I am going to remember this for a long time to come.
This has got to be the longest, toughest hike in my life so far! Not so much about physically but more of a test of mental endurance.
More than half a year ago, we planned our own hiking expedition to Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in South-East Asia standing at 4095.2 meters or 13,435 feet.
My health was getting better and training became regular in the last two months in preparation for the hike. The expedition group consists of:
- Myself (Malaysia)
- Kenneth Chan (Malaysia)
- Peter Han (Malaysia)
- Verine (Malaysia)
- Sasa (Hong Kong)
- Tak (Hong Kong)
- Shawn (Malaysia – Sabah)
Haha, call this a joint expedition between Malaysia and Hong Kong to take the summit! 🙂
The hike from Timpohon Gates to Laban Rata on Day 1. We started the hike at nearly 9 in the morning with Verine reaching Laban Rata first at 1:20’ish in the afternoon, followed by myself 10 minutes later.
Overall, it was alright. Not easy but not hard either.
It was the 3:00 AM hike to Low’s Peak that was hardest.
We had an early dinner and slept in early (or at least tried to). We woke up around 1:00 – 1:30 AM to have an ‘early breakfast’ – which on any other midnight would have passed for supper.
Then we geared up for the so-called 25% remaining route to Low’s Peak – which felt like 75% of the entire journey!
The first 700 meters was the same as the day before; stairs and forests. Except that since it was night, the plants were giving out carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. As if the thin air at high altitude wasn’t already bad enough!
And we were just getting started.
I had breathing difficulties and took more breaks than the day hike earlier. Is that how the word ‘breathtaking’ came about?
Where the forest ended, the next difficult part of the climb presented itself in the form of granites. Climbing on unforgiving pavements that know no equal.
The higher I climbed, I started to feel like I was going to puke, and even though I was wrapped up I had trouble coping with the cold. It was 3 degree Celcius and the regular hiker would have scoffed at it for being generously warm already.
Yet I am very vulnerable to cold.
I took a few video clips and merged them into one – this would describe my situation best.
When reaching the lower end of the mountain, I had already missed the sun rise by half an hour.
(In the video, I made a mistake mentioning that I caught the sunrise in time… I suppose that was how detached from reality I was then!)
At this point, I was debating between hanging around there and save my energy for going back to Laban Rata
Continue ascending to the top though it meant risking being one of the last people to go back.
I went with the latter. And continued climbing to the peak.
… And sure enough, because I ascended to the peak LATE I was also the LAST person to go back to base.
Not last among my friends.
Last among the 100+ hikers that morning.
I was in a state of what I can describe best as ‘half dreaming’ as I took half-steps down the granite mountain. My mind was occupied with only going back home and wishful thinking such as instant teleportation, hoping for a helicopter, and even tempted to ask a porter to carry me back even at the expense of RM300 to RM400 a kilometer and my pride.
Yeah, you’ve guessed it. I had altitude sickness. Shit.
Even with all the training I went through, I returned to Laban Rata last. Earlier I told my friends to go ahead and not wait for me, fearing that I would just wind up being a burden to their speed.
I got back to the Laban Rata inn just in time to check out. I had difficulty eating the breakfast they saved for me because I had lost my appetite.
Yet we needed to leave right away and track back to Timpohon Gates.
This time, Shawn stayed behind with me to make sure I was alright. Now I gotta tell you what a badass Shawn is. Shawn has been training for hiking and outdoor adventures, and this is already the sixth time he’s here at Mount KK. In fact, he’s going to join an expedition to the base camp at Mount Everest soon.
While the rest of the group went ahead of me, I was still stuck at half-step gear. I would take a break after every few dozens of steps.
However as I descended lower the mountain, my appetite came back and breathing became normal again (yay!) I followed Shawn’s lead on how to hike down the mountain properly – which must have saved my knee caps and my calf muscles less sore even as I am writing this.
It got to the point that I went from being the last person to overtaking half of the group and even the other hikers that left in the dust earlier so to speak, haha! Not that there was any race going on. But I was amazed at the sudden recovery within several hours.
It was definitely altitude sickness up there!
However our Hong Kong friends were not to be messed around with. Sasa has been hiking regularly for 15 years and counting – and her training includes climbing 70 flights of stairs. Tak was no less a hiker too.
All in all, the pain and suffering was worth it! I am glad that in many ways, I passed my own physical and mental endurance test – the fact that I didn’t give up going to the peak in spite of my condition.
If I had just turned back when I was so near yet so far, I would feel my regrets now. I kept telling myself that if I could survive this, I could survive anything.
And it wouldn’t have been possible if not for my friends who supported me especially on my way down when I looked pale and green. Haha!