Mount Kinabalu - the first and probably last attempt

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February 15th 2012
Published: March 28th 2012
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Mount Kinabalu

Somewhere around here.

We had read that climbing Mount Kinabalu was easy, compared to the hassle of organising it. Having done both, we have to disagree completely. Despite having to pay a national park fee, a climbing fee, a guide fee, mandatory insurance, a fee for transport within the park, and a fee for mountainside board and lodgings, the pain on the wallet compares not to the pain in the thighs, calves, knees, feet, head and heart. But it was worth it, just about, for the sense of achievement and awe-inspiring views of Borneo at dawn.

It’s not the distance travelled, nor the time spent walking that hurts, it’s the height gained. It’s hard to convey just how steep the climb is. Try to imagine walking up a seemingly never-ending staircase for eight or nine hours. For the mathematically minded, consider 2.2km of ascent in 8.7km of walking. Then having to walk all the way down again, ever so carefully watching your step.

Thankfully the scenery was more interesting than that enclosing the average staircase. Our favourite sights, though, were probably the 0.5km markers, signifying another landmark as we passed through sticky rainforest, through the clouds into alpine-like vegetation. After a few
The climb beginsThe climb beginsThe climb begins

A deceptive downhill slope - just meant we had further to go uphill after.
hours rest, we finally ascended to bare rock and the summit, cold and mysterious in the seemingly eternal moments before dawn’s warming rays. They revealed that we’d made it, to 4095m above the intermittently visible sea.

Mount Kinabalu is the highest point in south-east Asia, and features prominently on the flag of the Malaysian state Sabah. Many ‘Sabahans’ have completed the climb on more than one occasion, including our guide, Francis, who has done so twice a week for the past five years. Even his endeavours pale into insignificance next to those of the numerous mountain porters, who carry food and other goods to the overnight lodgings at Laban Rata (~3300m). Perhaps we had it easy, after all. Even if we couldn’t walk properly for four days afterwards.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 23


Tree rootsTree roots
Tree roots

Shot from eye level a few steps away.
The mountain portersThe mountain porters
The mountain porters

Men, women, all ages, carried our dinner, breakfast and other supplies for Laban Rata.
The last 500m before Laban RataThe last 500m before Laban Rata
The last 500m before Laban Rata

It took about 25 mins!
Laban RataLaban Rata
Laban Rata

Our overnight lodgings, and the scene of a large breakfast to break up our descent.
Mountainside volleyballMountainside volleyball
Mountainside volleyball

Incredibly, some of the porters and guides could muster the energy and desire for a game of volleyball.
Climbers in the darkClimbers in the dark
Climbers in the dark

We set out around 2.30am. This is a group of walkers some way below us.
We've made it!We've made it!
We've made it!

Great photo :-/ Our guide's trekking skills surpassed his photography.

On top of (this part of) the world.
We really did make it.We really did make it.
We really did make it.

A better photo of Ben, depending on your point of view.
The wrong way downThe wrong way down
The wrong way down

Some soldiers were stuck down here for three weeks!
The long way down, via a monkey head?The long way down, via a monkey head?
The long way down, via a monkey head?

Slightly delirious at this point, the rocks took on strange shapes.
Looking upLooking up
Looking up

We weren't the only ones with the bright idea to climb Kinabalu.
Looking downLooking down
Looking down

It was only on our descent that we began to see where we'd ascended.
To prove Mina made it tooTo prove Mina made it too
To prove Mina made it too

Mina was keen to be photographed, for a change.

Not much grows above 4000m
Francis, our guideFrancis, our guide
Francis, our guide

Seems to have been transformed into an army man.
These guys look a bit professionalThese guys look a bit professional
These guys look a bit professional

But we beat them to the top.
Rope tricksRope tricks
Rope tricks

This was easier in the dark, when there was less to be scared about.
Putting it into perspectivePutting it into perspective
Putting it into perspective

We're still a long way above the rest of Sabah.
A narrow ledgeA narrow ledge
A narrow ledge

An imposter dressed as Mina
Look at the times!Look at the times!
Look at the times!

Ignore the grins, and look at the times. Our time of 13 hours, over two days, wasn't quite good enough to warrant a place on the board, obviously. Having done the trek, these times are astonishing.

28th March 2012

Mt Kinabalu
Wow. What can I say? For once, I'm glad I wasn't with you!! I get to see the wonderful views without the pain!! Congratulations to you both for ascending and descending Mt Kinabalu. I bet you're really glad you didn't have to carry your dinners too!
29th March 2012

Mount Kinabalu
I am well impressed by this mountainous feat !

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