Khoo Swee Chiow was the first person from Southeast Asia and the fourth person in the world to complete the Explorers’ Grand Slam, which means reaching the North Pole, South Pole and summitting the highest mountain in each of the seven continents. He has challenged himself in the mountains, on the road – riding from Singapore to Beijing by bike and in the sea - kayaking the coast of the Philippines. He also previously held the Guinness World record for the Longest Scuba Submergence. His list of achievements is endless, but he’s not finished yet. As he returns from his latest expedition, Kangchenjunga in Nepal, we speak to Swee Chiow about his life of adventure.

What was the first mountain that you chose to climb in your career?

Everest. It was the big dream that motivated me to climb.

Living in Singapore (which isn't know for its mountains), how did you train for your first climb?

I climbed in Nepal and New Zealand to experience alpine peaks and I climbed the mountains nearby in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan and China to build up my endurance.

When did you realise that mountain climbing was no longer just an interest – it was becoming a full-time job?

After I climbed Everest for first time in 1998. It was as if a new horizon opened, full of new possibilities.

Your expeditions vary quite a lot – how do you choose what to do next?

I like variety, swimming, cycling, skating and so on. I like to try new things. There are still lots of challenges out there. For instance, I have not been to the desert or crossed an ocean…

What has been the most memorable day out of all your expeditions so far?

The day I reached the North Pole and on summit of K2. They were both extremely hard and risky expeditions.

What has been the most beautiful sight that you have woken up to when on a journey?

I was in Bolivia in July this year. It was stunning scenery. But you don’t have to go very far to see such an amazing sight – there are some volcanoes in Indonesia and peaks in China that are just as breathtaking.

When it gets expedition gets challenging what tricks do you do to drive yourself forward?

There are a lot of reasons that help drive me forward. I have put in tons of work in the preparation, it’s costly and I may not have the right team to do it again. But, when the risks are too high, I am all prepared to abort the mission. It’s better to be alive.

Khoo Swee

What’s the first thing that you throw in your kit bag?

My GPS. It can save my life if I am lost.

What has been your biggest learn whilst carrying out these expeditions?

You are stronger than you know. Sometimes it takes an epic situation to bring out that potential in you.

What surprised you most about climbing Everest?

The number of inexperienced climbers and so many deaths as a result of inexperience.

Which mountain would you like to return to?

Kangchenjunga in Nepal because I didn’t summit this year.

Where are you happiest?

In a natural scenic place with no crowds.

If anyone was about to undertake their first expedition what would advise would you give them?

Dream big, start small. If you have not climbed Bukit Timah in Singapore, start there. Take small steps and be always eager to learn.

Of all the places you’ve been to where would you like to take your children?

I would like to show them many places. Such as the Artic, Antarctica and the Himalayas. They are extremely beautiful and they are all facing changes brought by climate change.

What do you plan to do next?

I will continue my love for adventures until my legs can’t carry me any longer. Then, I will probably go on a bike or 4WD.

Khoo Swee

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