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how high is that mountain?

MALAYSIA | Thursday, 13 November 2008 | Views [1989]

Me and my climbing friends. Lucas, Jordana and Kris (Canadians) and Chris (English) at the summit.

Me and my climbing friends. Lucas, Jordana and Kris (Canadians) and Chris (English) at the summit.

I flew into Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah, Borneo Malaysia about 2 hours late from Singapore. It was after 2:00am so I decided to stay at the airport for a few hours then head into town first thing in the morning. After sleeping a few hours I walked out to the main access road 10 minutes outside the airport and caught the city bus into town. I walked to my hostel, checked in and promptly took a nice hot shower and shaved. I felt much better and could now face the world just a bit cleaner and fresher then a few hours earlier. This was my day to get things ready for my climb of Mt. Kinabalu the following day. So I headed out to buy some food and check on transporation to the national park where the mountain is located. Mt. Kinabalu is the higherst mountain in SE Asia, at 4095M the tallest between the Himalayas and New Guinea. After getting my things together for the two day climb I turned in for an early night needing to catch the minibus at 6:00amish.

I walked to the bus station only to discover that like most buses in SE Asia they don't leave until they are full. THis one expected to leave at 8:00am but two hours later still not enough passengers. The park says you should begin climbing no later then 11:00am to ensure you make it by dark to the lodge 6km away from the trailhead. It takes about 2 hours to get to the park via minibus so I was getting a little nervous. While waiting I met CHris from the UK who was also doing the climb. Finally at about 8:30am we got our 10 people at took off. We arrived a little ahead of schedule and Chris and I decided to climb together once at the park. While filling out the paperwork we tried to get out of having a guide because we had both heard there is no need to have one because the trail is pretty well marked. They would not let us get out of having a guide so we met a group of three Canadians who were about to start and joined their group. Lucas, Kris and Jordana were studying law in Singapore and were on a short holiday before returning to exams and the end of the term. We took a car shuttle the 5km up to the trail gate under partly cloudy skis and nice temps at started the first day at 10:45am. Once on the trail which is 99% upshill (homemade wooden steps and big rocks) Chris and Lucas hiked ahead, I was right behind and the women were back withe James our guide. Chris has an interesting back story I learned on the way in the minibus. He works on a multimillionare's yacht as crew and sales around the world either with the owner's friends/family or people who charter the boat. He is 21 and the youngest and fittest in the group, it showed on the climb up. After an hour or so Lucas fell back to climb with me while Chris surged ahead. The last 30 minutes or so I began hiking alone and at about 2:00pm I got the lodge to find Chris checking into his room. I checked into mine and 15 minutes later Lucas came in and we all had lunch while waiting for Jordana, Kris an James.

Since it was early afternoon we had time to relax, rest and eat. Turns out Lucas, Kris, Jordana and I would have met anyway because we were all in the same room. After a nice hot shower and some rest we met Chris, who was in another building for dinner. After dinner we played some cards and turned in at about 8:30pm because we needed to rise between 2:00-2:30am to begin the summit push. After a not-so-restful night I awoke at 2:00am to go the bathroom and stayed up until I got up at 2:30am. The girls got up at 2:15am because they needed to start the climb a little earlier to reach the summit before sunrise. Lucas and I had a quick breakfast at 3:00am and left to meet Chris 5 minutes up the trail. At about 3:10am we began the climb to the summit, 2.5km from Laban Rata Lodge where we spent the night which is 6km from the trailhead.

It was completely dark so we all head headlamps but we were also fortunate to have a full moon above and stars. It was almost a clear night and you could see all the way up to the top of the mountain or at least what you thought was the top. During the first 15 minutes I was already hurting, my legs were fine but my lungs were just not cooperating. THe Lodge is at 11000feet, the summit at about 13500feet and I could feel it. After a while my breathing settled down and Lucas and I got into a rhythm. Of course Chris was far ahead and you could see the line of lights up the mountain from people who got up earlier to start the climb. The first part of the climb was many steps and before reaching the smooth rock of the mountain face. It quicky turned into a crowded highway with few opps to pass. I imagined it was like the Hillary Step on Mt. Everest where everyone has to cross over to climb one at a time, at least from what I have heard. We reached the rock face and now had a rope running down the the rock to use. For you climber out there it was about 5.7/5.8 pitch oh and still dark. For me it was actually easier and I was feeling much stronger about an hour into the climb. Lucas dropped back and I was mostly climbing alone under the full moon night and you could see up the face almost perfectly. As I continued the climb people were dropping off to take breaks, I also took my share of small breaks to catch my breath and a little water. I finally reached the final .5km of the climb and the face went from smooth flat rock to scrambling up huge boulders almost straight up. This became very hard and I was getting tired again but kept pushing ahead. Did I mention the temp was 8.5 Celsius at the Lodge??? The good news was there was very little wind. After a tough 500 meters to the top I reached the summit at4095 meters. It was a little before 5:00am and I found Chris who had been there for sometime with four other guys. Lucas arrived about 10 minutes later and we hunkered down to await the Kris, Jordana and James for the sunrise. I was feeling pretty good and had a chance to catch my breath. It was a bit cold at the top with more wind, probably about 36 degrees with wind. The girls showed up right at sunrise and the sun finally started to peak out of the clouds that developed we began to take pictures. More people kept showing up on the crowded summit so cold and satisfied we began the climb down to the Lodge for breakfast before the final 6km to the bottom. During the daylight the mountain was much more impressive and we took more pictures on climb down. Lucas, Chris and I reached the Lodge at about 7:30am and ate some breakfast while waiting for the women with James. They arrived at about 8:00am and after packing up we decided to start the climb down at 8:30am. Jordana's foot was bothering her so the climb down would be difficult for her. We left a little past 8:30am and Chris decided he was going to run/walk down to save his knees. Lucas and I climbed down together and I realized my legs we now tired and had decided to revolt against the rest of my body. They felt like jelly and it was quickly evident to me that this would be a tough few hours down. I trailed Lucas by a few minutes and at about 3km down his legs were also feeling like jelly. At about .5km to the trailhead it began to pour, our first real rain so we pushed to the gate to wait for Kris and Jordana. It was raining pretty hard at 11:30am so we decided to walk the 5km to the park headquarters instead of waiting for the shuttle. Turned out not one of my better ideas since it was mostly down hill and my legs were really tired, oh and still raining. The women actually finished after us but caught the shuttle and beat us to the headquarters. Chris had been gone long gone probably back to Kota Kinabalu(KK). Lucas, Kris and  Jordanan were hoping to catch a bus 6 hours east to another city for a few days. So after saying my goodbyes I went down to the main road to catch my minibus back to KK. After about 20 minutes I flagged a minibus down and relaxed on the 2 hour ride back to KK. I got back in early afternoon, walked back to the hostel to get my big bag and check back in. I took a shower and went out for some dinner. I watched a movie and was in bed by 9:30pm because well I was damn tired so tired I did not wake until 10:30am the next day. It was Sunday so a good day to sleep in and get some much needed rest.

The next few days I spent in KK just resting and taking care of some business for the Philippines and China my two next destinations. A special thanks to Son and the boys(15-16 years old) for letting me share table space on a rainy Sunday night at the night market. We shared some fried rice, fried noodles and a few laughs including me spilling soup all over the me, the table and the person next to me, oops!

The climb was a must do for anyone in Borneo and I am glad I did it. What a gorgeous view and a great time to bond with new friends while pushing yourself. It showed me that while not as young as I used to be and in not so good shape since traveling, I can still enjoy a good ass whooping on a pissed off mountain and come back smiling!!! See you in the Philippines...

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