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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Journey to Mt Kinabalu - Low's Peak

We woke up at about 1 am. Or rather we were ready to go at 1 am. Light out at Laban Rata was  8.30 pm incredibly early but aside from the fact that there was nothing else to do and we had to start early to catch the sunrise at the summit, sleep seems the only sensible thing to do. But I dare said most of us didn't sleep well. Perhaps it was the excitement that we were going to reach the highest peak in South East Asia in a few hours time or the splitting headache that everybody seems to be having, none of us slept well. So at 1 am, everybody was up and raring to go. After a light breakfast where we were advised not to eat too much, we finally set off at about 2.30 am.

Led by the guides, the various group moved off. I reckoned we were among the first few groups. As usual, we started off a tad way too fast. We kept mostly to our group formation as per yesterday - with Vincent and the 3 kids in front, myself and 4 others in the middle pack and a last group. One of our member was still having problem with his stomach and was taking it easy in the last group.

It was pitched dark and all of us had our headlamps on. Still we couldn't really see far away. Just the few person immediately in front of us. And with the high altitude, we got tired pretty fast and before long, groups behind us started overtaking us. Interestingly, most of them were Caucasians rather than Asian. Perhaps the Asians were not in too big a rush to get to the summit?  

It was up and up and up all the way. But there were also a lot of stretches where we were walking on wide open area. We knew it was open area. There was a super long rope that we had to hold on to for most part of the climb. At certain stretches, there were vertical climb, horizontal climb but in the darkness we just walked like zombies following the rope.

These was what our eyes were seeing along almost the entire route. The little white specks are not stars or blemish but lights from other climbers behind us. The rope is there but totally not visible unless you are near enough to see it.

This is the same photo but digitally enhanced to bring out whatever little light there is. The rope is now visible in the foreground. Now the lights of the trail of climbers behind us and the city in the background is visible.

At 3800 metres, all of us were feeling the effect of the high altitude and we were stopping every few steps to breathe in hard. The climb itself was in my opinion fairly manageable. It was the breathing that was sapping away our energy. Thank goodness none of us in the middle group puked though we sure felt like it with almost everybody having some form of nausea. The Princess who was in the first group and dropped back. She was getting the altitude sickness real bad and stopping to sit down every 5 to 6 steps. But thankfully none of us threw up. That was not the case though with our last group members. 2 of the ladies threw up after passing the checkpoint at Sayat Sayat and the guy with the stomach problem was going too slowly and the guide forced them to turn them. So for the 3 of them, it was game over as they turned back without reaching the summit.

For the rest of us, we plodded on and managed to reach the summit well before 6 am - the sun rise time. And we were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the sun rise.

After the mad rush to take the almost mandatory photos at Low's Peak, the highest point of Mt Kinabalu at 4095m, we were ready for our descent to Laban Rata. By now the sun was fully up and we could now see what we could not when we were ascending and what beautiful scape it was too!

And we could also see the way that we took to climb up including the very important rope that led us all the way to the summit.

This was where we came up from. Scary to think that we climbed up from the horizon in the dark and now had to descend the same way.

Did we really went past all these?

This was the notorious Horizontal Climb. Our guide had described to us that we were walking on a ridge which was 6 inches to 1 feet wide in darkness and we had to hold on to the rope at all cost. It sounds scary enough but in the darkness we felt no fear since we couldn't see where the side was or was not. Now that it was bright, it didn't look and feel that scary. The angle of the cliff was fairly gentle and the so called narrow trail was actually quite wide in some parts so it wasn't that bad.

But of course it was always easier going down especially since it was now very much brighter. We made good time and we reached Laban Rata around 9 am well in time for breakfast and a quick wash up before we continue our final journey down to the bottom.

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