Monday, November 17, 2008

Nov.17-18 Let’s go climb a mountain!

Through a little bit of trickery I convinced Julie to climb SE Asia’s highest mountain – Mount Kinabalu.

At the park office we met a German couple (Martin & Julia) who wanted to share the cost of a guide. Julie & I agreed and we set off on our climb at 10:30am, taking a shuttle from the gate to the starting point. The climb up took Julie & I 4h33m to get from Timpohon Gate to Latan Rata hostel. The climb was hard on me: I was sweating uncontrollably (even more than usual! It looked like I got rained on - even my pants were wet) and my heart rate was nearing 140bpm. The Germans said they occasionally climbed the mountains outside of Munich so they had developed a slow even pace that we could not match. It was too slow so we were the rabbits who raced ahead and then rested. (As per the story, we lost the race.)

The packed lunch that was provided contained strange items for a climb: fried chicken drumstick, 2 cheese sandwiches and a meat one, 2 roti rolls and a boiled egg. Asian stuff I suppose...but not stuff that we wanted to eat. [A word to the wise, save your money on the park’s food and pack your own; for all 4 meals you’ll need during the climb.]

The trail was pretty good given that 200+ people traverse it per day consisting mostly of a gravel/clay base with roots or planks to hold back the soil and act as steps. In some places you simply scrambled over rocks. The flora changed from tropical palm trees and bamboo at the bottom to deciduous trees midway to rocky scrub at the top (similar to what is seen in the Canadian Shield) and finally nothing near the summit. We had a little rain along the way otherwise great weather!

Just after 3pm we checked in to Laban Rata dorm, placed into a 4-person dorm with 2 Kiwi brothers Charles & John-Paul who were pretty cool. Temperature upon arrival = 11.5°C, went down to 8 during the night. Brrr! Glad they had heaters in the rooms, else we would never have been able to dry our clothes.

Julie had a nap and I wanted to at first since i was so drained, but after a snack the sun came out and I wandered about outside. During our climb we were always shrouded in fog so you couldn’t get a good view…but that all changed up here. I was above the clouds up here and the views of the valley below were amazing! And later on the sunset was absolutely spectacular. We had some really nice sunsets in Thailand, but the ones here in Borneo are award-winning.

sunset from Laban Rata lodge, Mt.Kinabalu

Day 2: Summit Climb

At 2am we awoke to start the summit climb. Why so early? because the aim is to be at the top for sunrise at 6am. I’m still amazing I got Julie to do this!

It’s weird navigating a rocky trail at night and I’m super glad I brought my headlamp while Julie rented a flashlight for 10 ringgits. And we also bought some gloves that are much needed at the top. The sky was clear and the moon was bright so once we were out of the trees the rock was nicely illuminated. Some spots on the rock Julie makes her way up the summit of Kinabalu face was tricky and you had to pull yourself along using ropes. One slip without the rope and you slid down a long way. Near the top the terrain levelled out and it was just a long march up a slope. In the thin air Julie was getting short of breath easily so we made many rest stop – or photo opportunities for me!

The Germans and Kiwis beat us to the top but we got there just before 6am to watch the sunrise. It was very nice and very rewarding. We spent about half an hour up here taking it all in before we got cold and started the descent.

You climb back down to Laban Rata lodge for breakfast before packing up your stuff and descending the rest of the way down. Julie had a lot of trouble going down since the descent is much harder on your knees and it took us the same time to go down as up, but we did it!

Summit of Mt.Kinabalu (Low's Peak), 4095m

Of course, the natural thing to do after a gruelling climb like this is to find the nearest hot tub. Fortunately Julie has a knack for sniffing them out. 15 ringgits got us our own private pool at Poring Hot Springs and the hot water felt good to relax in, but it did not prevent the incredible ache in our muscles the next day! Stairs were dreadful for 3 days. ouch.

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