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Published: June 21st 2017
Geo: 5.96596, 116.071
My reason for visiting Borneo, wasn't to see the Orangutans which is why most tourist visit, but instead it was the challenge to summit Mount Kinabalu. At 4,095m (around 13,435 ft) over only a couple of days, I knew it was going to be a challenge considering I've not done any real climbing since the Rohtang La in India which was an interesting climb!
I left Brunei on a ferry and stopped at Labuan Island which is part of Malaysia and once again we're through Immigration. Labuan is a Duty Free Island and everyone is stocking up on cigarettes, alcohol, perfumes, sweets etc. which is the norm. It's an early start next day leaving the Guest House (6am) for a bus to the port which is the quickest way to get to Kota Kinabalu (KK), followed by two ferries and a taxi down to the hostel. KK seems a nice place, my mission though is to get to the mountain and I catch a local bus up to the entrance the following day. It's quite a trip, through winding roads which climb up round the mountain and the scenery is stunning with part of the road on the utmost verge,
and I'm loving every second of it.
On arrival at Mt.Kinabalu I arrange my trip which includes sharing the guide (it's compulsory to have one on the mountain), my accommodation and meals etc. and I'm glad I'm a bit closer to my goal. I get checked into a cheap dorm for the night which is only a ten minute walk from the starting point and I even manage to borrow a small rucksack from the receptionist at the hotel as I only have cycling panniers with me. It's an early night in preparation of taking on the mountain which has been on my 'bucket list' for a while and although I'm worried about how I'll deal with the altitude especially since having my skull fractured a few times recently, I intend on taking it slow and steady and will just keep my finger's crossed!
So I met my guide 'Larry' and fellow trekker 'Mr Phang' and get organised, we have a nice clear view of the mountain although rain is forecast later, and I took some nice photographs of us and some other trekkers before being put on a bus to the starting point. I hire a trekking pole as I suspect
I'll need it for the way down and we go through the 'Check Post' and we're off. Larry leads the way and forces us into a frustratingly slow pace initially, but actually I do need to take care and don't want to do anything to hinder our success so just go with it. Mr Phang is a bit older too and the pace seems to suit him so I don't really have any option anyway although a few times I let them go on ahead as I can easily catch up with them anyway.
There are 'km' marks on the way up accompanied by 'rest shelters' which provide photographs and information on the area plus it gives me the chance to meet other trekkers. Kinabalu is apparently one of the most important biological sites in the world and has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status, there's as many as 6000 different kinds of plants, over 300 kinds of birds and over 100 mammals including the orangutan although I only saw a fraction of all this. Wee fat squirrels were everywhere, tiny black birds would follow you along, you could hear frogs and crickets, birds galore and Larry was very good
at pointing out various different plants with my favorite being the pitcher plants which were huge... all very educational and interesting although I wouldn't have noticed half the things without his help.
Our first day is a 6 km uphill trek, it's steep with many parts being hand built steps the whole way up which is like 4 hours of step aerobics! Around half way up we stop for our packed lunch which by that point was well appreciated, the rain is just beginning and everyone who passes us on the way down all look pretty beat and air the fragrance of 'deep heat' emerging from their muscles, trying to get some relief from their exertion. They pass in their ponchos of every color for the heavy rain that has started and I find it strange that many of the guides carry 'umbrellas' instead of any waterproof equipment...
Unfortunately Mr Phang has cramp on the way up and we have to rest now and then to let him recover and although initially just one leg, they other muscle gives in too and it looks like he is in a fair amount of discomfort and pain, but he's determined to keep going
which I'm relieved about, I don't what would happen to my trek if he wasn't! Slow and steady definitely proved the way for the day and we were glad to reach Laban Rata where we're staying and get allocated our dorm bed on arrival. I get acquainted with the others in the 6 bed dorm and they all seem to be lovely people, and once settled in I pop outside for a few photographs and take in the scenery. It's all a very positive atmosphere with everyone looking forward to reaching the summit in the morning although maybe not looking forward to the 2am rise! Everyone meets in the evening for a buffet style dinner which is provided and we all head to bed around 7-8pm for our early rise in the morning and I'm thankful that I get a good nights sleep.
Rise and shine, it's 2am and time to get going... we have a light snack before leaving and meet our guide at 2:30am for the summit challenge, ooo excited and a little petrified too! Thankfully my legs are fine and we start off, I've borrowed a head torch as I forgot my one and all you can see
is the lights making their way up the mountain which is kind of eerie. It's pitch black, and we are all just in a line making our way up the mountain which is proving far more difficult than the previous day, not only with the darkness but with the steep roped areas and to be honest if you could see what you were actually climbing up you probably wouldn't...
I breathe a sigh of relief when I pass the 4,000m mark and I'm thankful that I'm feeling well and don't have any signs of the mountain sickness caused by the altitude, although a few people weren't so lucky and had to be taken back down off the mountain, not reaching the summit. It takes us around 3 hours I think to reach the top and I'm delighted we're there before sunrise, it's a bit of a photo fest for the 'summit evidence' and I'm so proud of myself that I'm actually standing on the very top of Low's Peak on Mt.Kinabalu... phew I made it... what a fantastic sense of achievement.
I sit and watch the most incredible sunrise creeping up from behind the mountains and it's quite overwhelming... it makes
all the effort of getting here so completely worthwhile. We take plenty of time to just sit and enjoy the sky lighting up in the morning sun with all the colors changing and it's a real joy just to sit and watch, sometimes you have to just stop and take things in... it's stunning.
Now the fun begins, the getting off the mountain... it's gonna be a knee busting descent which I'm not looking forward to. Our first job takes us back down to the hostel, the views are amazing on the way with the clouds below us and you get to see what you actually climbed up in the night which sent a shiver down my spine a few times! We grab a light snack at Laban Rata and pick up our luggage before setting off again, it started off OK for the next 4 kms but the last 2 kms coming off the mountain seemed never ending and my legs were crying in pain by the end of it, my knees felt like they wanted to go backwards instead of forwards or just stop altogether but you've no option to keep going and I was so relieved when we
eventually reached the bottom that I could have hugged Larry for his help and support! We signed off the mountain and I was delighted by the sign above us which says 'Welcome back, you are now successful climbers' and it totally feels that way too.
'Mt.Kinabalu, you nearly broke me but in the end I'm a strong stubborn woman, and I just would'nay let ya'.
'Life is what you make it, and we sure make it good'.
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