This is one of my favorite posts to put up. The reason? It’s simple. Good people doing good things to help good people. I couldn’t have been more happy that Jocelyne Sze and Omar Saif agreed to tell us about their fundraiser to bring five climbers over from Nepal for a 10-day climbing training trip to Singapore.

We will let everyone tell their story, but just to take a second, all of us at Musa Masala would like to thank Jocelyne and Omar for making such a huge effort that brought so much joy and inspiration to not just the climbers, but everyone involved. We would like to thank everyone who donated, all the climbing gyms in Singapore and the families and friends who made this happen. To the climbers, Bikash, Swastika,  Prena, Ronak, Sajan and Tenzin, we thank you for participating in this post and we hope your time in Singapore will always stay with you and inspire you with your climbing while giving back and helping others on the way. Jam Jam!!

Climbers go to Singapore!

By Jocelyne Sze

We’re Jocelyne and Omar from Singapore and the UK respectively. Jocelyne’s first time climbing was when she was 13 years old and joined her secondary school’s Outdoor Activities Club. Climbing was the first sport she did that came naturally to her, and after a few years, she joined local indoor lead climbing competitions and did surprisingly well in them. After a couple of years though, she stopped competing and climbed a lot less to focus on her studies, but picked up climbing regularly again about 7 years ago, switching to bouldering more. Omar only started climbing when he was 19 years old, at a university introductory event, but he got hooked on it pretty soon. Within a couple of years, he was bouldering 8a, and spent several summers climbing outdoors in Europe.

We went to Nepal in 2022 for the year for Omar’s PhD research, and while we were there, we spent many evenings at Astrek Climbing Wall and several weekends climbing outdoors at Sundhakhan and Hattiban. In fact, one of the first things we did on arrival in Kathmandu was to check out the Facebook group Kathmandu rock climbing to figure out what the climbing scene was like there. We quickly got to know Niraj Karki, Bikash Gurung, and many other local climbers. Jocelyne had also spent several sessions with the Ladies’ Mountain League doing some training on lead-belaying, basic climbing techniques etc.

When we were leaving Nepal in May 2023, the idea came to us that perhaps we could arrange for some Nepali climbers to go to Singapore for a training/exposure trip. Singapore has >40 climbing gyms, an extraordinary amount considering the city is only about 700km2. Being from Singapore, and having started climbing in Singapore quite a while ago when the climbing community there was much smaller than it is now, Jocelyne had some contacts at climbing gyms that she thought she might be able to persuade to provide free climbing passes at their gyms. We also knew that Nepalis did not require visas to travel to Singapore, which is a real problem for many Nepalis wanting to travel to other countries. We floated the idea with Bikash, whom we knew had dedicated a lot of his time and effort to the climbing scene in Nepal, and he thought it was a great. The idea was to bring the younger climbers whom we thought were very dedicated and had a lot of potential to excel in climbing if they were given more exposure to more modern climbing gyms, better facilities, routes, and training.

There wasn’t really a selection process per se, for who would come on the trip. We climbed frequently with Prena Rai, Tenzin Tamang, Sajan Lama, and Tintin Rai, at Astrek, and knew they were pretty strong and dedicated. Jocelyne also knew Swastika Chaudhary, who helps coordinate the Ladies’ Mountain League, and though she climbed more frequently at Kathmandu Sports Climbing Centre (KSCC), she knew Swastika climbed very well. Similarly, we had climbed occasionally with Ronak Upreti, memorably once at Sundakhan boulders, but also at one of the bouldering competitions hosted by KSCC in 2022 (which he won). Unfortunately, Tintin ended up not being able to come on the trip, but we were able to host the rest of the 5 youths as well as Bikash in Singapore from 26th December 2023 to 4th January 2024.

Between May and December 2023, we worked very hard on our crowdfunding campaign, managing to raise about S$5k through online donations and just under S$5k offline. Considerable credit goes to Jocelyne’s parents, who were very supportive; her mom even ran a bake sale to help bring in more funds, though apparently when they first found out about the project, they found it rather strange. Most people would donate to a charity, to meet others’ basic needs, rather than contributing money for what seems like a holiday. Another one of Jocelyne’s friends who runs the climbing apparel brand Casual also helped by donating the profits from a limited edition NepalxSingapore t-shirt.

Climbing gyms in Singapore can be pretty expensive, costing on average S$20 per entry (without membership passes). One of Jocelyne’s climbing friends opened Lighthouse Climbing Gym in 2020, and we had always enjoyed the route sets (women route-setters!) and the training space (Kilter board, tension board, moon board, gym bars) available there. We approached them to see if they would be willing to provide free entry to the Nepalis, and happily enough, they did! Another friend opened Boulder Planet, a massive bouldering gym with fun routes and a competition wall (another branch had also opened more recently), and they had also previously donated some old climbing holds to the Ladies’ Mountain League (through us), so we approached them for free passes too. Omar and I were quite happy to only boulder, but we thought that perhaps the Nepalis might like to lead climb as well, so we approached Climb Central to see if they might be amenable. Climb Central is one of the largest climbing gym chains in Singapore, which does not only bouldering but also rope climbing. They too, were very willing to provide free passes, and we’re very very grateful to all of them for being so supportive of this project.

It was slightly stressful trying to make sure everything would run smoothly, trying to raise enough funds early on to be able to secure flight tickets and accommodation at a decent price, getting documents ready so the Nepalis would be able to travel easily (4 of them had never travelled abroad before and so had to make their passports too!), planning the logistics etc. However, it was great once we met them at the airport, just seeing their smiles and being amazed at what Singapore had to offer. We hadn’t planned just to climb everyday (physically impossible), and we brought them to the beach and the tourist attractions during their rest days. But probably the best part of the trip was watching them get stronger and more confident over the period.

Nonetheless, as satisfying as it was, this will probably be difficult for us to pull off again. However, we hope that it has inspired them to set better climbing routes in Nepal, train harder, and search for more opportunities to travel abroad for the training experience! Training is really important, and knowing how to train well and efficiently. We don’t have any plans at the moment, but if there was one thing we would want to work towards, it would be to get a Kilter board in Nepal, in a place that is accessible to all climbers who want to train hard and be connected (literally through the app) to the international climbing scene.  

Climbers’ thoughts on the Singapore Climbing Trip

The team from left to right:
Omar Saif, Swastika Chaudhary, Sajan Lama, Ben Toh from Boulder Planet,
Tenzin Khando Tamang, Bikash Gurung, Jocelyne Sze, Prena Rai, Ronak Upret

Bikash Gurung, route setter, coach

“Nepal Youth team climbing training trip was absolutely blast. So many climbing  experiences for the  very first time we got to try, comp wall, Kilter board, Moon board,  Auto belay and speed climbing. Besides climbing there’s so many other things like going to beach, swimming in Ocean,  Hawkers food market,  new year fireworks visit and new year Turkey Dinner at Jocelyne Parents house. We were literally spoiled. It was an amazing experience. 

Thanks to Jocelyne and Omar and Jocelyne parents,  Lighthouse Climbing, Casual SG,  Boulder Planet,  Climb Central Singapore. It was a year of effort to make this happen, coming back home in Nepal with lots of experience. Thanks to everyone who supported on this journey.”

Dinner with Jocelyne’s parents!

Prena Rai, the Winner of the 2023 Musa Masala lead climbing Competition

“It was my first international trip to Singapore. Thanks to Jocelyne didi and Omar Dai but without all the fundraising it couldn’t have been possible so Musa Masala being one of them, they have played huge role for our trip. Thank you so much for supporting us and making our trip successful and being part of our journey. It really means a lot as we youth are generation to build for sports and even small supports means one step closer to moving forward.”

Swastika Chaudhary

The Singapore climbing trip gave me a new hope for my climbing career. Not only climbing but I have learned a different life from these 10 days as well. I came to make a good bond with my own climbing community. All I could live this moment because of Jocelyne and Omar’s efforts and I am so grateful of my team who went with me to Singapore.

Sajan Lama

“Our 10 day Singapore trip was really awesome.  We climbed so hard, trying different things that’s was fun. We met new climbers, made new friends and the climbing gyms were huge and awesome and  clean, that’s was amazing. They all were so beautiful they have so many different kind of equipment like pull-ups bar, gym equipment, hanging board…etc. and the climbing holds were so big and good, all the holds looked brand new. The holds were like different then we used to climb. We tried different things like kilter board, moon board, auto belay, speed climbing wall.

After a normal climbing day we climb so hard until we reached our limits and that we didn’t even notice blisters in our fingers. After that day I felt a bit tired but was still excited to visit another climbing gym.

after some climb sessions we went to visit tourist sites and the first time we visit a beach was so chilled we swim that was so cool. we celebrate new year 2024 in Singapore and the best part was fireworks which was in next level. 

Before the fireworks we went to Jocelyne didi house for a delicious dinner we meet Jocelyne didi parents they were so sweet and kind there hospitality was so amazing we spend quality time with them

Overall the Singapore trip was one of the best trips of my life. it was my first visit abroad with some wonderful people and great climbing sessions. Singapore will always be my one of the favorite place to visit. i learn so many things about climbing and cultures. I am so thankful for all those people who made this trip possible.”

Tenzin Khando Tamang, fourth place at the 2023 Musa Masala Lead Climbing Competition

“My first-ever international trip to Singapore was like a dream come true. We heard we would get a chance to go to Singapore and train for a week. We were surprised and excited thinking if that was possible, because we had never been to any country before this, so it was a new kind of excitement and emotion.

Finally, the day came and we flew to Singapore as we were dreaming. We were acting crazy to see the beauty of Singapore and eager to climb. Each climbing gym was very welcoming and supportive. We have been to different climbing gyms like Lightroom, Boulder Planet and Climb Central. We were surprised to see the difference between our climbing gym and the Singapore climbing gym, lots of space to train for climbers and uncountable boulder routes. We trained for 4 hours every day and still didn’t feel bored or tired. We learned lots of new things about climbing and met lots of strong climbers from Singapore. They were very friendly and supportive. We also got to see lots of beautiful places, went to the beach on rest day, and eat lots of seafood. We had the best time in Singapore and will never be able to thank enough Omar, Jocelyne and their family for everything they did for us.”

Tenzin climbing with Sajan belaying in foreground. Bikash climbing with Swastika belaying. Prena and Ronak watch from below.

Ronak Upreti

“Reflecting back on my trip to Singapore, I really want to thank Jocelyne didi and Omar dai. Singapore was hands down the best trip ever for me, whether it was climbing or exploring. I think I got a new perspective to climbing and it is so much more that what we have thought. This trip overall helped me improve my climbing side as well as much as social side by communicating with new people and exploring new places and really good foods. ‘Ota,’ a fish sausage is my new favorite food. :)”

The team, having fun!