Two sides of the same **** off mountain!!
Trip Start Dec 28, 2010
84Trip End Jun 08, 2012
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Where I stayed
As just mentioned the five month before travel was extremely busy for us, so my plan to do a climbing course in October 2010 had to be shelved for painting or flooring or some such. And so my only none snowboarding experience of mountains had been Snowdon when I was 13 and High Wileys , Dartmoors highest point a couple of years ago, and their combined altitude was roughly one third of Kinabalu. Even with this novice status though I wasn’t worried, as we were both youngish and fitish(ish), plus we had come prepared we had walking boots, fleeces, gloves etc. However I wouldn’t say that the same confidence was coursing through Mels veins. But her gib is cut well and served with plenty of pluck so I felt sure we would both come through with big smiles on our faces.
We were picked up at 6am and ready to climb by 9am feeling a little tired but really excited. Charles our driver suggested we purchase some magic sticks to aid our climb I was unsure as I thought there was a chance we might come across some sticks in the forest we were about to climb through, but Mel really wanted one, and I liked the Gandalf look so we went for it.
But of course we were climbing a mountain and after about 500m we began to walk steadily uphill, walking up rocks and the occasional wooden staircase. Slowly but surely we began to make good progress clocking off half kilometres at a time stopping occasionally only for water. Both of us were in fine fettle as we reached half way point of the days climb at 3 km at around 2 hrs and at roughly 2500 m altitude.
My mind was racing around trying to do the calculations to see our projected finish time for the day, verbally patting us both on the back for making good time. From this point though the path became steeper and more sketchy in its composition, and Mel began to feel the effects of our altitude. To begin with this only involved stopping a little more often as her legs tired, but before long other more worrying signs of altitude sickness began to show such as a pounding headache, shortness of breath and dizziness. We had breezed up 4km in about 2.75 hrs but the final 2 were going to be some of the most challenging steps of our lives. Mel,because her entire body was shutting down, and screaming at her to go back down the mountain. Luckily the challenge for me wasn't physical but to keep Mel positive and tell her that she can get up that mountain and that she will make it! And if all else failed I had a magic stick to beat her with. The half km's were going by slower now and our goal seemed further away than when we started. My gentle exaggerations (lies) of it being just around the corner were becoming less and less believable. Finally in the gloom and haze of the afternoons clouded mountainous garden stood the peaks of our cabin, I was so relieved and could have run to it, but Mel was still only able to make it small steps at a time with frequent stops, she was well and truly out of her comfort zone. I'd hoped that a sugary cup of tea would do the trick and she'd be as right as rain after a little lie down and foot rub. Alas that was not the case, and her flu like symptoms persisted, by this stage she'd even lost her appetite. After dinner we tried sleeping but by now I too had a pounding headache from the altitude and we only managed maybe 4 hrs sleep before we were woken at 1:40 am. I'd said to Mel just to see how she felt in the morning.
Thankfully for my sense of adventure only our headaches persisted and stepped out wrapped up and ready for the climb to the peak at 4095.2 meters. Unfortunately as soon as we started Mels sickness and fatigue returned and the last 2.7 km seemed a very hard task to make before sun rise. We were in a long chain of people all struggling to make it to the same goal. This was a blessing in disguise as it slowed our assent giving Mel chance to acclimatise. As we pushed on the mountain began to reveal itself, we were now walking along hard granite slabs, with the jet black silhouettes of false summits splitting the immediate rock we were on from the brightest stars I have ever seen. I heard once that the stars are brightest just before sunrise. And these were certainly testament to that. I'm only thankful that their aren't flys at 11,000 ft as my mouth was wide open in awe every time i looked up, Michelangelo would have struggled to top this (bollox I didn't take a sodding photo!)
As we pushed on Mel had taken to counting her steps to push her on, 10 steps at a time. Every movement was an exhausting effort that seemed to make the idea of ever being off of this damn mountain an unattainable one. I can't imagine how hard it was for her, we checked all the symptoms of altitude sickness a few days later, and she ticked every box. The medical advice is to turn around immediately and go back down the mountain, which is exactly what she refused to do.
We managed to get to KK late afternoon and found a room at Travellers Light Inn. We decided to treat ourselves to what appeared to be a really nice meal. Money wise and taste wise, I really wished I didn't like pizza so much!! We thought it would be nice as we were soon to be climbing Mount Kinabalu. (Not my choice!)
I don't know what category of mountain it falls into- as far as I was concerned it was an F-ing mountain. Not a hill, not a nice walk spotting fluffy animals, it was climbing 8.7km to reach the summit. I had a feeling this 'summit' was not going to have a swimming pool, cocktail bar, any monkey butlers or anything fun. Basically I needed to prepare myself and call a spade a spade. It was going to be a cold slab of stone bloody high up with some spectacular views, hmmm, they must be really amazing for someone like me to be doing something like this. To be honest i was pretty daunted by this whole 'activity' (as they kept calling it), i'd not really mentally nor physically prepared myself for this. I like taking on challenges, they just don't generally last longer then a few hours. What was i doing??!! Not only had I signed up for this mountain climb but somehow Barney had convinced me in doing the Lows Peak Via Ferrata circuit. I had no idea what via ferrata was before this and apparently this 'Via Ferrata' was currently the highest one in the world! Awesome for someone whose scared of heights. But I've been trying to have a bit more of an open mind of my fears on this trip. Almost like trying to start again fear free. Well, maybe not completely like that but, I'm trying not to let my fear get in the way of something cool to do, and if some people can get enjoyment out of heights theres got to be a way to train yourself to like it surely? Maybe that sounds a little bonkers when I say it out loud, and every time we meet people I'm constantly trying to explain my way of thinking. It's tough, because I also have to convince myself!!
Anyway morning of the mountain climb. Got up at 6 (this appears to becoming a normal time at the moment, still not any easier though, nor do i want to make a habit of it.) Charles picked us up in his mini-van (travel agent from Borneo Icons- really nice guy, though a Chelsea fan!) We had breakfast outside the park then Charles sent us on our way by about 9am with a mountain guide. I think the first 3-4km seemed ok and went quite well from what I remembered, there was no swearing from me, nor any Barney hating at that moment. Then, like the Borneon weather, that sense of being ok changed very quickly!! The last 2km to Pendant hut were awful. My legs were tired of taking on either the 1/2 metre stone like steps or the actual rock climbs when I felt I was clamouring up on all fours. Plus my head was starting to pound and i was finding it really hard to breath. We'd now started walking into Barney hating territory.
Being the old people that we are we hired these 'magic' sticks to walk with. But there was no magic, I was cheated, I had to climb this beast myself, with the ever positive upbeat ever ready bunny Barney. He never fails to amaze me with his never give up, we can do this spirit!! We had to make it to the cabin by 3, if we were going to be able to take part in the Via ferrata in the morning. We weren't heading to the summit straight away as the plan was to see the sunrise at the peak. This was becoming a much harder task with my new found friends 'i can't fricking breath' & his mate 'my head wont stop pounding.'
We eventually made it to the cabin about 2.30ish. I was a mess, I still had a really really bad headache and was freezing by this point. The hut was located about 3000m, and me being me appeared to have all the symptoms of altitude sickness. Great!! That's all I needed. I always get these geeky sicknesses. (I'm now getting all the flashbacks of my various states of illness!) I seem to get all forms of travel sickness which really sucks when you’re spending a year or so travelling!!
That evening was pretty pants for me, still being cold with a bad head, I couldn't eat properly either which didn't help trying to replenish some energy. I felt like a right miserable, unsociable cow when we met our Via Ferrata group. David (Ireland), Hazel and Sarah who were English too. Not only was I feeling Ill, I was really worried how I was going to get up at 2am to start climbing the last 2.7km to the summit, let alone come down via ferrata. First things first, make the summit - it's all about that colourful certificate Charles had promised!!! How could I not make it to the end, there was a certificate to be had!!
We tried to get to bed about 8/9ish to see if we could get a few hours sleep before the climb. Unfortunately the advice given to people with altitude sickness is to drink plenty of water, don't take any tablets. Brilliant - i can do that, then pee for england the whole night! I didn't get much sleep in my bottom bunk, i had to keep getting up to run to the loo, which was located down two flights of stairs in the cold basement of our chalet. It was freezing. After what must have been a couple of hours the alarm went off on my iphone and sergeant barney was ready to get 'up and at 'em! I think by the time we got to bed barney too was developing a headache but i think we both knew there was no way we were going back now. 2.7km couldn't be too bad could it, not compared to 6km surely!
How wrong could I be?! We started well, (I think) following the crowds of people in a single file up the wooden steps then the big old stone looking steps. It got more difficult when we reached the steep parts of the rock face which had a rope dangling down. I copied everyone else and slowly pulled my lower body up the fairly steep rock face which had a very slight ledge for you to try wedge your feet in to give you a bit of stability, but this was tough. Good job it was dark as i'd know doubt of freaked out as this looked a little dangerous, just putting all your faith into your upper body and hoping its strong enough to heave you up. As you looked up the mountain you could see a line of lights, people up ahead of you with head torches. It was really nice actually as there were white lights everywhere. The people lighting up the side of the mountain, then there were so many stars in the sky, when you also took your eyes of the mountain and looked behind you, you could see glimmering lights in the distance of near by towns and cities. My god i was so jealous of all of those people warm and tucked up snug in their beds, sleeping.
Back to the climb! It took so much longer to get to markers this time, constantly waiting for the next km sign to say how far you hadn't travelled in the last few hours. It felt like i was getting anywhere, it was getting a lot harder to motivate myself, as my breathing was so much harder, my legs were heavier and my head was creating some kind of angry drum and bass beat that was far too loud and unmanageable. This was definitely the most physical and mentally challenging thing I have ever done, and it was a long time ago by this point that i'd enjoyed myself (probably back at the beginning in the 1st -2nd Km.)
I made it, eventually.... By the time i got up there i was so exhausted i don't even think i looked around for the first few minutes. I was feeling so emotional, when Dave came and shook my hand to say well done i thought i was going to burst into tears. I was physically and mentally drained. I did look at the surroundings, and they were pretty amazing. Its hard to fully appreciate anything when your heading up there, but when you get there for those few minutes its beautiful. Pretty scary, but beautiful...its amazing being higher than the clouds. We got to bask in the beauty for about 10-20mins till we were then making our way down again. Now for Via ferrata.
This was what i was most worried about because of my fear of heights. I've been up on high things before, done Go ape (climbing the ladders freaked me out), i can handle planes, but things like glass elevators, or stairs with holes in them showing you how far you are to the ground scare me. But this was going to be a whole different thing. My atitude was to think about how safe i would be, two carribinas, a rope, steel cables, and mountain torqs 100% safetly record. Relax and enjoy it!! Thats exactly what i did. It was amazing, I definitely got more pleasure from this than i did the climb!! I was so pleased. If i could cope with this, that would be that then. Two certificates in the bag!! Via Ferrata was pretty testing in places though as the climb really takes it out of your legs but what was nice was that you could rest in places too and just hang off the side of a mountain.
What i'd not taken into too much consideration was the climb down. Bugger!!! That really did my head in, surely there must have been another way down!! No lifts, no zip lines, nothing! Well there was something, but apparently i wasn't allowed to use it - a mountain taxi. Now, a mountain taxi consisted of one man & his crazy ability to carry another human being down the mountain. That thought just seemed ridiculous to me. I was having a hard enough time getting myself down let alone take someone over my shoulder and carry them down too. The mountain guides here are a little nuts anyway as they climb this mountain at least twice a day and probably about 7 days a week. There are also people who run up and down this mountain. Again i still quite comprehend how anyone can run up this! It’s not like a steep uphill run, you actually have to massive stone like steps to overcome. But speaking of crazy people one of the girls we'd met - Sarah was telling us how she ran 250km across the Sahara with temperatures reaching 54 degrees c. Nutter!! Hazel had climbed Mount Kilamanjaro before, her and Dave were quite content skipping down this mountain, while me and Barney tactically fell the whole 6km from Pendant hut. Our trip that day had taken us from walking from 2.30am till 6pm when we eventually got picked up by Charles and ferried back to a hostel where we could lie down for a good few days to recover I’m in so much pain now!!!! .
A very much broken - Mel