Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia, Borneo

January 27

The hike
Today, I did the most difficult thing that I have ever done. We hiked the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, which is a two day climb. To save a couple hundred dollars, we hiked up and down in one day, actually in 9 hours. 10 people attempted the one day hike today and only three succeeded. We woke up at 6:15 and were pretty pumped up. We were nervous the the summit would close today because of weather even though the weather looks like it was the best day so far. We were also nervous about how we would be affected by the altitude and how difficult climbing the rope up the top of the mountain would be. We checked out around sunrise and walked over to the mountain with all of our bags. We went to the registration desk and took care of all the paperwork. We gave our bags to the hotel reception who held our backpacks for the day for $3 each. We paid a total of $60 got park entrance fee, a guide, a hiking permit and a taxi to the mountain gate where we start the hike. We split the guide and the taxi cost with this guy from Hungary. He seemed like he was in pretty good shape but we got nervous when he smoked a cigarette right before we got in the taxi to go to the bottom of the mountain. He seemed like a cool guy. He was in his late 20s and moved to Indonesia for a couple of years and now moved into Malaysia. Our group was the first group to the gate. We started the hike at a pretty fast pace. The one day hike is intense and isn’t recommended. We had to make it to different checkpoints by a certain time or we would be forced to turn around and head down the mountain. This is to make sure that everyone doing the one day hike is out of the park by around 5:00 PM so they can close. Our initial pace was a fast walk. It was mostly stairs all the way to the top of the mountain, about 95% of the 8.7 km. we had to elevate over 2000 meters so it was a fairly steep climb. To give a feel for how difficult it was, the third guy with Matt and I quit after about 1 km because it was too intense. And this mountain only gets harder to climb, the higher you get. The top is the steepest part. Matt, our guide and I kept a good pace and got through the first 4 km with only 3 water breaks. We stopped for a quick five minute lunch where Matt and I ate our peanut butter sandwiches that we pre-made. It was very exhausting and keeping such a fast pace was difficult to keep up. We needed water and energy. We brought our water bottles with filters in them so we can fill them up at rest stops every 1 km. our guides name was Jonnie. He was about 40 years old and climbs this mountain 2 or 3 times a week! I couldn’t even imagine. We were making pretty good time. We started the hike a little before 8:00 am and got to the 4 km mark at 9:30 pm. We had to reach Laban Rata at 6 km by 10:30 am in order to be allowed to keep climbing. The stairs got steeper and more rocky. When I say stairs, I mean staggered surface of dirt, sticks and rocks. This was not a walk in the park. The only time there were actual stairs made out of wood was if a part of the mountain was too steep and dangerous to not have man made stairs. We made in to Laban Rata at 10:15 am. This area is the food and lodge area where most people who do this hike spend a night in the overpriced accommodation. They then wake up early and climb the final 2.7 km of steep terrain to the summit for sunrise. Then they climb back down to this area, chill and eat, and then hike back down the mountain. We ate some more of our sandwiches there and talked to this guy from England who was also doing the one day hike. All of the other people behind us were officially done and weren’t allowed to continue to the summit so only us three were allowed to attempt it. This guy was the real deal. He train runs and hikes whenever he gets the chance. And he even said this was extremely difficult to keep a fast pace. We started our final accent to the summit. We had to be at the summit by 1 pm or else we had to turn around wherever we were at 1 pm to go back down the mountain. The first 1 km was the steepest stairs yet. Many were man-made from wood and some were so steep, they were almost ladders. The guy from England pulled ahead of us and we began to struggle to get oxygen as we got higher and higher. We had to take breaks every hundred stairs or so to regain our breath. The air kept getting thinner and we were getting more and drained. We made it to the 6.5 km checkpoint and from here, it was a 2.2 km rope path that we had to follow to the summit. The first part of the path was steep and involved using the rope to pull ourselves up a rock face that we wouldn’t be able to climb without a rope. It was also dangerous to let go of the rope when we moved sideways across the mountain because you would fall hundreds of meters down the mountain before hitting anything that would stop you. After a half kilometer of this, we finally got to a part that wasn’t as steep and we didn’t need to hold the rope anymore. Rather, we now used the rope as a marker and guide to tell us which direction to walk. At this point, we couldn’t breathe at all. Every ten meters from here until the 8 km mark we had to take 30 second breaks to gasp for air and allow oxygen to try to find it’s way to our cells and muscles to allow us to keep moving. It was physically and mentally exhausting to move so slowly with so much effort. The hill was on a 30 degree angle and it felt like every step uphill was going to be my last before I collapsed and fell to my knees. We made it to the top of Mount Kinabalu, and there were three peaks in site. One of them was the tallest, Lowe’s Peak. That was the highest and the one that we were going to conquer. Time was no longer in our favor and we were slowly approaching 1 pm. We kept asking our guide if we were good on time and he gradually kept saying we were worse and worse but still ok. It was 12:20 pm and the summit was 700 meters away. It was finally in site for the first time of the climb, but it was the steepest of anything we climbed yet. Our bodies were now working against and I started to get altitude sickness symptoms. I was light headed, dizzy, and my sight was blurry. The last thing I wanted was food and water but I took a break and forced it down. About five minutes later, I was pretty good again and during that time, Matt kept us moving closer and closer to the summit. Throughout the climb, Matt kept a really good pace. He was always in front and pushed me to my limit to keep up, but seeing how close we are to not making it, I see that if he didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have made it to this point of having the summit within reach. Like a switch for a lightbulb, Matt and I physically switched places. Now, my altitude sickness symptoms were decreasing and his got worse. His got so bad, he couldn’t even force water or food down his throat when he tried. He felt like he wanted to throw up. I kept pushing us because we were only 200 meters from the summit with 20 minutes left. That’s only one half of a lap around a track and we were not going to fail. Luckily, the altitude of the mountain wasn’t high enough to cause any serious threat to us, it was just the annoyance and temporary discomfort that we had to worry about. We pushed to 100 meters from the top with about 15 minutes left. This was now the steepest part of the climb. There were boulders on top of each other that we had to climb with our hands and feet to get to the peak. We had no energy left, but out of nowhere I got a surge of adrenaline and pulled myself up, boulder after boulder. We made progress slowly, literally pushing and pulling each other up the rocks. It was 12:55 and we had 15 meters left. We could see the sign that said Lowe’s Peak on it. Our guide was waiting there telling us we were still ok on time if we can push to the top. In one final surge of pain and determination, we climbed the final 15 meters and got to the top. At 12:56 pm, with 4 minutes to spare, I stood on top, raised my arms and screamed “Yessss” in celebration. We actually made it and just in time. We conquered the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and I can’t wait to never ever do it again. Knowing how difficult it actually was takes a toll on you mentally. This climb got harder and harder as you went. If we knew that fully at the 6 km mark, I don’t know if we could have made it. It was too painful and demanding on the body. But that doesn’t matter right now because we didn’t know that and we did make it! Our guide said that we could hang out on the top for about ten minutes and then we had to start our 8.7 km climb back down the mountain before the gates closed around 5 pm. We took some pics and enjoyed the site of pure beauty. We stood above the clouds and were the only ones on the entire top of the mountain. The guy from England got there 30 minutes before us and was now out of site climbing back down. The other 7 one day climbers didn’t make it in time or gave up. It was just Matt, our guide, me, the clouds and the mountain. The weather couldn’t have been any better. It was sunny, clear, and a nice cool temperature. If there was a picture of heaven, it had to be close to this. We just made Mount Kinabalu our bitch, but it definitely fought back. I was about to start chaffing like a mo fo. But Mike don’t sweat it, he came prepared with baby powder. I sprayed it down my pants and it was a wise decision. I was good for the entire climb back down then. We started our climb back down and every 100 meters got easier to breathe, unlike the way up. It was so nice to have oxygen in abundance in our bloodstream again. Unfortunately, the climb down was just as painful as the climb up. This time, instead of our calves, thighs and lungs feeling the pain, it was our knees and ankles. We went stair after stair for 4 hours straight with only two water breaks. It was so painful and we wanted nothing more than to be at the bottom, but this was the only way down. We bought retractable hiking poles and they came in handy. I don’t know what I would have done without that on the climb down. I didn’t remember it being pretty much all stairs on the way up, but I definitely remember that now that we took those stairs all the way down. We got to Laban Rata and had to keep moving passed all the two day climbers for the rest of the 6 km down the mountain. They were all on their way up to try lodges for the night. I just wanted to kick one of their asses and steal their room for the night so I could rest. But I have morals so I kept moving. We made it to the bottom around 5 pm and I couldn’t be happier or more sore in the knees. I felt sweaty, dirty and exhausted. We got our bags and took a Taxi to Kota Kinabalu an hour and a half away. We dropped our bags off at our hostel and went to get dumplings at a Chinese food place. We actually did it. I can’t believe we made it to the summit. We were sore and tired and passed out around 9 pm at our hostel. It was a great night’s sleep.

mikepsilve'sMount Kinabalu album on Photobucket