Everyone had a good time together. We stayed together all the way. The scene along the Mesilau trail was fantastic – the montane forest, the waterfalls, the mountain streams. There were of course the dreaded steep stairs. One of the ironies of the Mesilau trail is there is a section of the trail up the mountain that actually goes downhill for almost an hour. As you go downhill, the thought at the back of everyone’s mind is what goes down must come up. True enough, at the end of the downhill section awaits a long steep climb up. Strangely, this time, we met only one other group along the Mesilau trail……. You see, we had the entire trail almost exclusively to ourselves.
Arrived at Laban Rata at 3.45 pm. After a quick dinner, we went to bed at 8 pm. I, not surprisingly, did not sleep well. Woke up at 1.45 a.m., had a bite and we started the knee-breaking climb to the peak at 2.45 a.m. The Laban Rata to Sayat-Sayat is always the killer stretch – pitch dark, very cold and steep stairs. Take 20 steps, rest a minute. Take 10 steps, rest 2 minutes, take 5 steps, rest 3 minutes and so on. Your lungs feel like they are going to burst. Crawled to the peak at 7.15 a.m. The peak was gorgeous, the weather splendid, the feeling exhilarating and the knees, thighs and calves terribly sore. (BTW we also saw a rat right at the peak 4095 m). After the customary photo shoots, we trekked down to Laban Rata, had breakfast and hiked down to Timpohon. At 4.30 pm., we collected our certificates at the Kinabalu Park HQ.
After my 2nd attempt in 2007, I came to realize that the journey to the peak is more important than reaching the peak. If you are climbing the mountain, you must learn to appreciate the journey. You need to stop and smell the pitcher plants, touch the twisted trees and gaze at the marvelous rock faces. You need to take a million photos along the way. You need to take your time and talk gibberish with your climbing mates. Take as many breaks you want. Laugh at your physical suffering. There is so much to see, hear and enjoy along the way up and down. Do not be like many climbers who are always in a hurry, they rush up the mountain – very much focused on reaching the peak, take a photo at the peak and rush down again.
Let me tell you - climbing the Kinabalu is a physically-strenuous undertaking. If you not reasonably fit, you will really really suffer. If you fit, you will still suffer a little. But when you have good company along the way, appreciate the journey and don’t take the climb to the peak too seriously, the challenge becomes easier. Never climb alone (why suffer the knee pain and muscle aches alone ?).
Last year, our group was the slowest and the last to reach the peak – we reached at almost 8.00 a.m. There are a lot of advantages being the last. The peak is empty and you have plenty of time to enjoy the summit, take photos and simply soak in the atmosphere. This year, our group was second last. A couple was slower than us (dang …). Still we had plenty of time at the peak. Next year our target remains the same – to be the last to reach the peak. There is no need to hurry. Just enjoy the journey. The peak, after all, is only a big pile of rocks. (BTW, the geological features are amazing… all geologists should go there at least once).
Our sector times this year
Mesilau to Laban Rata 8 hours
Laban Rata to Summit 4.5 hours
Summit to Laban Rata 2.5 hours
Laban Rata to Timpohon 4 hours
My favourite sector
Descending from Summit to Sayat-sayat
The most dreaded sector
Ascend from Laban Rata to Sayat-sayat
Number of pit stops
Standing at the peak and looking down at all you miserable mortals.
We will be going again next June. If you want to come along, do let me know. There is only one condition to join our group. Everyone goes up together, everyone reaches the peak together, everyone comes down together (no matter how fit or weak you are).
Beginning of the climb at Mesilau (standing from left to right : Zainudin, Dicala, Charles & I. sitted Sani, Sathya and Debbie)
Three hours later at km 4. Still smiling
A pitcher plant along the way
At the summit at about 7.15 a.m. (We are on top of the world, you miserable lowland mortals)
Sathya, me, Sani & Zainudin on the way down from the peak
Sathya and I on the way down from the summit
Charles & I near the summit (we have been friends for 32 years)
Many folks are scared of this rope section
The group about to leave Laban Rata abt 11.00 a.m.
Great scenes along the descent from Laban Rata
Lovely scenery along the descent from Laban Rata