Photos are of me climbing up the ropes of the granite face of Mt, Kinabalu and the sunrise view from the top, overlooking the granite crowns.
Before I write about my climb up Mt. Kinabalu, I have two stories that remind me of how Malaysian Borneo is still not quite as developed as the western world: First, on the drive from Kota Kinabalu to Mt. Kinabalu, we passed a car accident. Lots of cars had pulled over to watch and some were helping the injured driver, who, as we passed was lying in the shade and visibly quite bloody. About 30-40 minutes of driving later, we pass an ambulance headed towards the scene of the accident. About an hour and a half after that, finally at our destination, we pass the ambulance again – headed away from the accident. Basically, it made me appreciate how much faster our emergency personnel respond to such situations at home. Secondly, they love plastic bags here. You buy a pastry and it gets wrapped in plastic and then put in a plastic bag. Anytime you go to a store, you get a plastic bag. Well, I’m walking down the street today and saw a man holding a chicken in a plastic bag. Nope, not a dead chicken, but a real, live chicken. It made me chuckle!
Mt. Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in South East Asia and roughly half the height of Everest. Joanne, the Irish girl, Sam, the Canadian guy and I set off to climb Mt. Kinabalu on the day of the men’s Climbathon. The shorter route was closed until noon, as the Climbathon was going on, so we opted for a route that was 2km longer as we were allowed to leave in the morning. Given that it rains consistently every afternoon at around 1pm, we wanted to get as much hiking out of the way before the rain started coming down. Our hike was nice and scenic until it started raining, predictably at 1pm. I got completely drenched during the last hour and half to two hours of the hike and was happy for the hot shower at Laban Rata, which was our resting point for the night (~3200m). Our lodge was much nicer than I was expecting, complete with hot showers and really warm, comfortable beds. There were multiple all-you-can eat buffets, which I took full advantage of, as climbing definitely depleted my energy. We went to bed at 7:30pm and after a fitful night of sleep, woke up at 2:30am, ate breakfast and started hiking at 3. I made it to the summit at 5:30am (4095m), just in time for a stunning sunrise.
The last portion of the climb was all granite slabs – and there were ropes guiding the way the entire time. Sometimes you had to pull yourself up with the rope, and other times, it was just plain steep. It was a decent climb, but a slow and steady pace made it completely bearable. It took me a total of 8 hours to get to the top. Ok, so I did take a longer route up. But, compare that to a girl in my hostel who was 10th place in the Climbathon – she went up AND back down all in 4 hours. Crazy! Apparently Skyrunning (as it’s called) is very popular in the UK (where there are no mountains above 1000m to speak of), as many of the competitors are from the UK. Anyway, it makes the normal climb (which I did) look like a piece of cake when you look at some of the times people raced up and back in. Unfortunately, I must be getting old, as my knees and left ankle killed me on the way down. I think I twisted my ankle while surfing, because I’d get really sharp pangs of pain shooting up my leg if I stepped the wrong way. I only hope that everything gets in working order again before Nepal.
After the climb, I spent my last full day in Borneo at the beach. I went to a different, small island offshore and swam, read, ate, swam, read, swam, read, ate. It was incredibly relaxing and very beautiful. I think I’m (sadly) done with the beach now for at least a month – until I get to Thailand in December. But, my legs feel great and I’m ready for my 3 weeks of trekking in Nepal! I head to Singapore for a few days and then on to KL for a crazy day of transit: KL to Bangkok to Kolkata to Delhi. Next update will likely be from India or Nepal in very early November! Enjoy the fall weather at home – I thought about that today as I was lying on the beach, just trying to envision leaves crunching under my feet or the smell of mulling spices on the stove in my old apartment. So, happy fall to y’all back home! Also, thanks for all the emails and facebook comments – it’s really nice and encouraging to get news from home!