Day 240: Tough And Scary

Wed. 10th April 2013

We made it and Olly too!Our roommates start moving around at 1:15am to get to the bathroom before the rush they say and start waving torchlights around, so we soon give up pretending to sleep and get up too. This was the worst night sleep of our entire trip to date with the snoring, snorting and squeaking bunk beds as well as talking in Malay on the mobile phone. Each time we woke we heard the rain outside which set us worrying whether the climb would be cancelled. The restaurant at ‘first breakfast’ is packed with all the other climbers trying to be sufficiently awake to eat something ready for the challenge ahead. By 2:45am we are all loaded up with our daypacks of water, warm clothes and snacks. Of course, it is still pitch dark and so we set off wearing our head torches following the dot of light in front of us. The first part of the climb is up quite steep steps but then we do have 822 metres height to climb over the next 2.5km to the peak at 4,095m. How hard can that be?????

First lightWith the air beginning to thin at this altitude, it is tough going and we have to stop frequently to catch our breath. The path is a mixture of wooden steps and rock steps of mixed height and there is a steady stream of climbers. At least everyone is going in the same direction. Soon we meet our first challenge of walking along a small crevice holding onto a rope, which then turns through 90 degrees and we head vertically. It is apparently like abseiling and once you get the hang of walking up the rock face steadying yourself with your hands on the rope it is not that difficult. The surface is still at an angle and Dave kept saying to me always have three points of contact whilst moving the fourth limb. I actually began to enjoy it by the end and in the dark you could only focus on the small area lit by your head torch, so we were not aware of the surroundings.

Are we really climbing up there?After the end of the rope is the checkpoint where we sign in. After a quick snack and breather it is onwards and upwards just following the rope. The gradient was such it was not always necessary to hold on. The guides were brilliant and we kept close to Maurice who was helping Tammy find the easiest path through the rocks. After yesterday and seeing the man carried down on a stretcher, we were all very aware of following any advice the guides gave.

South PeakAs we climbed higher we were above the trees so when we  looked up we could see a row of lights heading upward. Also looking down, we could see lights of the towns near and far. It was a beautiful clear night and when we got the chance we also looked up at the stars in the night sky. We just kept pressing on with more ropes to hang on to whilst steadily heading upwards. All the rain last night made the rocks and ropes wet and therefore more difficult but I found with one glove on and one glove off I maintained sufficient grip, warmth and protection from the rocks.

We can see for miles in all directionsAs the sky begins to lighten, we begin to see shapes around us. After a while we can see the shape of the peak with little lights making their way to the top. By 5:45am the sky begins to lighten and turn red. We finally reach the top after climbing for over three hours and so we just sit and watch the sun coming up and the views are breath-taking. It is so clear we can see for miles.

More scary in daylightSadly, we cannot stay for ever so begin to make our way down still stunned by the amazing views. This takes our mind off the path we are scrambling over. To help us on our way down we have one of the three guides with Dave and I as well as Tammy and Kerry and we head down together. Having made the top the only way to go was back the way we came so we had no choice. It was far more scary now that it was light, as we could see where we had come up and the drops each side. On the section where the chap we saw on the stretcher yesterday fell, we held on to the ropes very tightly and followed the guide’s instructions explicitly.

Just follow the ropeWe chatted away to keep our minds off the rocks we were traversing. Finally we were back at the first two ropes which were the hardest part. Glad to have the guide telling us what to do, I followed Tammy very closely as she was even more scared than me. We had almost made it, and the end of the rope section was only a few yards away when Tammy slipped and hit her head on the rock. She only had a graze but it freaked me out and I would not move until the guide came back to help me. I did not have the confidence to lean back and use my legs rather than my arms making the last part over a stream far harder than it should have been.

Your table is coming up the mountainWe were exhausted by time returned to Laban Rata Resthouse at 3,273m for second breakfast. Dave demolished six pieces of French toast and I hit the pancakes and Maple syrup. At 10:30 after a short rest we began the 6km back down to Timpohon Gate, where we started from yesterday morning. With each step my legs complained and I was very grateful for my walking poles. The markers every 0.5km were a welcome sight as we slowly ticked off the kilometres but it was still a long long way. Everything at the resthouse is carried by porters including the dirty sheets to be laundered and returned for the next guests. We also saw large gas cylinders being carried up but the prize goes to this guy carrying a stainless steel table. I can’t imagine being able to lift one of these at sea level, let alone being able to carry it up a mountain.

Very welcome signI had forgotten that there were steps down yesterday after passing through Timpohon Gate and I felt like crawling up them to get to the gate and sign out before getting the shuttle bus back to HQ. A very weary bunch sat down to lunch in the Park HQ restaurant and there was a good few hours between the first down and the last, as we all took it at our own pace. I was pleased to see that Dave and I were somewhere in the middle of our group.  After saying a thank you to our guides we headed off to Damai Eco Lodge at the nearby Poring Hot Springs for the night where we were all in bed by about 9pm.

Hurry up this is steepIf I had known what was involved I would never have attempted the summit climb. This is the hardest thing I have ever done, maybe not the scariest but certainly in the top 10 [Top 3 –  Ed.]. By taking each section at a time we broke the climb into manageable chunks and being part of a group we were able to support and encourage each other. As I did not do the Pinnacles climb last week (which was beyond my ability) I was determined to give Mt Kinabalu my best shot. The views at the top, however, made it all worth the effort and it is an experience I’ll never forget. This has not, however, changed my mind for Mt Kilimanjaro.

PS – Sorry there are no pictures of Dave but I was too busy hanging onto the ropes.

This entry was posted in Asia, RTW Trip and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Day 240: Tough And Scary

  1. If i ever think of climbing another mountain please tell me NO!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *