Wang Yongfeng and his sideburns have become icons in the Chinese mountaineering fraternity. He is the first and only Chinese person to conquer the highest peaks of all seven continents twice. Last May, the Olympic flame was brought to the top of Mt. Qomolangma, the world's highest peak. And Wang Yongfeng was the head of that mountaineering team as well as one of the torch bearers on the peak. He Fei has the story on this strong-willed mountaineer.
Chinese mountaineer Wang Yongfeng [photo: pcpop.com]
"Although I'm not a Mongolian, I always want to be one of them since I believe that ethnic groups are somehow closer to nature and closer to the mountains than the rest of us. There is something similar in their nature."
Wang Yongfeng was born in 1963 in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Just like his name suggests, Yongfeng translates as 'bravery peak', and Wang was born to become a mountaineer.
"As a child, I admired heroes a lot. When I grew up, I joined the mountaineering team since I thought it was the thing that a hero should do. During climbing, you'll face danger, even death, and you have to handle all the tough things. When you overcome all those difficulties, you'll feel like a hero."
Wang Yongfeng was introduced to mountaineering back in his college days. He hasn't stopped climbing ever since.
May 5th, 1993 was a memorable day for Wang. He stood at the top of Mt. Qomolangma for the first time.
"I used up all my strength. The moment I reached the peak, I sat down on the ground. Because of the thin air there, it was hard to breathe and I couldn't even see with my right eye. The only thought I had was to get back as soon as possible or I would die up there."
However, the real challenge came for Wang during the following 28 hours when he climbed back down. Without extra oxygen supplies, Wang Yongfeng was exhausted and soon fell behind his team.
"I followed the footprints to climb down, but the slope became steeper and steeper. I realized there must be something wrong. I stopped obsessing over the situation, calmed down and figured out that those were not real footprints but marks made by the falling empty oxygen bombs. I went back to the point I had come from and finally found the right way to go down."
Because of the low temperature and shortage of oxygen, Wang Yongfeng's lips were swollen and torn. One of his eyes was temporarily blinded and his mind was not as clear as usual. Under such physical conditions, Wang reached the Second Step, the most dangerous place along the route.
"With only half of my eyesight, I could hardly control my legs to move to the right place. I missed my step, fell over, and found myself suspending upside down. At that moment I thought of death."
Fortunately, Wang didn't hurt himself and he didn't stop until he reached the tents.
"As luck would have it, we didn't close the tent that morning when we left. I crawled in and found three half bottles of oxygen. That was the very thing I needed. I breathed the oxygen in, and I could finally sleep and rest."
Wang spent the night alone on Mt. Qomolangma. His team eventually found him, 28 hours after they had lost contact with him. However, Wang Yongfeng lost three of his toes, a high cost for his first success climbing the world's highest peak.
After just one year, Wang came back to his beloved mountains. If he is not climbing the mountains, then he is planning for the next exploration.
Together with his partner Li Zhixin, Wang has conquered all the highest peaks of the seven continents within eleven years. And he is also a well qualified team leader. He has successfully led several amateur mountaineering teams to climb the high peaks around the world including Mt. Qomolangma. Last May, he and his team brought the Olympic flame to the top of the world.
"I can tell the team's advantages and disadvantages when we go into the mountains. Then I know what they should do. Some say I'm lucky. But I think the success lies in my rich experiences. I know where the dangers are and how to handle them."
Now, Wang Yongfeng teaches beginners at weekends.
"If one persists in doing something for ten years, whatever that thing is, he or she will be the best they can be at it."
For Beyond Beijing, this is He Fei.