Somewhere out there in south-eastern Kazakhstan, there’s a mountain named after a Singaporean — the first of its kind. And not just any Singaporean, but Singapore’s first elected president, Ong Teng Cheong himself.
The 4,743m-tall mountain sits in the middle of a remote Tien Shan range that stretches along the border between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China, reported The Straits Times. Ong Teng Cheong peak — so named because it was first conquered by a Singapore team on July 29, 2005 — was formally recognized on June 28 this year by the Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Federation of Kazakhstan.
Mountaineers David Lim, Wilfred Tok, Mohd Rozani Maarof and Shani Tan were the first ones to ascend the mountain, and they named it after Ong, who was the patron of Singapore’s first Everest expedition in 1995 during his presidency.
Notably, 53-year-old Lim was also the leader of the first Singapore team that successfully scaled Mount Everest in May 1998.
Initially, the team faced challenges getting the name formalized, as the federation seemed to have overlooked their application. Also, their GPS coordinates were off.
But fast forward 11 years to last August — when Ong Tze Boon, the younger son of the late president, attempted to scale the mountain, obtained data that was coordinated with Lim’s and dispatched it to the Kazakhstan federation — and the mountain was finally recognized this year. After months of persuasion and paperwork.
Anyone who’s the first to conquer a mountain in Kazakhstan gets the privilege of naming it — as long as he/she provides documents like a report of its exact geographical location and the climbing route for approval.
But wait, there’s more. The Ong Teng Cheong peak may soon have a partner by the name of Ong Siew May peak, in memory of the late president’s wife.
It was on Aug 22 last year that Ong’s two sons Tze Boon and Tze Guan, alongside Lim Kim Boon and Leow Kah Shin, were the first to successfully scale an adjacent peak of 4,451m. The name awaits formal approval from the Kazakhstan federation, but having two mountains named after the couple is “an honor in their memory”, said Ong Tze Boon.
It’s a fitting tribute to Singapore’s first democratically elected president, despite the Government’s current insistence that it was Wee Kim Wee instead.