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The adventures of the Mel

Mt. Kinabalu

MALAYSIA | Saturday, 6 January 2007 | Views [2475] | Comments [4]

I sit here in an internet cafe, rubbing my knees and sighing at a glorious 25 hours. We have just returned from our hike up Mt. Kinabalu, and it was just incredible.

I am quite tired (though not as tired as poor little Choppy), and Mum; thankyou. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou, for giving me your legs of steel. I found the hike reasonably easy, well, uphill at least. Downhill was a completely different story. But I digress....

We had to catch a bus at 7am to drive to Kinabalu park to meet our mountain guide, Saiman. We went for a short drive to the base of the mountain and started our trek upwards. The view was just stunning. Everywhere we turned there were ferns, moist tree trunks slathered in vividly green moss, dozens of different orchids, waterfalls, and a beautiful mist that just hung for the sake of tranquility. Well, that's what it felt like. Saiman said it took roughly 5 - 6 hours to trek up the 6km to the resthouse about 3/4 of the way up, which is where we were to spend the night.

We trekked up, pausing to take photos of the beautiful scenery, and each km checkpoint. It was a great workout, I know I'm a freak, but I love sustained cardio. I think I have you to thank for that, pa. So cheers.

We started passing people (yeah, we rock!), and even our guide looked grateful when we stopped for lunch (we are completely awesome). It was just spectacular to watch as we climbed higher and higher, watching the rainforest below drop away beneath levels of clouds. Just breathtaking.

However, the humidity was really affecting my camera. So much so that it declared it's battery was dying after I charged it the night before. Bugger.

As much as I do enjoy a good long workout, I must admit I was grateful two hours and forty five minutes later (not that I was counting or anything...) when we arrived at the resthouse. We met two lovely Swedes, Cecilia and Martin, who are coming to Melbourne in a couple of weeks so we might get to catch up again. Chatted to them for a while, then had tea, including fried bananas, which were surprisingly delicious. Stepped outside to view a waterfall, and we were confronted with a beautiful view of the rainforest and mountain rising up above the clouds. Because my camera was dying I couldn't get a photo, but hopefully we should be able to get hold of some from Cecilia. Just stunning.

So a hot shower and bed, because we had to get up at 2:30am to start the trek towards the summit at around 3am (you meant 3:15, right?). Before the last 2.5km, it had been a stone track spattered intermittently with stairs, some parts muddy, some parts just stones and boulders, tree roots, and all the while surrounded by lucious rainforest. Nothing like an Australian drought to make you appreciate the vivacious colour of green. Anyway, the remaining 2.5km was mostly rock. The first km was much the same, then our guide stopped us and said, ok, the next part is dangerous, please make sure you hold onto the rope. I look up, and we have to scale a freaking stone wall. Okay, it wasn't exactly vertical, but you could have almost abseiled. My excitement overcame my fear, and I was even able to pause at less steep intervals to marvel at the view below me. It was just breathtaking. My vertigo just evaporated away and was replaced by awe.

There were some less steep parts which we could mostly walk holding onto the rope. Then we saw some crazy mofos just walking on not holding onto the rope. I accidentally dropped it at one point and really those crazy bastards were actually sensible. It was much more comfortable and easy not to hold the rope (only on those parts mum!).

We kept going up toward the summit, and scaled some fairly hefty rocks, wiping away any thought of having to go DOWN these puppies. Saiman said that the sun would rise around 6am, so when we reached the summit at 5am, we were decidedly annoyed we had risen so early. The summit was a small platform, which could hold a total of two people, perhaps you could gather almost 10 around the surrounding area. As we had overtaken dozens of people on the way up (we were pretty much last to leave, and second to the summit that morning), we were curious as to how we were going to have room to watch the sunrise.

Within about thirty seconds we got over our excitement at accomplishing the climb to around 4200m (ish) and realised that the temperature had plummeted to near freezing (well, I did. Chels realised this well before me). Our fingers were numb and in severe pain, well past anything we had experienced skiing. We realised that if we stayed, we'd probably lose our fingers. So unfortunately we had to leave the summit before the sunrise, which was a bit disappointing because I had been anticipating that moment for quite some time. However, we found about 10 minutes down that our fingers were very grateful for our early exit. Poor little Chels was very cold, and it didn't help matters that we were saturated from sweat, mist and the wet rope that soaked our gloves and pants as we scaled up the mountain.

Downhill seemed much slower, but apparently was of a similar time. We butt-scooted for while down the really steep bits, then started to walk down, taking really, REALLY, tiny steps...

Then the sun rose. Wow. Wow. Wow. We didn't really need to be on the summit to appreciate the stunning beauty of watching the sun appear above the clouds, highlighting the rock faces which were glistening with rain from the previous night. We paused, just to stare and marvel at the world's beauty. Cliched yes, but it was still heavenly. There are definitely moments in life when you can appreciate invocation of the divine.

We wound slowly down the mountain, pausing many times to take photos (yes, my camera was lying and wasn't running out of batteries at all, which meant we missed out on many photo opportunities earlier) which will not even come close to the gorgeous views we were lucky enough to see. For about an hour, we had the sun's rays streaming down over the clouds to bathe the cliff faces and rainforest below on one side, then turning around you had a picturesque view of the mountain topped by the moon. Smile.

We made it back around 7:30am and fell into breakfast and a hot shower. Did I mention that I HATE downhill? My knees were less than impressed, particularly as much of that was very cold, I could feel them creaking and clicking and oh yeah, the searing pain when I took a step too big or the gradient of the slope increased. Give me chest busting uphill over painful joints any day.

We left again at around 8:45am and descended down the mountain. It felt like a very slow descent, having to take steps one at a time for fear of my knees collapsing, or my left achilles snapping. Stupid achilles. I don't think I'll be running for a while. However, it only took around 2 and a half hours, slightly faster (15mins) than our ascent. It felt a lot longer though. I remember being puffed but feeling great upon reaching the resthouse, but on the way down I was counting every 500m. C'mon, bottom of the mountain. Towards the end it was so tantalising - so close, yet so far. I'd forgotten how beautiful the first/last km was, with a waterfall and a moss-covered bridge. I have decided one of the most beautiful things in the world is moss. Picture a beautiful old tree in a rainforst - pretty yeah? Now cover it in moss. What do you get? Stunning. Add in a few ferns, a waterfall, and some orchirds. Wow, look at that orchird, isn't that gorgeous....The rational part of my brain kicked in and punched my nerdy part, and issued simple instructions for my legs to keep working. Thankgod. There's a time and a place to be nerdy, but when your knees are about to collapse from pain, it's better not to stop to contemplate a species you haven't seen before. Stupid brain.

We finally reached the end, and wasn't that a good feeling. Not quite the feeling of accomplishment upon reaching the summit, but a feeling of thank *#$^# goodness. Please let me lie down. Poor Choppy nearly passed out, but thankfully they took us and fed us then put us back into a bus where we slept for a solid hour.

We checked back into the hotel and forced ourselves to come into the city and grab a few things, and spend 45 minutes telling you lovely people how wonderful everything is.

So, my head hurts, my knees are aching, I have many itchy mozzie bites, my ears have a painful buildup in them no matter how many times I try to equalise them (I guess that's karma for scuba diving one day and hiking up the highest mountain in South East Asia the next), and now my hands and eyes hurt after staring at a computer screen for so long.

So I will let you go, after an excruciatingly long entry, but it was just fantastic. Hey, at least I haven't told you about the dreams I've been having. Got another hour? Chelsea does, hehehe....

Hope you are all well, not sure when I'll post again. We'll have lots of fun in the remaining 9 days that we have. Lots of love and kisses!

Tags: The Great Outdoors



Glad to see you were giving those calfs a work out, I was begining to worry they might be losing some of their natural beauty! Glad you are having an awesome time...hi Chels

  Ross Jan 7, 2007 2:45 AM


See, not just great looks and brains you also get my great calves.
Keep it coming, I await the next installment.
love love

  Gloria Jan 8, 2007 1:28 PM


My God I'm impressed with you two. I just googled Mt Kinabalu and saw photos of that sheer (I'd call it sheer -so goddam close to it) bit you climbed up.
Have your legs actually recovered from that yet?

  Sally Jan 11, 2007 7:40 PM


Hi, my husbands daughter and myself are heading off to Borneo in a few weeks and we will be tackling Mt Kinabalu, sounds fantastic, I do not like heights so the last bit sounds a bit daunting to me. Thanks for sharing your experience, your descriptive portrayal of the climb has given me more pre-training ideas.

Jo Molnar

  Jo Jan 29, 2008 8:40 AM

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