“It’s Not About The Climb”


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Asia » Malaysia » Sabah » Mount Kinabalu
January 12th 2012
Published: February 5th 2012
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We kicked the day off with some serious energy food at the resort’s restaurant. Soffia ate more in this one meal than she had in the entire trip so far. I think that the colder weather and yummy toast helped a lot! We all felt a strange mix of anticipated nervousness and excitement all rolled into one.

We walked to the beginning of the Mesilau Trail and met our mountain guide Rony. There was just enough time for some ‘pre-climb’ snaps and then we were off into the unknown!

Obviously it was tough at times but in general I found it a nice walk. The last bit up to the rest point was steep and Soffia struggled with the effects of altitude sickness. We all made it to Laban Rata well before sunset though which we were happy with. Unfortunately Brendan ended up having to go back with his guide due to a pretty horrid case of food poisoning. This meant his mate Adam came on guideless.

Laban Rata blew me away. I could not fathom how they build such an amazing structure so far up the mountain. The dorms were super cosy and clean. The food was
Go forth and grow little treeGo forth and grow little treeGo forth and grow little tree

Tree planting. Still feel weird about this activity but I gues someone has to negate the work of the palm oil farmers
amazing and apart from no hot water I would even go so far to say it was luxurious in comparison to the places we had been staying in.

After a decent feed we washed, stretched (my calves we killing me) and went to bed. Soffia had made the decision not to summit due to feeling so unwell. This must have been really disappointing but we thought she had made the safest decision considering she still had another 4.5 months of travel left.

I woke up around 1:15am to the sounds of people moving about in the corridors. Obviously some guides had to set off etra early. The deal is that most people want to make the summit in time to see the sun rise. Our guide told us we would need to set off around 2:45am. I lay in bed and tried to rest, knowing it was going to be an insanely full-on day.

When the time came to begin the summit climb we had on all our layers. I got hot very quickly as soon as I began walking and was down to just a singlet top before the first half hour had passed. That first hour passed really quickly. There were lots of steep, slippery stairs but in general nothing too difficult. It’s pitch black and so you can only just see in front of you. There were already stacks of people on the trail but we somehow made our way right to the front of the climbers. We rested for a bit when we got to the rangers station but it got cold so quickly once you stopped that we got going again pretty quickly.

The last 1km was extreme for me. I had to employ the strategy of walking until I felt like I was going to vomit, then I would rest until I got cold (this took approx. 10-30 seconds) and then I would repeat. It really was incredibly tough going and while most other people walking upright I found it easier to crab walk myself up (think of a hands and feet with bum in the air crawl). There was only one point where I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue from sheer exhaustion, but that’s just not an option when you’ve come so far.

I could go on forever about that last 1km as it was just so gruelling and it honestly felt never ending. Rony and Katie were walking together about 300m behind Heather and I. When we crested the summit it was still very dark and bitterly cold. There were only about a dozen others there at that time so it was easy enough for us to get a good look around.

It was a great feeling o have made it and we were definitely elated but the cold just took over our bodies. We ended up in a group hug, holding each others hands and snuggling into each other. When Katie and Rony made it to the summit, Rony found us a great vantage point to view the impending sunrise. It was spectacular and words will never do it justice. A truly one in a lifetime moment for me and it will stay with me forever. I think I’ll always feel very close to Heather, Katie, Rony and Adam just because they were with me and experienced that moment too. Slowly the sun rose and with each new moment the details of our surroundings became clearer. In fact, it wasn’t until we were on the decent that we all said that the darkness made it easier to climb. We believe that if it had been light and we could see how far we had to go, it would have been enough for us to give up. It was like being on another planet. Sheer granite cliffs and clouds. That was our surroundings (ok yes, also rats in burrows and small amounts of vomit butt hey, that’s how it is).

The strangest thing that happened on the summit was that while we were all waiting for the sun rise we had been sharing a Snickers bar. We had taken bites but none of us had the energy to have the last bit. I had put in on top of my backpack a few cm from my head. Sure enough, moments later we head the screeches of rats and the chocolate had gone. Ewww.

By 7.30am we were back at Laban Rata having breakfast and saying goodbyes. We left just before t10am and walked all afternoon. Although it was tough on the knee joints, going down was much faster and easier. Plus, I think we were all on a bit of a high from reaching the top. Poor Soffia had to put up with our constant summit chatter. She put on a brave face and was so gracious, in what truly must have been a hard time.

We had lunch at the bottom of the mountain around 2pm and then it was off to our accommodation out of town. I wish we had been able to return to the cool dorm rooms cos the hotel had zero atmosphere. Yes, clean and comfortable but we needed to be around other people who had just experienced the thrill of the climb. As it was, we were the only westerners.

I went to bed contented but feeling somewhat of an anticlimax but I guess that’s to be expected.

Below is a list of things that haven’t been included in the blog, but I need to write them down so I don’t forget about the way they made up laugh or impacted our trip in some way:

1. Weird Japanese couple who switched the light on after we left but with Soffia still trying to sleep.

2. Taking the blueberry jam cakes they left behind but then seeing them at the first stop. They were hanging of the outside of my daypack (oops)

3. The yummy jam at the Cottage hotel where we all about half a loaf of toast each.

4. Cordial in place of orange juice for breakfast

5. George sneaking off back to KK

6. Rony’s hot tip of taking a bottle of hot water up to the summit. Brilliant!!!!

7. Planking on the summit of Mt. K

8. Seeing the gorilla rock

9. Katie and Rony walking hand in hand for the entire summit and decent. God bless that man.

10.Being sooo cold we only took summit photos with one camera

11.The funky soup I ordered for dinner at the cottge hotel but couldn’t stomach for it’s suspect texture and appearance.

12.Drinking copious amounts of warm Milo (also pronounced me-lo)

13. George’s mandatory ‘tipping’ photographs and ceremony. Will be interesting to see if he ends up posting those.

14.When queried about the amout of time/distance to the next rest stop Rony’s frequently heard responses were, “Soon” or “not far”.

15.Hotels that put televisions in the room for show rather than functionality. At two places we had TVs where they didn’t have the correct outlet plug and couldn’t be plugged into the wall. ????

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