13 October 2008

Conquering Mount Kinabalu

OK lah. I think Mount Kinabalu needs no introduction. It was thought to be the highest mountain in South East Asia but later discoveries had revealed that it is not. But whether it is the highest or not, conquering Mount Kinabalu should still be in the list of every adventure-seeker. The highest peak (known as Low’s Peak) is easily accessible by any climber with a good physical condition. All you need to do is a little bit of training prior to the climb.

It would be my third climb, with the first one way back in my early teenage, and the second time with a bunch of University friends back in 1997. So, driving over from my hometown of Keningau (it was the first day of Hari Raya Holiday), I couldn’t help but being a little too excited. At around 7.30 am, I took this picture of Mount Kinabalu from a distance knowing that later in the day; or rather the next morning, I’d be up there standing on top of it.
Meeting up at the National Park office to deal with the registration, we were then transported to the foot of the mountain where we were given a short safety briefing at the entrance of the trail. Then, we were set to come, to see and to conquer Mount Kinabalu!
Our adventure began with a little bit of descending trail down to a beautiful waterfall before it started to ascend all the way up. Well, quite expectedly, finishing the first 1 kilometer had proved to be quite difficult because the lungs were just about to warm up. 

By the time I reached the first hut, I was already panting like a dog that has just been thrown into a river and forced to swim back to its safety. But then, after a short break my body was beginning to get adjusted to the sudden surge in the use of energy. My climb was going pretty much smoothly from there.
But it had only remained so for the next few kilometers before I began to feel some muscle strains in both my legs. Based on my climbing experience in the past, I knew they were never going away. I would just have to keep moving, probably making smaller steps in a slower pace. I kept telling myself that I had the whole day to reach the Gunting Lagadan hostel – the place where I was gonna stay for the night before making may way up to the peak the next morning.
Being a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site, the committee of the panel has had every reason to believe that Mount Kinabalu was precious enough to be entitled that kind of prestigious recognition. Mount Kinabalu is known world-wide for its tremendous botanical and species biodiversity. Something worth mentioning here is the fact that a recent botanical survey of the mountain estimated a staggering 5,000 to 6,000 plant species in which is more than all of Europe and North America combined! How about that?
That was why climbing Mount Kinabalu is not all about getting adventurous alone but to take some time to savor the rarely found natural botanical and species biodiversity that it has to offer to its climbers. That was what I did. I let the others climb past me because I wanted to take my time appreciating all the wondrous God creation along the way. No. I’m not trying to make excuses here. :-P
But seriously, some of the plants and flowers are worth stopping to check out for. Like the rarely found Nephenthes Rajah, a pitcher plan known to have a unique insect-trapping mechanism. I actually found it when I was looking for a hidden spot to relieve myself out. Poor pitcher. I got it peed on. :-)
And dozens of flowers you’d probably never find in any other place but Mount Kinabalu.
Despite the problems with my calf muscles, I managed to reach Panar Laban Resthouse sometime after 3 pm.
Worsened by the rain, the temperature was indicated to be around 9 degree Celsius which was quite too cold for somebody who has grown up living in a hot climate like... Sabah. :-D
By then, it was time for dinner and it was all in the package.
If you are a budget traveler, REFRAIN YOURSELF from ordering beer because it would cost you around RM 20 per can! Ridiculous it might be but then we are talking about transporting goods 3270 m up above the sea level – all hand-carried. Or rather, back-carried.
We had to climb another 100 meter up to reach the Gunting Lagadan hostel.
Apparently, somebody had been secretly bringing small bottles of London Gin inside his bag. Well, at least we had something to keep us warm against the freezing cold night.
But of course, the heat sparkled by the gin inside us wouldn’t last that long. We still had to slip back into the warmth of the thick comforters and tried to get a good sleep before the ultimate adventure of the whole trip – the journey to the summit! Good night everyone. See you at the summit.
It was 2.00 am the next morning and everybody was already awake. Most of us cooked Maggie noodles for breakfast as our last-minute intake of energy. Once outside the heated hostel, the freezing cold mountain air washed over us almost like an electric shock. I didn’t even remember being THAT cold in any of my previous trips. Bad omen.
Climbing up to the summit when it was still dark is like swimming blindly against the flow of a murky river. You’d just have to keep going and make a stop when you’re about to run out of breath. It is hilarious because you’d have to climb with all the other climbers in a ONE single line. Some of the Korean climbers kept cat-calling to each other as if the whole mountain had belonged to them. But I don't blame them. Mount Kinabalu can pretty much excite just about everybody. Haha!
Again, I learned from my previous climbs by putting water-proof hand gloves on my hands. It really is important because the nylon rope that is used to lead you up to the peak would most possibly be wet due to the night mist. Once you touched it, the wetness would permeate the gloves through to the skin of your hands and your hands would turn numb in a second. That was my biggest problem in my previous two climbs – numb hands. Ohhh, and please don't throw the gloves right away. They can be used to clean up your toilet later.
Climbing past the Sayat Sayat Hut (the highest stop before the peak), the guide was beginning to tell me all kind of discouraging remarks such as:

- ‘oh bro. I think it is quite too late for you to go to the top now. You'll be caught in the cloudy mess' or
-‘you don’t have to force yourself you know’ or
-‘you can try some other time’

I just glared at him in disbelief and silently said ‘go fuck yourself. I know I can do this’. If you happen to have a guide like this in any of your climbs to Mount Kinabalu, DO NOT GET FOOLED by them. They were paid to take you all the way up to the peak. They want to go back to the base the soonest possible so that they will be assigned to another group of climbers so that they can earn more money!
I had some problem coping up with the cold temperature. It was so cold that ice beads were beginning to take shape all over my head cap. It must have been around zero degrees Celsius and the air was thinning with elevation, making it quite the difficult to breath.

But still I managed to keep going graciously and in style.
Don't be fooled by the pic above. It was taken when I was already on my way down. NOBODY could smile like that in the ascending journey. 

No matter how slow I was progressing, I eventually made it to the top of Low’s Peak – again. My third time.

And I had every reason to celebrate it. There was some jubilant feeling about standing on top of Mount Kinabalu this time. Somehow, it is such a relief to know that at 30, I still HAD the energy. I found it quite harder than it was in my previous climbs but I wouldn’t blame it on my age but more on my lack of exercises. :-P
Ok. Don’t mind my underwear there.

I didn’t get to take many photos in my previous climbs, so I turned this one out into some kind of photography session. I took photos like crazy. I just could not stop. Mount Kinabalu really made me proud to be born a Sabahan.
If ascending was gruelingly painful, descending to the base had proved to be almost as difficult. I was actually dragging my legs to keep moving down.
Once in a while I’d stop to recollect my energy and savor the beauty of the magnificent views of the mountainous Sabah down below. Unlike my previous climbs again, I REFUSED to rush myself down this time. I just took my time enjoying the views and the surroundings.

Later at the base, I was given the certificate – another addition to my collection of certificates. I drove off back to Keningau with a wide smile on my face. I had conquered Mount Kinabalu for the third time. But then, every good thing comes with a bad thing – well usually. The punishment came when I woke up the next morning.

My legs and calf muscles were so painful that I had to drag myself to move around the house. With my room being on the first floor, it was impossible to climb up the stairs without going through the intense muscle pains. It felt almost like being paralyzed. Luckily my mother, who seemed to feel the pain by just looking at me moving like a zombie, did her magic touches. The pain had miraculously receded almost instantly after she gave a massage. Well, a mom’s touch really is magical. I could even drive all the way back to Sandakan without much difficulty.

1 comment:

Hombidai said...

bravo bozzz


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