Trip Start Dec 29, 2007
82Trip End Dec 12, 2008
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We took the boat from Pulau Labuan to Kota Kinabalu this morning, and headed to Summer Lodge. Stephen, Rikke and I sorted out our plans to climb Mount Kinabalu, and we spent the rest of the day exploring KK, which is the closest thing to a resort town that I've seen in Borneo.
Wednesday 30th July
We had another quiet day today - it was pleasant but I'm sure it wouldn't make exciting reading, so I'll skip the details of where we walked and which cafes we whiled away our time in. I've developed a bit of a cold and my body is craving rest in a warm bed (I'm so bloody sick of air-con right now, but sleeping in dorms really takes away the element of choice where that's concerned)
Thursday 31st July
This morning Rikke, Stephen and I got up shortly before 6am to catch our lift to Kinabalu Park. I felt very sorry for our chatty Dutch companion in the car because none of us were at our most sociable despite his numerous and persistant attempts to draw us into conversation.
We arrived at Park Headquarters a few hours later, all feeling a bit more awake by this point. I had enjoyed watching Mt Kinabalu loom over us during the car journey, getting larger as we drew closer. At headquarters we met our guide, I can't remember his name but I thought it was quite funny that while all the other guides looked smart but suitable outdoorsy, ours looked like he was dressed to go clubbing, with polished smart black shoes and everything.
We set off for Laban Rata, which took us the rest of the morning and early afternoon. The relentless steps were a drag but it was a good path so all things considered it was certainly easier than our climb to the Pinnacles.
By the time we reached the resthouse at Laban Rata I was starting to find myself quite short of breath, so I was glad that we would have 12 hours here to rest and acclimatise to the altitude (Laban Rata is at just over 3000 metres) before setting off for the summit. We had a lie down before dinner; I was glad we had chosen a cheap tour with food included, as I don't think instant noodles and biscuits would have cut it this time!
The sunset from Laban Rata was absolutely perfect. My bed was right beside a west-facing window with an impossibly beautiful view over the park, so after braving the cold outdoors for a few minutes to take some photos, Rikke and I spent some time sitting in my bed wrapped in blankets watching the sun set. Once the sun had set, everybody got ready for bed. I couldn't sleep so early but I knew it was important to just get some rest.
Friday 1st August
I managed to get a couple of hours' sleep, and we rose at 2.30am to have a high-energy breakfast snack before setting off to climb to the summit at 3am. At first I quite enjoyed climbing in the dark, able to see only a few metres around me and the spots of light coming from other climbers' headtorches. It was like walking inside a bubble. That can be quite isolating, and for a while I really enjoyed the solitude, but after a couple of hours when the first pre-sunrise light of day started to lift the darkness and suddenly I could see the faces of my companions, I did feel quite uplifted (comparatively speaking).
I won't lie about this, I'm not fit and the climb from Laban Rata to the summit was hell. Every step was an effort, every breath even; I felt dizzy and sick, although whether that was due to altitude sickness, my ever-worsening cold or just my lack of fitness, who knows. The paths with steps, near Laban Rata, were just about bearable, but the last hours spent following a rope up endless slaps of granite that stretched on into the cloud that surrounded us were the stuff of nightmares.
Eventually the granite slabs steepened and separated into boulders, and we were hauling ourselves up those last few metres to the summit. I arrived just as the sun was rising over Borneo. The cloud around us prevented us from seeing all that our 4095m (well I had to get that in somewhere...) vantage point had to offer, but I wouldn't change a thing. I was able to snap a few pictures when the clouds parted, but despite the perfection of the moment I wasn't able to stay up there long. We had come prepared with multiple layers of clothing, coats and gloves, but after a few minutes all I could think about was how far back down the mountain I would have to get before I would start to feel my fingers and toes again.
I had become separated from Stephen and Rikke, who were in front of and behind me respectively, but I was quite content to make my way down to Laban Rata where I joined them for breakfast at about 8am
Rikke and I said goodbye to Stephen, who was heading off to the hot springs. We're all doing quite similar routes over the next few months so it didn't really feel like goodbye, as I'm sure we'll meet up again soon. Rikke and I slept for most of the journey back to Kota Kinabalu. In the afternoon we went for coffee and a well-deserved piece of cake, then spent a lazy afternoon in the cafe, and had a massage before bed.
Photos to follow - this entry is pretty dull without them, I must admit...