Jane Lee



Jane Lee Zhen Zhen (b. 1984–) is the first woman from Southeast Asia to have scaled the Seven Summits – the highest summit on each of the seven continents of Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.1 Lee was also the co-founder and co-team leader of the Singapore Women’s Everest Team (SWET). The members of this team were the first women from Singapore to reach the summit of Mount Everest.2 

Early life and sporting activities
Lee studied at Raffles Girls’ Secondary School, Hwa Chong Junior College and the National University of Singapore (NUS), where she graduated with honours in English Literature in 2007.3 In August 2011, she left for the United States to pursue her Master of Business Administration at Yale University.4

Lee developed a love of sports and outdoor activities during her childhood, frequently going for runs at Seletar Reservoir and Chinese Garden with her parents. Lee’s family also made frequent trips to Mount Kinabalu, Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, where they participated in activities such as horseriding. In an interview with The Straits Times, Lee attributed her love of the outdoors to her father and added that she seldom visited shopping malls or cinemas. She also mentioned that her father had given her her first swimming lesson at the age of four when he tossed her into a waterfall in Kota Tinggi, Malaysia, because she was too afraid to jump into the water.5

Lee was active in the outdoor adventure club at Raffles Girls’ Secondary School, and undertook outdoor leadership courses and treks while at Hwa Chong Junior College.6 She also participated in water sports such as diving, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, dragon boating and outrigger canoeing. The Singapore Paddle Club awarded her the Rookie of the Year award in 2006.7

Climbing career
Lee was an active climber since her secondary school days and climbed Mount Ophir and Gunung Tahan in Malaysia during her teenage years.8 While at NUS, Lee joined the Make It Real Student Mountaineering programme and climbed Mount Von Bulow in New Zealand during a technical mountaineering course in 2003.9

Together with three other women from the programme, Lee formed the SWET in 2004. In a 2005 interview with The Straits Times, Lee said SWET was formed to “create [their] own platform; [they wanted] to inspire other women to do [scale Mount Everest]. [They wanted] to show that a woman can balance adventure sports and a career, be a mother and a mountaineer, cook and climb mountains.” By August 2005, SWET had grown into a 15-member group.10

To prepare for the climb, Lee underwent solo as well as group training with the other team members in Singapore. Her training routine included long-distance runs and load-bearing treks, gymnasium workouts and climbing a 30-storey block of Housing and Development Board flats 12 times while carrying loads of up to 22 kg for each session.11 The team scaled its first Himalayan peak, the Island Peak (also known as Imja Tse), in 2004, followed by Mera Peak (Nepal) and Er Feng (China) in 2005, Muztagh (or Mustagh) Ata (China) in 2006, and Cho Oyu (Nepal) and Camel Peak (China) in 2008, all in preparation for its Everest climb.12

As co-team leader, Lee was responsible for selecting the eventual members for the Mount Everest expedition.13 SWET’s planned summit of Everest in 2008 was called off due to a lack of funds, but Lee and the other team members were able to secure sufficient sponsorship for a six-member expedition in March 2009.14

The team set off for Kathmandu, Nepal, on 21 March 2009. At the time of the expedition, Lee was employed at Republic Polytechnic. After a period of acclimatisation in the Himalayas, SWET split into two groups for its Everest ascent in May. Lee was part of the first group, and reached the summit at 4.43 am Nepal time on 20 May, after her team mates, Lee Li Hui and Esther Tan.15

Lee was one of the recipients of NUS’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2009. Two of her SWET team mates, Lee Li Hui and Sim Yi Hui, also received the award.16 In 2010, Lee and the other members of SWET jointly received Her World magazine’s Young Woman Achiever award.17

Seven Summits
After climbing Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world at 8,850 m, Lee left her job at Republic Polytechnic to focus on climbing full-time. She set out to climb the rest of the Seven Summits (the highest mountain on each of the seven continents). To accomplish this, she secured sponsorships for her climbs from companies such as Swiber, Bank Julius Baer and Accenture.18

In February 2010, Lee climbed Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 m) in Australia and followed that with an ascent of Denali (previously known as Mount McKinley, at 6,194 m) in Alaska in June. She then climbed four peaks in 2011 – Mount Vinson (4,892 m) in Antarctica at the start of the year, Mount Aconcagua (6,962 m) in Argentina in February, Mount Kilimanjaro (5,893 m) in Tanzania in June and finally Mount Elbrus (5,642 m) in Russia in July.19 In recognition of her feat of becoming the first Southeast Asian woman to have scaled the Seven Summits, Lee was awarded the Singapore Youth Award in 2014.20

The challenges Lee faced in scaling the Seven Summits included severe snow storms on Mount Aconcagua which killed nine people, a hard landing on a runway of solid ice in Antarctica, five different weather conditions on Mount Kilimanjaro and eluding Russian police on Mount Elbrus, which had been sealed off due to terrorist activity. In Alaska, Lee had to carry her 44-kg luggage herself and subsisted mainly on chocolate and potato chips for two weeks, as they were the most portable, calorie-rich foods.21

Greenland
Lee accomplished another feat in 2013 when she travelled across Greenland on skis with her SWET team mate, Lee Li Hui. The pair covered a total of 560 km in sub-zero temperatures of minus 20ºC. For sustenance, they ate oats and calorie-rich foods such as potato chips and chocolates, and drank water obtained from melted snow. During the journey, Lee dislocated her right knee twice, but continued with the journey after Li Hui managed to set the bone back into position. The expedition ended successfully on the 25th day of the journey, when they arrived at the east coast of Greenland. They are believed to be the first Singaporeans to cross Greenland on skis.22


Family
Born to Lee Hua Lam, a businessman, and Susan Sng, a sales and operations manager, Lee is the second of three children in the family and has two brothers.23



Author

Chan Meng Choo



References
1. National University of Singapore. (2009). NUS Alumni Awards 2009 recipients. Retrieved 2016, July 21 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.alumnet.nus.edu.sg/module/portal/content.html?alias=NUSAlumniAwards2009Recipients20151202162727; Tai, J. (2011, August 22). Climber hits the heights on 7 continents. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Wong, K. H. (2005, August 28). Upwardly mobile. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chang, A. L. (2004, October 21). Singapore women aim for the top of the world. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National University of Singapore. (2009, July 6). Speech by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, President, National University of Singapore at Main Commencement Ceremony, 6 July 2009. Retrieved 2016, July 21 from National University of Singapore website: http://nus.edu.sg/president/pdf/Commencement_speech_2009.pdf
4. Tai, J. (2011, August 22). Climber hits the heights on 7 continents. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Huang, H. (2011, May 22). Out on a climb. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Chang, A. L. (2004, October 21). Singapore women aim for the top of the world. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Teo, X. (2008, August 9). Young S’poreans made good. Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Wong, K. H. (2005, August 28). Upwardly mobile. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tan, M. (2005, September 19). Prime peak performers. The Business Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Wong, K. H. (2005, August 28). Upwardly mobile. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tan, M. (2005, September 19). Prime peak performers. The Business Times, p. 12; Wong, K. H. (2005, August 28). Upwardly mobile. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Singapore Women’s Everest Team. (2013). More than a mountain: The journey of Singapore’s first women’s team to the summit of Mount Everest. Singapore: Singapore Women’s Everest Team, pp. 15–17. (Call no.: RSING 796.522092 LEE); Tan, M. (2005, September 19). Prime peak performers. The Business Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Chang, A. L. (2004, October 21). Singapore women aim for the top of the world. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Low, L. H. (2009, March 21). Off to Everest, for real now. Today, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Low, L. H. (2009, May 21). Singapore’s first ladies of Everest. Today, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. National University of Singapore. (2009). NUS Alumni Awards 2009 recipients. Retrieved 2016, July 21 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.alumnet.nus.edu.sg/module/portal/content.html?alias=NUSAlumniAwards2009Recipients20151202162727
17. Lim, J. (2010, April 24). Hailed for making history in Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tai, J. (2011, August 22). Climber hits the heights on 7 continents. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Huang, H. (2011, May 22). Out on a climb. The Straits Times, p. 10; Tai, J. (2011, August 22). Climber hits the heights on 7 continents. The Straits Times, p. 7; Chin, D. (2011, June 11). Seven Summits quest: 5 down, 2 more to go. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Chia, A. (2014, July 7). Film-maker, Paralympian among six youths honoured for excellence. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
21. Tai, J. (2011, August 22). Climber hits the heights on 7 continents. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Yong, C. (2013, June 30). Singaporean duo ski 560km across Greenland. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23.  Huang, H. (2011, May 22). Out on a climb. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2012 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Recreation>>Sports
Sports, recreation and travel>>Outdoor life>>Mountaineering
Sports and games
Mountaineering--Singapore
Women mountaineers--Singapore--Biography
Lee, Jane Zhen Zhen, 1984-