Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The journey is just as important as the destination

My 4th (consecutive) annual climb up Mt. Kinabalu. Seven of us started the climb using the longer Mesilau Trail (those of you who have only used the Timpohon trail should seriously consider trying the Mesilau trail because it is more interesting, far more scenic and definitely more challenging). Charles, Debbie, Dicala, Sani, Zainudin, Sathya and yours truly made up the gang of seven. Sani and Zainudin were Kinabalu virgins while the rest had been up before. Charles and Debbie were climbing again after 19 years. Sathya and I did it in 2006 (Timpohon), 2007 (Timpohon) and 2008 (Mesilau). The weather was excellent all the way up and down… the best weather conditions I have experienced compared to the previous 3 climbs.

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

Best moment
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


Lightsaber said...

Congratulations on another successful summit! It's a more strenuous effort than running a full marathon.

Anonymous said...

Is the mountain running you or are you running the mountain......?

dicala said...

Great journey with a great gang :)

Sudeep said...

Well done everyone! This journey I believe had all the ingredients of team work, leadership, management etc etc.

sugarNspice said...

Congratulations!!! Walking for a total of 19 hours really sounds scary..

Planet of the Monyets said...

I hv never run a marathon before... so I don't know. But running a marathon would definitely be more boring than climbing a mountain.

2. Anonymous

3. Dicala
It was a pleasure to have you in the team. Hope you have recovered.

4. Sudeep
It is a pity you missed the trip. Perhaps next year you can come along.

5. Shan Min
We did not only walk for 19 hours. Sometimes we crawled.

dicala said...

Dr. Bala - The pain getting lesser and lesser and I start my jog next few days. Gonna play more tougher and exciting game ie Paintball, Softball (like military game - playing in the jungle), futsal and running activities as well... Hee hee... Out of so sudden - I so active with outdoors games :-)

Monyet 1 said...

Hey... I was there too! I just didn't climb the mountain! Staying at the Pines Resort which has AMAZING views of the mountain was one of my favourite parts of the trip. But if you ask me, the toilets there are..not so good. Also, as my mother has pointed out to me, every peak has at least one formation of rocks that looks like a human face. Go ahead, try to find one!

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Li Ying said...

I like this entry Dr Bala! It reminded me so much of my climb two years ago -- everything: from the "good company" part to the "Take 10 steps, rest 2 minutes, take 5 steps, rest 3 minutes and so on." I remembered that we even held hands in a line and hiked up together haha

I think one of the nicest parts along Mesilau trail was the 'downhill/flat path' part which had really nice plants and looked like a garden.

Timpohon was quite boring.

Planet of the Monyets said...

1. Dicala
You should consider doing hte Maliau Basin trail. 4 days 3 night hiking.

2. Monyet1
There is also a rock that looks like a monyet

3. oicned
oh !

4. Li Ying
You are right. Mesilau trail is gorgeous, especially the downhill bit.

dicala said...

Hi Dr. Bala - Yeah - I wud love to go to Maliau Basin too and Tabin as well... I've seen all the pics taken by my cuzzie and it's really amazing!

dicala said...

Hi Dr. Bala,

Came across in my mind to ask you -

If u ever heard abt Salt Trail in Penampang? It's the main route to Crocker Range and the trial is abt 34km. It takes 4d n 3n to complete.

Besides tat you ever been to Crocker Range Park and Sugud Height Forest Reserve?