Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mount Kinabalu!!

Tuesday morning we get up and head to the Meridien hotel once again to meet up with Josh’s cousins.  This time, rather than a river cruise, we’re headed for the famous Mount Kinabalu.  We planned to spend a night in a cabin at the base, then climb first thing in the morning.  Day 1 of climbing is a 6km trek over 3700 meters in increasing elevation.  Then dinner at the Laban Rata guest house (a very modest hotel), sleep by 8ish and awake at 1:30am for the cold dark trek to the summit for sunrise.  Then back to Laban Rata for breakfast and then back down the mountain.  That is the general plan, anyway.  Here is how our adventure played out:

First of all, the cabin at the base was a 2 bedroom house with a downstairs living room, dining room, kitchenette and 3 balconies… IN THE RAINFOREST OF BORNEO!!!  It was awesomes, and we were treated to a very vivid thunder and lightning storm which we watched through our huge glass wall while we half-assedly watched The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (which was actually kinda funny and we liked it) and a terrible made for TV movie called Super Eruption (which was so bad, it was amusing).  We had an amazing night’s sleep in the cushy cushy  king sized bed, then suited up in the morning for our first day of climbing.

Well, they somehow lost our booking, and when Josh showed them his copy of everything, they then asked that we pay again for everything we’d already paid for… um.  No.  So, that delayed our departure by about an hour while things got sorted and Josh fought with the mountain staff.  We got our guide, an adorably quiet young man named Sylvester (“Please, call me Silver.  It’s okay.”), and off we go… all 9 of us.  Now, at this point, Matt says, “We go at the slowest person’s pace” to keep me assured that I CAN do this.  Well after about 500m of walking, I’m huffing and puffing and the whole group is out of sight ahead of me and Silver is coaching my breathing.  Just before the 1km mark, I have a complete panic attack- hyperventilation, tears (the sobbing kind) and I’m angry.  Angry at my body for fighting so hard against what was apparently easy-peasy for everyone else.  After a short while, Matt comes back to find me and sees the state I’m in.  I say I can’t do it.  He says we’ll all go back.  That made me more angry.  This trip was 10 years in the making.  No way I’d be going back.  He promised to stay beside me the whole way, stopping every time I needed to slow my heart rate and catch my breath… so… off we go.

The main gang was miles ahead of us, but Matt, Josh, Silver and I kept going… with a stop every 50m or so so I could breathe.   It rained.  It was hot.  It was cold.  It was painful.  I have never done anything so physically challenging in all my life.  The total climb took us just over 7 hours.  Laban rata was a sight for sore legs.  But I think the worst part of it is being able to see it above you and having to climb those last several meters upward to get it!

The dinner buffet might have been delicious… it might have been slop.  I couldn’t tell you what was actually there for food… I was just starving.  And I ate ridiculous amounts of food.  We all watched the sunset from the balcony and then headed for our beds.  I think everyone at Laban Rata was asleep by 8pm. 

Well… I didn’t really sleep.  I tossed and turned and groaned and ached.  When I did fall asleep I dreamed horrible terrifying things.  My mind was wrestling with the torture I’d put my body through during the day.  Come 1am, I couldn’t face the summit climb.  The summit trail is another 2km climb on sheer rock face with ropes to hang on to… in the dark.  Then, once you watch the sunset, you have to climb straight back down those 2km of sheer rock face.  Matt and Josh went without me, while I stayed in bed to have more and more nightmares.  I got up for the day around 8ish and went down to breakfast alone.  Turns out, I wasn’t the ONLY climber not going to the summit.  Many many folks suffered badly from altitude sickness, some had been injured the day before during the climb, and lots just couldn’t face another step upward.

So, I sat and waited for the guys.  I saw many many returning summit climbers that I recognized from the day before and still no Josh or Matt.  I didn’t see any of Josh’s cousins either, but they had stayed at a different lodge from us.  Finally, around 9am, the boys arrived in one piece.  Each of them had had moments of panic, altitude illness and general “omg, I can’t do this” but they made it to the summit, saw the sunrise and climbed back down.  We packed up our stuff, checked out, and headed back down the mountain.

Now, on the way up those who were climbing down assured us that the descent was much easier!  This was encouraging as we began our own descent.  What I learned VERY quickly was, all of those other people must obviously actually have cartilage in their knees.  Guess who doesn’t.  You got it.  Me.  YAY!  So our climb down was slower than most, but faster than our ascent, so… that’s at least something.  We finally made it back to the gate where our car was waiting for us after 5 hours down the mountain.  We got a buffet dinner as part of the package, so we headed to the restaurant… which was at the bottom of an EVIL EVIL staircase.  I mean, really… we’ve just beaten ourselves up all over your mountain (which was totally breathtaking, btw… I didn’t hate the whole thing) and NOW we get abused in order to eat.  Sigh.

By the time we got back to KK, it was about 7:30pm and we had a 4:30am taxi arranged to get us to the airport to catch our flight to Johor Bahru at 6am.  More about that in the next blog post J  ENJOY THE MOUNTAIN PICTURES!!  I WILL NEVER EVER TAKE ANOTHER PHOTO OF MOUNT KINABALU FROM ANYWHERE BUT THE BOTTOM!
Josh and I on the balcony in the cabin

Checkin' out the kitchenette

Living room and dining room of our cabin

Master bedroom!!

Lol, I look super pissed off here, but I was actually just glancing up to see what he was taking a picture of.  Turns out, it was us.

This is how Matt looks in "Asian Housecoats!"

Timpohon Gate, bottom of mountain, PRE climb.  See how happy I look?  It doesn't last.

They put this pretty waterfall right after the gate... I think to lure us into a false sense of wonder and beauty.

Up... all of it up.

Misty mountains!

Oh... well now.  Just what I want to see after hours and hours of excruciating labour.  No hot water.

We made it.

Sunset.  omg.

This was the view as we ate dinner.  For reals.

Matt and Josh head out at 2am for the summit!



I look happy, but this is actually just a fake shot to get a snap of the mountain guide who we called "Asian Dad" because Matt thought he looked like my dad.

Mossy and pretty!

A Pitcher Plant!!

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