Mt. Kinabalu is the highest mountain in South East Asia. At 4100 meters, its half the size of Mt. Everest. In actuality, you trek up about 9000 meters to get to the summit (and 9000 meters back down).
I came to Sabah, on the Borneo side of Malaysia to climb the mountain, when I tried to call it was busy and I was hearing rumors that the park was all booked up. I asked Lucy, the lady who rus the hostel I’m staying at how to make arrangements. She gave me a number to call and I was able to sign up to go the next day.
I had no idea how cold the summit was, and was only going to take a long sleeve shirt and a fleece pullover. That would have been disasterous. Lucy hooked me up with a proper hat and some gloves as well as another fleece pullover. I would have been really, really cold at the top without the gear. Oh, and a rain poncho, that came in handy on the way back down.
So, we get to the mountain around 9:00 am and I am with a group of 4 Germans, all my age. They were pretty cool. Mark: ex skate punk, Christian: just finished an internship in Kuala Lumpur, Michael: quite but real nice, and Olga ( or something like that, couldn’t make out the pronunciation) who was also a decent guy.
From the bottom, it was a 5 hour trek uphill. We passed a waterfall on the way and some pretty sweet scenery. This was straight uphill, like 70 degree vertical inclines. Picture if you took a handful of rocks and spilled them out of you hand onto a hill – this is basically what we were hiking up. On some occasions there were ‘stairs’.
As you go up you really feel the altitude kick in and start sucking wind. You have to stop alot and get your breath both from the fact that you are increasing altitude, and also that you’re hiking up piles of rocks at a 70 degree vert.
After about 5 hard hours we get to the camp area, called Laban Rata. We all rip into some food and pass out at about 6 pm in dorm style beds. I only slept for about an hour at which point I woke up and couldnt fall back asleep. Probably because it was like 8 pm. Also I was having some weird problem breathing, I think because of the altitude. And something like a headache, also probably the altitude.
So we get up and meet at 2 am. Still half asleep, no food, we’re thrown into the darkness and start trekking uphill again, but this time its nothing like the lower half. This is no joke. We’re scaling up sheer rock faces for kilometers at a time. Just sheer rock extending up and up. There were ropes bolted into the rocks that you used for balance and to pull yourself along. Of course the altitude is worse so you feel totally exhausted and your heart is pounding in your chest.
I kept saying how easy it was and telling people that each step got easier and easier. Think positive I say. No use grumbling. Some french speaking Swiss chick lost it near the summit and broke down and started crying. She was pretty cold, it was dark, and she was out of breath continuously, so I can understand. Near the summit people started losing hope. I heard alot of ‘why are we doing this’ and things like that. Hahaha. I think its cause the uphill battle seems neverending. Its about 3 or 4 Km straight up the sheer rock to the summit. Its dark, its about 4 in the morning, and its freezing cold.
When you get to the top of the summit, the view is absolutly amazing. You’re so high up and the mountains surrounding look so vast. It reminded me of that part in Lord of the Rings when they are passing through the mountains. The wind was ripping through though and people were huddled into the rock crevices. We took a few pictures with the German guys and some more of the surrounding landscape then headed back down to Laban Rata.
— Me, Michael, and Christain at the summit looking half asleep and exhausted —
After we ate breakfast at Laban Rata, we trekked back down for about 3 1/2 hours. Right now my legs are exhausted, but it was so worth it. Salamon Poggi!