I must be nuts...

Trip Start May 18, 2005
Trip End May 18, 2006

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Our guide book said that you need at least 2 days and a night to climb Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South east Asia at 4095 metres. One day to climb half way up, a night to rest and one more day to get to the top and back down again. They were'nt wrong, but they should have emphasised the 'at least' part, because an extra day would have come in handy.

I arrived at the national park with nothing arranged at all. If you want to stay on the mountain theres only one place you can book it through and they were closed when we arrived in KK. So I decided to risk it and see what happened. I didn't come half way around the world to turn back. I asked about accomodation in the the park office on the foot of the mountain and they told me 'no chance everywhere is full'. They suggested a day hike, as in get to the top and back in one day. So me being the feckin eejit I am agreed to this and headed off up the mountain with a German couple who were in the same boat and our guide. According to our guide it was possible to do it in one day, although he didn't sound too convinced himself.

So we marched up the mountain at top speed to make sure we could make it to the top and down again before it got too dark. Big mistake. Its so steep the whole way up that we were bolloxed before we got anywhere near even half way. We were passing out loads of others who were taking thier time and had the sense to book in advance. You start off in dense jungle and as the path leads up it gets less dense and the foliage changes into alpine forest then ferns and other smaller plants. It got colder the higher you went too. But the big killer was the fact that the air got thinner the higher we went so it made it even harder to breath and get some energy into your already tired legs.

Eventually we reached the half way point (well its slightly more than half way at about 3100 metres) where the lodges are. This took us 4.5 hours, it was another 3 hours to the top from here. I decided to pop into the lodge and ask if they had any beds on the off chance that someone may have cancelled or even given up on the way up. 'Yes we have 6 beds available sir'. Oh, you couldn't imagine how happy I was. Even though I would have tried it I knew in my heart of hearts that I would never have made it to the top if we kept going, not only because we were completely wrecked but because we had not had enough time to aclimatise. Spending the night here would let our bodies get used to the lack of oxygen at this height.

Well I say spending the night, but you don't really sleep for most of it. After dinner at about 6 and watching the sunset at 7 most people go to bed straight afterwards so they can get up at 2am to make the rest of the way to the top before the sunrise. I was most people. Its a Kinabalu tradition. Its hard to sleep though because, as I said, your body is only geting used to the altitude so headaches and insomnia set in pretty quick. I didn't really fall asleep until about 11.30.

So it was up at 2, a light brekkie and out into the pitch darkness with warm cloths, camera and torch in hand to climb the rest of the mountain. And it was a long way up. There's a rope to guide you all the way to the top, buts its too low down to be any help to you, it just hurts your back to use it so you make your own way up. All you can see is what your torch shows up in front of you so you have no idea how far you've come until you reach the strategically placed sign posts that piss you off showing that you haven't come as far as you had thought. There were tons of Japanese here, who tended to be very slow with all thier over heavy backpacks and gear so I just passed them all out (listen to me, the mountain snob!!). In fact I passed everyone out and was first in the procession to the top. I even reached the top a half hour before anyone else at 5am. This was good and bad. Good because I could say I got to the top first and in good time. Bad because I had to wait for an hour in the freezing cold for the sun to rise above the horizon. Also I had really pushed myself a bit too hard and was feeling the burn big time.

Eventually the sun rose and it was as spectacular as you might imagine it to be. The views from the top are something else too. Its almost an overwhelming place. Also, when the sun lights up the mountain and you see how far you have come and what you have just climbed up it is quite amazing.

But what goes up.....

Coming back down warranted some great views, but also great pain. Your calves and quads start to burn, your lungs are getting tired and the path just goes on and on. We made our way down to the lodges for some more food before we made the rest of the way down. My body has never been in so much pain. I had blisters on my blisters, my knees were killing me with every step I took down the mountain and I was beginning to regret having done it. But when you (eventually) reach the bottom and look back up at what you have done over an ice cold beer you can see why everyone raves about doing this. It really feels like you've achieved something. Or maybe it was just the lack of Oxygen in my brain.

I caught a bus back to KK and spent the next 2 days moaning and groaning about how much pain my legs were in. I'd say it'll be a couple more days before they're ok. Poor me.
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