Singaporean nearly falls off cliff in Wales
HE HAD wanted to start the new year "feeling invincible" by reaching the summit of a mountain that he had failed to conquer last year.
What Singaporean Elijah Mak, 28, did not expect was to nearly die on New Year's Day when strong winds knocked him off his feet on the mountain in Wales, Britain.
He plummeted 50m down a rocky slope and almost fell off a cliff but was saved by his quick reflexes.
Mr Mak, who is doing a PhD in psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, was scaling the 923m-high Crib Goch with his Malaysian schoolmate Kean Ng, 29.
It was Mr Ng's first and Mr Mak's second attempt at hiking along the knife-edged mountain ridge, described as "challenging" and "thrilling" on mountaineering websites.
Both men are experienced hikers. In 2014, Mr Mak scaled Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain, alone, while Mr Ng has hiked in the Swiss Alps several times.
The British national weather service had forecasted a clear day on Crib Goch on Jan 1, with visibility from "excellent" to "very good". Having checked the forecast the night before, the pair did not check it again with park rangers before setting off for their climb at 9am.
At noon, they were three-quarters up the mountain when a storm hit. The cool breeze suddenly "morphed into deafening gusts" and the ground was covered in snow and ice, said Mr Mak.
Pinned down by the winds, they remained in the same spot for 10 minutes. By then, Mr Ng's physical condition had worsened.
Mr Ng, who did not have the energy to climb any further, was adamant about an immediate descent via a route which offered no cover from the gusts.
Mr Mak led the way down but later, a gust of wind, reaching an estimated 112kmh, knocked him off balance.
Mr Ng could only watch as his friend fell. "Hearing Elijah's anguished cry, while hopelessly watching him fall, was the most agonising moment of my life. I thought that was the end of him."
Mr Mak, struck by the same thought, was desperately latching on to whatever he could as he hurtled down the rocky slope. Then abruptly, he came to a complete stop before the edge of the cliff. It was another half hour of scrambling down the ridge before he reached ground level.
Miraculously, a park ranger who was taking a walk with his family, saw him falling and called for help.
Meanwhile, a mountain rescue team found a weak Mr Ng sitting on a slope near where his friend fell. He was suffering from moderate hypothermia and soon passed out.
At 4pm, more than two hours after Mr Mak's fall, the pair were reunited at the park rangers' office.
Mr Mak, who had minor hand and leg injuries, was given several stitches and injections at a hospital.
Not checking the weather forecast with the park rangers that morning "was our biggest mistake", said Mr Mak.
Despite the close shave, the duo are determined to return to Crib Goch. Said Mr Ng: "It would be a massive shame to let this experience put one off from giving it another crack."