Dec 2, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Travelogue : Conquering Low's Peak (Day 7-23 May 2012)

The temperature was beyond my usual encounter which rendered that thin nylon blanket purposeless. I slipped on my long john and wrapped myself up like a cocoon on the upper bunk bed of Laban Rata Resthouse. There was no electricity at Laban Rata after cable damage in September 2009, hence everybody have a chance to experience the olden days where electricity was non existence. 

I was semi consciously asleep. I could hear people talking outside the resthouse; I could hear the squeak of bunk beds as others wriggled in their thin sheets of blanket. My mind was uneasy with the extremely low temperature, so was my body. I woke up on and off and then 5 hours passed by. The next thing I knew, everybody was already having breakfast at Laban Rata Restaurant at 2am (the only restaurant in Laban Rata Resthouse where we had our dinner the night before).

My tanner half had altitude sickness, which got me all worried and my mind was literally fucked up with part of the thoughts that he wouldn't be able to make it to the peak with me. I took longer time to get ready with my gears (padded windproof long pants and jacket, wool cap, gloves and headlamp) and I was really really thankful for the rest of the eight for waiting for me, albeit I was seriously dragging them in their progress. 

It was 4am when all of us (except my tanner half) moved our way up to the mountain in the veil of darkness. Every step I took was with utter gingerness and I was so glad that my tanner half got us headlamp. The first part of the 2-km climb was mostly staircases, both wooden or stones. I felt the exhaustion was creeping over my body. As I plowed on, I felt harder to breathe due to the thin air and I could feel the warm stream of sweat in my windproof jacket against the touch of chilly air. 

All of us moved in a line, along with other teams. At certain points, we stood in front of slanted granite and everybody had to hold a rope and slowly move up. I could only see the shining street light from the town faraway in the darkness as I held myself tightly onto the rope. The climb had just got harder as we moved higher. More and more ropes and slanted surface and I kept telling myself, "Breathe slowly and deeply".


Sayat-sayat Check Point (3668m)

The sky was still wearing its darkest cloak as we reached Sayat-sayat Check Point, 1km from Laban Rata, where we registered our names, filled our bottles before we moved on to greater challenge ahead. I took ourtmy Snicker bar and started to "feast" on it. As much as I thought I would enjoy some chocolate at this altitude, it was so stiff and cold that it was not appetizing at all. 


The South Peak (3933m) in blue

I couldn't remember how we eventually got onto the long stretch of steep granite surface but all I knew was I had to incline my body 20-30 degree as I inched my way up the peak. I couldn't surpress my delight when the South Peak came into view, despite the fact that it was almost fully lit by the morning sun.


4095m - 3929m = 166m above sea level to go

As much as I would like to speed up, my feet remained at the same pace. The higher we were, the longer time we stopped to take a breather. I was so close to get knocked out of breathe, but I kept reminding myself, "Breathe slowly and deeply". Soon, the 8KM mark came into picture, so was the Low's Peak (4095m), which laid right in front of us.


3-in-1 (from left to right): Alexandra's Peak (4003m), Oyayubi Iwu Peak (the tilted tower in front of Alexandra's Peak) (3975.8m), Dewali Pinnacles and the half missing Victoria Peak (the huge prominent peak on the right)

We were so close to the Low's Peak but again, the surface was tricky that I could barely move faster towards our final destination. Half way from the 8KM mark, one of the mountain guides was kind enough to lend his helping hand. I grabbed his hand and together we moved around the puddles, huge stones around the rocky terrain. I must admit that I couldn't keep up with his speed, at all. My hand was often stretched to the maximum whenever we had to move up the huge stones in wide steps.


Yours sincerely at the Low's Peak of Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak at Malay Archipelago

Nevertheless, I made it first among my team mates, many thanks to the helpful mountain guide, whom I forgot his name. Due to the tight surface on the Low's Peak, everyone have to wait for our turn to capture our glorious moment with the signboard marking the Low's Peak (4095.2m to be exact). It was 6.48am and the sun was already high up. No more beautiful sunrise to be capture but a tiny victory of ours.


9 of us made it to the top of Malaysia! (Missing one: Chi Ming, the cameraman)

Of course we wouldn't be able to make it if it weren't because of Chi Ming, whom had experience climbing Mount Kinabalu more than once. His words of motivation kept us moving even though we kept slowing down and took our time drinking and eating.  We also wouldn't be able to make it if it weren't because of our two mountain guides, whom always there to help us with our climb and also saving our lives.  



The view of picturesque mountains, the palm-shaped and pointy granite from the Low's Peak

We took about 45min to take in the beautiful scene that laid in front of us. All the effort and suffer was totally worthwhile and I felt so proud of myself for going through all these. It has somehow changed my perspective of life; that if you want something, you have to work hard for it.


Ugly Sisters Peak (4032m) I think?

Now that the sky had started to brighten up, I had a chance to appreciate the chilly air while I took in all the many things that I had overlooked on the way up. Amazed by the force of nature, all these pretty textures made Mount Kinabalu a place to visit, albeit not without any hardwork.

Lying down there should be Low's Gully

These huge stones were very pretty in their own ways. Alone, they might be insignificant but together, it forms the highest peak in Malay Archipelago which I can now officially announced that I have been there, done that.


Donkey Ears Peak (4054m)


St John's Peak (4091m)

It was then I realised, there are more than just the South Peak and Low's Peak that I was paying a visit to. Standing high and proud was other unique granite formation like Donkey Ears Peak and St John's Peak. Although they are not the highest in Malay Archipelago, they are the evidence of beautiful creation by the force of nature.



Snowy white South Peak against the crystal blue sky and of course, a picture with it!

The way down to Laban Rata Resthouse proved to be a more tricky one. Instead of incline 20-30 degree, we had to recline 20-30 degree while trying to get a strong grip in every step we took. At this point of time, I felt my toes were squashed in agony.


Ah, I just couldn't refrain myself from capturing more...

Magical as it seemed, every second I stopped and stared at these picturesque scenes, my body and mind felt recharged and my agony was somewhat subdued. My feet refused to leave but my mind was hinting the looming hunger that might strike anytime. Breakfast was early, you see.



Me at Sayat-sayat Check Point again!

It started to feel warmer as the sun shone at the summit plateau. I took off my jacket and wore only a layer of long john. It was a good buy, else I couldn't imagine how would I be able to survive this. After Sayat-sayat Check Point, it was another horror to most of us!


Oh gosh, look at how tiny the yellow-roof Laban Rata Resthouse is!

Looking down the slope we came up from, a pang of realisation slapped hard on our face. Did we just climb up from this? "Hell yea!", the brain said. It was so horrifying that if we slipped on the way up, we would be dead by now.


Down, down, here we go...

Nonetheless, my advice to those who are intending to climb Mount Kinabalu, "Listen to your guides, please!". Mountain guides are like the most agile person in the world. They can save you the moment you slip and fall; they can jump from one rock to another rock, without fumbling for stability.

My mind was almost forgetting how large steps each staircase or stone was on the way up. As we climbed down, I felt like endless torture on my knees. Climbing sticks would be of greatest help now! By the time we reached Laban Rata Resthouse, I wished I could just lie down and rest but I couldn't as it was about check out time. I literally dumped everything into luggage and wore a sleeveless top and shorts to join the rest for lunch.

Thank goodness my tanner half was well recovered by the time I was back at Laban Rata. After lunch, we waited for quite some time for the two mountain guides to meet us at Laban Rata Restaurant to begin our way down Mount Kinabalu using Timpohon trail, which is 1km shorter than Mesilau trail we took on the way up.


Last view from the high ground before we rushed down to Timpohon gate

For fear that high altitude sickness hit hard on my tanner half, we decided to start our journey as soon as we settled the luggage transport. We moved down as fast as we could (which we thought we were) with the walking stick. However every step down exerted some impact on the knees, so we had to be quick yet not to hurt our knees, which explained why we were still moving down at 1km per hour.


Love is in the air

Half way down the Timpohon trail, fog started to veil the path lying ahead. At times I lost sight of my tanner half and got worried. It was like those scenes in the magical land, where fogs usually associate with lurking danger.


Purple orchid at last 2KM

The sky started to drizzle at the last 3KM. However the ground was somewhat level and less tenuous as the first few KM from Laban Rata. Quicker we plowed on and we managed to get a brief shelter and refill until the drizzle had subsided.


Another waterfall, hooray!

At the last KM, we managed to catch another waterfall. I had the split second joy before we rushed to the end of our journey. Before 7pm, we caught sight of the Timpohon gate and I literally ran and registered myself for completing my journey of Mount Kinabalu. I felt like a winner, very smug of my own achievement. My joy was shared with my beloved tanner half, and I must say, if it weren't because of him, I would probably not doing this.

Will I come again? 
Mount Kinabalu, my answer is a firm Yes.
2014 it will be.

Regards,
Hitomi Ng
Accomplished climber of Mount Kinabalu
(Graduated on 23 May 2012)

6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You are so close right now! Plan with some friends and go :)

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  2. HiTomi,

    Very exciting elements and description.

    When my wife and me go above 2,000m, we have found spending a full day resting at that height helps when we push to 3,000m.

    The highest elevation we have visited is 2,800m/9,200ft when visited Sacramento Peak
    the home of the National Solar Observatory. A small communtiy of oberservers, physicist and support workers, along with thier families live on the peak! They are use to the thin air. We from 180m above sea level moved very slowly and stopped often.

    Do you remember the temp at the on the peak?

    Has snow ever fallen on Low Peak @ Mount Kinabalu?

    Sacramento Peak get's covered with snow every winter, and Yellow Stone is already snow covered.

    Looking forward to more travel adventures from you and the tanner half!

    David

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David,

      Unfortunately we did not have the luxury of time to rest. Guess we have to hike faster than what we did (1km/hour).

      I couldn't know what was the temperature at the peak as I did not have any gear to measure :(

      However, I am not aware that snow has ever fallen on Low's Peak.

      I would probably do some hiking at New Zealand :p

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  3. Hi, very great experiences at Mt Kinabalu. I will go on 07 March 13, Mesilau Trail also. Your great description really motivate me must conquer to the summit.
    Many thanks for the sharing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alex,

      Great to hear that you are going to Mount Kinabalu :)
      I hope you are well prepared, both physically and mentally!
      Last but not least, enjoy the process.

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