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He only went out for some milk A blurb of monstrous proportions - it was only supposed to be a couple of lines and the odd photo.

Mount Kinabalu

MALAYSIA | Tuesday, 24 July 2007 | Views [6655]

Some are already on their way down..

Some are already on their way down..

After climbing Kilimanjaro I said I'd never climb a high mountain just for the sake of it again.  It should have great views, or/and lots of flora and fauna - not just a box to put a tick in on THE list.  The pictures I've seen and the lure of 'climbing' Malaysia's highest peak (4095.2m) are too much of a temptation.  I hope it's worth it.  LP says it's one of the easiest high mountains to climb as you need no special equipment and then goes on to use words like relentless, uphill 99% of the way, seemingly endless steps, lack of breath...before getting a whole lot tougher.

I'd arranged to share a guide with Yeong, a South Korean guy I'd met.  Unusually for an Asian he's been travelling by himself, and has spent the last 16 months travelling and working (wow).  We were due to meet at the park headquarters, get our own (compulsory) guide, and then set-off ASAP.  We were sharing a dorm, so this shouldn't have proved too difficult.  It must have been a case of Korean whispers however (Yeong's English isn't perfect), as he gets up at 5:30 and sets off without the guide that he, not me, has paid for!?  I wait for an hour at headquarters, telling the staff that he has already gone, but they insist he can't have.  I have to get myself another guide (costing me 70RM - $21 US grrr) - where the hell is Yeong!  After an hour later of walking (my expensive guide cheats and gets a lift), I find him.  He's had to stop as he didn't have a guide, and now he's been waiting over 2 hours to get the one he's paid for - the dopey sod!  That was probably the most excitement for the days trek to basecamp.  Relentless steps, humidity, altitude, few birds or bugs, but dense jungle, wild orchids, the ever thrill of walking through the clouds.  Except for the lack of wildlife and the mountains largess of steps which i really didn't appreciate, i was loving it - and not a Mc D in sight.  The altitude wasn't a problem as long as i took it slow.  Finding a lack of photo opportunities, I didn't - my accommodation wasn't even open by the time that I arrived.  It took me 4.5 hours of walking from headquarters to basecamp - a little better than the estimated 6-8 hours given by the park, and I didn't cheat by getting a lift at the start.  Yeah I'm pleased.

The accommodation is a series of four shelters, with 4 person dorm style rooms.  One shelter is heated (not mine) and the others aren't (mine).  It gets awful cold on the mountain - especially when you have been used to 30+C for 7 months.  There's also limited hot water for showers - i discover this by taking off all my clothes and standing in the freezing cold for 5 minutes waiting for it to get warm...it never did.  I give up and curl up - snug and warm in my bed and blankets, watching the rain lash down and cause torrential, newly created rivers, to cascade down the grey mountainside.  Bliss.  It's been a long tiring day, just to walk the 200m to the restaurant is a huge effort.  I've got English speaking roomies, 2 of whom I've met before and can have a laugh with - I'm content to wait out the rain.  We go to bed, or at least try to at 8pm - the sound of throwing-up, rebuilding the shelter (that's what it sounded like), a mass exodus at 1:45am, vivid dreams of steps and snakes (don't ask me)...I'm sure i haven't slept.  However I'm shaken awake at 2.30am; it's cold and dark and i forgo breakfast and wait around in my layers, headlight strapped to my head.  I delay leaving, i don't want to have to wait around at the top in the cold.  It should take 2-3 hours to get to the peak an sunrise is at 5:45am.  At 3:15am, becoming impatient for action, my guide and i set-off.

It's dark, damp, cold and windy.  Only a small area is lit by the torch.  I don't want to go too fast, but i can't help overtaking lots of people who are struggling for breath.  I feel great.  There's a huge range of people puffing up the mountain tonight.  Young teenagers, to those in their 70's.  Many Malaysians and a strong contingent of Germans and British.  The Asians are the funny ones - taking ages to get ready (they were making the noise in the hut), walking incredibly slow, doing everything in groups, but at least they're not going up in flip-flops and high heels like i have seen in China.

Most of the way is now guided by ropes - sometimes I really need them.  It spits with rain, there's pools of water everywhere and it's very slippy.  It's also very, very, cold.  I can't feel my hands or feet, but i know this won't last too long - they'll warm up when day breaks.  Dawn is still 40mins away when i reach the summit - I've gone too quick and overtaken nearly everyone.  It's a case of finding shelter as best i can in the crevices and cranny's of the rocks - at least i have first pick.  I eat my breakfast as i wait, now i don't have to worry about my belly sapping all the blood away from my legs.  A bag of cooked rice (15p), mixed with a can of tuna and a bag of mixed nuts - it tastes divine.  I'm cold, damp and miserable...why do i do these dawn summit attempts?, they are always in the cold and the wind.  My head torch gets switched off, and the unforgiving blackness gives way to unworldly grey as the sun break through.  It's a truly glorious sunrise, the mountain looks incredible and i can't wipe the grin off my face.

I guess it was worth it.

It's a quicker journey down, but a far more painful one on my knees.  I'm getting too old for this.  I pause at basecamp for a warming cup of tea, and comforting bar of chocolate, and then race down the mountainside, giving big smiles and hello's to all those suckers on their way up.  Somehow I'm first down - i guess i was eager.  I wait for Yeong as we're going to Sepilok or Sandokan...whichever bus we can get.

Yeah, it's another one to tick off the list, not too difficult and worth it for the sunrise.  I think a lot of people give it a go unprepared though.  Those idiots are the ones: not spending the night before at the elevated headquarters - not being aware of the affects of altitude in general, wearing shorts and t-shirts for the summit attempt, and worst of all taking a 2 year old child and a several month old baby up to the basecamp.  How incredibly negligent can you be? and why did the park let them?

Tags: trekking


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one ruined t-shirt and one ruined pair of trousers.  cool.

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