If you missed the previous part of my Mount Kinabalu journey, just click here.
Our guides told us to be ready at the entrance of Laban Rata Resthouse by 0100 hours. Yes make no mistake, that’s 1 am. They asked us to get some rest for the journey will only get harder.
Yea right, easy for them to say.
For the first timer, it would not be surprising if they could manage some sleep, even 1 or 2 hours would be quite an achievement. Just imagine, the body has been working hard, pushing forward, ignoring the tiredness that tries to take over for the past 8 hours of climbing. The body is still active… the body is still warm, not wanting to rest itself yet knowing there is still half a journey to go to reach the summit.
Lights was out by 9 ish, and everyone tried to get some shut eye. I could hear noises of people twisting and turning around on their bed, trying to find that sweet position to fall asleep. In the distance, I could hear another group whispering away, asking each other if they could sleep.
It seemed like it took eternity to get some sleep. Needless to say, the hours went by extremely slow. By now, most of my members have already downed some Panadol from the severe headache that they have from the attitude sickness.
Before it was even anywhere near to 1 am, some of us was already awaken by the sound of footsteps moving about on the creaking wooden floors of the rest house, while some others had difficulty waking up as they only managed to fall asleep later.
Once each one of us has gathered in front of the rest house which was still in pitch darkness, our guides started to brief us on the journey ahead. He emphasized that we must not separate and must always remain in the group as clouds and mist can come in very quickly. He also added that further along the way, there will be ropes to guide our path and we must always make sure we use the rope and not to try using our own shortcuts.
Even from the first few minutes of the climb, we could already feel our weight pulling us down, as if our body has lost its energy. The first hour involves climbing a lot of wooden steps. Every step up seems to take our breathe away. This is the effect of the thin mountain air which will cause the person the weaker and less determined person to give up right there and then.
After the section with the wooden steps comes many more steps upwards in the form of big stone and huge boulders. Take each step carefully as some of the stones are loose and might give way. From this attitude, we could already see the town of Kundasan, all brightly lighted up in the dark horizon.
Before long, comes the steep part of the mountain where we had to prussik ourselves up the very steep mountain face by slowly pulling ourselves up with the rope. This would be the most dangerous part of the entire journey as some parts of the mountain face has very little footing. It is here that we helped each other, the person in front would direct the person behind on their footing.
This picture gives you an idea on how steep the mountain face is. Don’t let the beauty of the glimmering lights against the black background fool you. Just look at the sheer drop into nothingness. Gives me goose bumps every time I think about it.
Alas, after more than 3 hours, we reached the one and only checkpoint for the journey to the summit. This is where every single one of us have to pull out our name tags to show to the guard on duty to be able to pass the gate. Also, if you need a toilet break, this is the last available washroom before the summit which is still hours away. I tend to avoid taking toilet breaks at such high attitude as its so cold that the minute you take off your gloves, you feel icy cold pain attacking your fingers.
Onwards with our journey. From there on, its just climbing up the flat mountain face which is averagely steep. If it was not for the thin mountain air and the chilling cold-to-the-bone mountain air, it would be a walk in the park. But its not. Every 5 or 6 steps, we’re out of breath. Every breath that we take is painful from the icy sharp cold. Most people will start having running nose. Mucus forms in the nose from condensation of cold air going into our very warm body. As you can see from the picture, we found ourselves taking a rest every few minutes, which is actually not a very good idea in the first place as the chill will set in. But it is also a chance for us to enjoy the spectacular night sky filled with the stars of heaven.
Finally, after hours and hours of what seemed like eternity, we felt a sense of warmness touching our skin. The sun is waking up and is slowly lighting up the horizon. It was here that everyone just stopped in their tracks to take a few minutes to witness the marvel of God. It was as if God has witnessed our determination trying to climb our way up to get closer to Him, and just after all those hours of torment, He reached out and touched our hearts. I dare say that this is the moment that brings me to tears each time (I try my best not to let my friends see it!).
Even without being at the summit, we were already above all the clouds. It is easy to see why Sabah is known as the ‘Land beneath the winds’. Xiao Yan stretching opening her arms wide to embrace all of God’s beautiful creation.
At KM8, we witness this infamous view of St. John’s peak (not the highest peak) which is used in many postcards.
Group picture at the KM8 marker! That’s the summit in the background, Low’s Peak (named after the founder, Sir John Low). Even with the sun shining some warmth into the earth, it was still cold as the wind was stronger at the summit due to less obstacles.
The silhouette of Donkey’s Ears peak made by the dawning sun.
There are white lines scattered all around the mountain face (as shown in the picture). These white lines are natural formed during the ice age million of years ago.
Some of the cute little flowers found near the peak. It’s amazing how these little beautiful things can still survive in such a harsh climate, at the top of the highest peak of Southeast Asia.
Xiao Yan posing with the KM8.5 marker. Beyond this marker marks the last ascend up one of the highest peak of South East Asia!
Yun Hung strikes a cool pose while he takes a moment to catch his breath and feel some warming love from the sun.
Finally, the Low’s Peak! The highest peak of South East Asia. The peak itself does not have a large surface area, therefore a group needs to wait for the group on the peak to leave before being able to step on the peak itself. The guides are there to make sure that each group does not spend too long a time on the peak. As you can see from the peak, each one of us was too overwhelmed by the success of the climb that they have gone bonkers!
Making the way back down is just as hard as the way up. This time, the darkness that has kept the dangers hidden is gone, and we had full view of our surroundings… including the terrifying view downwards. Walking down has a different kind of pain, this time caused by using the leg muscles excessively to slow down the descent.
Remember the very steep mountain face that I talked about a few pictures ago? Now we have to make our way back through it. Warning, this is not for those who has fear of heights. You will have to abseil down with full view of the drop below.
By the time we passed the steep mountain face, our leg muscles and soles are already in pain. Every step down sends a sharp signal to our brain to indicate pain. That’s right, we endured the torments of the icy cold pain going up… and now endure the torments of our aching and painful leg muscles going down.
In the end, even with all the torture and torments that we had to endure, there is no doubt that it is worth it. This is an experience that cannot be gathered anywhere else. This is a feeling cannot be described in words: the feeling of being on top of the world, above all the clouds, the feeling of being a bit closer to heaven and God…. Indescribable. That’s Jon embracing his last moments up on the peak, realizing full well that he probably won’t get a chance like this again.
Once we got back down to the park, we wasted to time. We made a beeline all the way to…..
To what? Find out here!