,800m above sea level, at about 6am on the first day.

Suzy Oliver reaches the Mount Everest base camp in the Khumbu region of Nepal. PHOTO: ANN/THE STAR

Besides two of her friends, Oliver had a guide and two porters. She said they hiked about six or seven hours each day before resting in small motels.

“There were no roads. Just gravel everywhere and no vehicles. Along the way, there were people in their houses and animals.

“The weather was about 16°C during the day and dropped to minus in the night,” she said, adding that even while indoors, she would be in three layers of clothes and a blanket.

She said they reached the base camp on the eighth day.

“It was a great adventure being there. Beyond that point, it was all snow right to the peak,” she added.

Asked whether she plans to scale to the peak, she said her family would not permit her as it was too dangerous.

Oliver said she only started taking fitness seriously at the age of 57. Her daughter suggested that she take part in a marathon in Singapore in 2007.

“Before that, I never did anything strenuous. I decided to give it a shot so I trained in the gym for several months and managed to complete the 5km stretch,” said Oliver.

In 2014, she participated in a Spartan race in Singapore alongside her daughter and granddaughter.

“People thought I was crazy but for me it was an opportunity to bond with my family,” she said, adding that she emerged top in her age group by beating almost 800 other participants in the 10km event.

Among others, she had to flip tyres that weighed up to 60kg, throw arrows and climb over walls.

“We had about 15 obstacles to overcome,” she said.

The Melaka-born Oliver, who is married to an American but lives in Malaysia, said she would join cycling races, which went up to 60km up and down the valleys of Utah, whenever she went to the United States.

The mother of two daughters also took part in the Sunway Iskandar Viper Challenge @ Medini in Johor. On her next adventure, Oliver plans to go to Nepal next year to hike up another mountain.

She previously worked as a chef in Singapore before going on mission trips with her husband.

Views from Everest Base Camp, Nepal. PHOTO: ENVATO