Summit Climb - Mount Kinabalu

Last weekend I joined a group to conquer the mighty Mount Kinabalu. The group consisted of 19 people most of whom are "boot campers" with oone or two "friends" which is where I fall in. Out of the 19 that made it to the Laban Rata stopover, only 12 of us set out for the summit climb and 11 of us made it to the summit. The climb was actually made up of two parts; the first climb to the "base camp", Laban Rata and the second climb from Laban Rata to the summit. This climb will be about 2.4km which, with the "traffic", steep incline and thin air translates to about a 3 hour hike. I Have a GPS program installed on my Berry so I managed to track the summit climb up to almost the summit where at the time we arrived had ALOT of people up there. The first climb had lots of 'blank spots' for GPS reception so I didn't manage to track the first climb. So, once I combined the gps data with google maps, this is what I got:

Cool huh? The wonders of modern technology! *geek!*

4th August 2010
The day started early. At 1.30am everyone was up with a few that couldn't get any shut eye at all. I slept very lightly that night and was up very early. I think I was up at 12.30am or 1am. I packed what ever stuff I needed which wasn't much, the heaviest was probably my camera and my Thermos mug. I planned to have hot coffee up on the summit! Bliss....

So, once we were all up and about, all packed we headed down for the "supper". Supper was the usual breakfast menu I think. To be honest I can't remember what we had. I was probably only half awake and sleep deprived. I remember fill myself and, most importantly, filling my thermos mug with the excellent Tenom coffee which is the local coffee in Sabah. Sedap... I'm gonna see later if i can find the coffee in Carrefour later tonight.

Yes, I was at the back... and yes, it was dark
Once we all were ready and had something to eat, we said our goodbyes to those not doing the 2nd summit climb and once we had our short briefing from our guide(s), we were on our way. It was around 2.45am and it was cold. As I was one of the early finishers on the first trek, I was put at the back of our group as to ensure our group stayed as a group. As we started walking though, body heat started building up and I quickly had to lose some of that insulation. So off came the beanie, gloves and that jacket had to be tied around my waist. I now know next time to just bring up a fleece and some wind protection.

The first part of the climb was mainly made up of a series of wooden stairs with the usual rocky path in between. Obviously it was in the dark at the time, but this is how the path looked like in daylight. On the way down we got to see the actual route that we passed to get to the peak and I must say it was pretty scary!
Doing this in the dark was less scary

I left my walking pole behind, partly due to the fact that it had been converted into a clothes hanger! and partly due to the advice of "veterans" who say that the 2nd climb required BOTH hands...Sure enough, not long after the rocky bits we got to a place where they had ropes! Ropes?! and they told us to HOLD ON TIGHTly... it was dark so all we could see was the rope and a few inches near it.

Doing this in the dark was also much easier!

After that, there was this almost vertical climb that needed ropes for sure, eventhough the guides were so good they didn't need any ropes...terror kan?

In daylight, we could see the Sayat-sayat checkpoint from the regrouping area.

After that bit, we rested to catch our breath and to re-group again. I tell you, up there you hafta stop every 5 steps to catch you breath. The air is much thinner up there. From the resting spot in daylight one could see the Sayat-sayat checkpoint which is the final checkpoint before we hit the rocks to get to the summit but in the dark, we didn't know that the checkpoint was that near. After a few more little rock climbs and some more walking, we reached the checkpoint. Here we had to show our tags to park ranger to show that we have arrived.

 Yes, not one of my best poses but yeah...that's my tag!
From the check point, it was all rock from here on. There's almost no vegetation past the check point bar some weed and patches of "grass". I did however see some mountain rats up there. They were small and cuter than our common sewer rat... Anyways, from this point on, there's a rope all the way up to near the summit which serves more as a guide that actually being useful to hold on to. The rock face was large so people were spread out more than before the checkpoint where the trails were narrow. The incline was roughly 45 degrees which was not that steep but the thinner air meant that after 3 or 4 steps you'll be wanting to stop for air.

By now I had whipped out my berry to take "evidence" of each km marker.

Almost there now. I looked at my watch and it was 5 ish. Time for Fajr prayers. I had kept my wudu' from Laban Rata and was eager to find a flat spot to pray on. After a few minutes hike up, past the 8km marker below, I found some nice flat ish rocks to the right of the ropes. I moved further away from the trail to get some more privacy. I whiped out the old compass and set my things aside for a while. Fajr prayers is only 2 rakaats so in less than 3 minutes I was done.

Just a few hundred meters to go!!

From here we could already see the summit! That was motivating us to go on and not to rest for too long. With the summit in view, we kept soldiering on and before we knew it, we joined the many by the side of the summit waiting for the sunrise. The first to arrive were me, Ded and Rose. We were soon joined by Adibah. This is our group photo with the sun behind us: 

I quickly took out my berry to check the altitude and turn off the GPS tracking. this is what it showed:

This was a few meters from the summit and it read 4135m and the total distance traveled was 2.36km at an average speed of 1kph. That makes the total trek time about 2hrs 45 as I didn't start the tracking from the word go.

So, what dyu think the first order of business was? Well, what dyu think?! Of course it's to get out my Tenum coffee and pose drink it... hehehe, it wasn't that hot anymore but warm enough to warm us from within. I shared my drink with the others. They appreciated the warm drink in these cold conditions. Being static at the summit meant that our bodies weren't producing much body heat which in turn meant that we were absolutely freezing up there! at 4000m above sea level tastes soo good...=)

We waited for the others but before that, I had to have my moment and that was:

I'm on top of the world! Yeah!

The view from above was subahanallah beautiful. I managed to snap a few shot of the sunrise:

Sunrise above the clouds

The sun just about to rise (left). You can see the shadow of mount Kinabalu in the clouds.

Before long, the rest of the gang arrived so we managed to get a group photo!:

  We made it!!

We did spend a bit too much time up there but in about an hour at the summit, we really had to go. there were no one else at the summit, just us... so we started our trek down which was much easier than going up (obviously). Going down I appreciated the grip that my shoes provided and I can say that a good pair of proper shoes goes along way. The normal trainers would not have lasted nor would've they provided sufficient grip. Going down we witnessed all the types of difficult and dangerous bits of the climb that in the darkness we were all oblivious of.

The absail as demonstrated by our guide (right) and subsequently by Ded (Left)...

When we got passed the dangerous bits, we heard shouts from behind telling us to give way...Pronto! It turned out that one of our group members had sever case of altitude sickness and couldn't stand on her own thus had to be carried down by the guides. She was piggybacked down to Laban Rata at a rate that us normal people with no 50 plus kg person on our back could not match! I tell you, these guides and porters must be the fittest men and women in the world!  

  Nyna had to be carried down... at this point she looked so weak and pale.

We reached Laban Rata just in time for the last of the breakfast. Not long after I arrived at Laban Rata it started to rain heavily! And we had to pack and leave IMMEDIATELY! The silly thing about Laban Rata is that the check out time is 10.30 am! SO we had not choice as it was already 11am when it started to rain. I quickly packed and after some debate on what time we should start going down, me and a few guys left Laban Rata at 12pm... The rest is another story... till next time. I'm sleepy now. Good night friends.