WONDERS FROM THE HEIGHTS OF SABAH
I see God's sustaining power more every time I feel like I've reached my limits, which happened so many times on Mt.Kinabalu.
The trip that was scheduled from April 13-16, 2012, enlisted 37 participants. Out of all those people, I had only previously climbed with a number of them, namely Farah, Jeshua, Lance, Javi, Coby and Gideon Lasco, one of the organizers himself.
I flew from Clark late afternoon and landed in Sabah early evening. Upon arrival, we changed some of our money from dollars to ringgit so we have something to spend for dinner that night, as well as things we might find useful along the way. After dinner, all participants went to Gideon’s room in batches so he can check us up and give us a brief but encouraging talk for the long walk we were to do the next day. As expected, when I got back to my room with Farah, I found it hard to sleep because of excitement.
The next day, I found myself to be so giddy and eager to finally climb the mountain once famed to be the highest in Southeast Asia, that I kept making jokes during our 2-hour car ride to the Kinabalu Park.
When we got to the park, we signed all the required documents, arranged for a place to put all of our extra bags, went through a detailed explanation of the trail, did the necessary group picture before the climb and off we entered Pondok Timpohon, the very first gate of our long and steep climb.
Since we were a big group, we naturally broke into subunits basing on the similarities of our pace. I began by following Farah, who is utterly fast and almost beyond human, and lagged behind her about 2 hours later into the climb and decided to join the more relaxed group of Gideon, Javi and Lance. From Timpohon to Laban Rata, which has a distance of 6 kilometers and a gain of 1,400 meters in height, I completed everything from 10:30AM – 4:45PM, a matter of 6hours. However, these weren’t exactly the best hours of my life.
My friends already warned me of the things I should watch out for when doing the Kinabalu climb: altitude sickness (that comes with an air that increasingly gets thinner as we get higher and higher), the cold, a trail that is unrelenting in being purely ascending or going up. Sad to say, I experienced discomfort from all! Like what Jaldy our local guide mentioned in the briefing, little after Layang-Layang Hut, we might begin to feel a little bit of dizziness or headache that is actually a manifestation of altitude sickness. The marker was pretty accurate for me as I experienced lightheadedness at that point, followed by a loss of appetite (every time I tried eating my packed lunch or trail food, I felt like vomiting), a condition that accompanied me throughout the trail and which, 2 kilometers away from Laban Rata, turned into a full blown headache.
Other things that hailed me to push harder and higher on trail were these pretty flowers and some cute squirrels!
Less than 2kms from Laban Rata, the lodge where we will be staying for the night, there was a drastic aesthetic change in the trail. It suddenly became like a Zen garden that someone had crafted out in the middle of nowhere! It was so beautiful! It’s my most favorite part of the trail, even through my not-so-ok conditon!
When I reached Laban Rata, warmth was so comforting, as the altitude sickness mixed with rains and cold that had begun to sneak into my clothes during my last few pushes on the trail, making what already was, even more difficult. (Before I got there though, what kept me alive were Javi and Lance’s offer to carry some of the stuff in my heavy bag, as well as Lance’s jokes that he kept cracking on our way up.) I forced myself to eat which didn’t turn out to be a success, so after drinking medicines and a hot bath, I began to read myself to sleep at 8:00PM.
The wake up call was at 1:45AM,and after a quick breakfast,we started the assault at around 2:45AM.
I was glad that the sleep refreshed me because the summit assault was said to need all the energy that one can muster even if it’s just 2.5kilometers away from Laban Rata. For one, in that short distance, we’re supposed to gain almost another thousand meters in height. Just think of it this way, our ears pop in planes or cars because of the pressure when ascending, just imagine that it’s the same thing in very high mountains only that we’re ascending by foot!
Basically, this is a summary of how my climb looked like. I even put a photo taken by Farah, when I chose to sit against a rock to protect me from the lashing of the unmerciful wind.
Aside from starting too early in the morning when temperature was still expectedly low and cold, going past the Sayat-Sayat checkpoint we were faced with a long stretch of an open-faced mountain. With nothing to stop them, winds were just crazily, and icily, whipping onto my face, penetrating every crack it could find, seemingly trying all ways to seep into my body. This was when I began to feel nauseous and weak all over again. I hadn’t gotten back my appetite yet, as well, and mix that with altitude sickness and the cold and zero calories to burn, I just thought that I wouldn’t make it. But I did!
Sights as beautiful as these kept me going, too. This is my most favorite photo from the trip. This was taken by Lance Dy.
With the help of Lance and Javi and Gideon, who were all such great cheerers, plus their welcome donations of an extra sweater and gloves and bonnet, I was able to reach the summit at around 6:40AM. (We were actually there earlier, but traffic was bad approaching the summit. There were lots of people impatiently waiting for their turn to take a picture with the landmark of Low’s Peak.)
This is the my second most favorite photo from the climb. I wanted to cry when I saw this because of how unfathomable the greatness of God is to be able to make something so glorious.
See the stillness of the water and the reckoning sun in the back? What a juxtaposition. Only God can make something so beautiful.
The shadow of the mountain at 6:07AM…
And finally, the summit! Oh, if you think I look fatter than usual, just think that I have 5 layers of tops, 2 for bottoms, 4 for the head!!!
Because we got to the summit early, we were also heading back early, which meant that it would still be a cold descent. However, because I was already exhausted from fighting altitude sickness and the cold earlier, I felt like they didn;t matter as much anymore and would rather sleepwalk my way down.
Even through my exhaustion, I knew that I just had to capture this spectacular scene on our way back.
I think, this was when I felt so tired that I wanted to just roll down. Hahaha!
Stopping for photos every now and then, we were finally able to make it back at 9:30AM. I noticed that I was regaining my energy back as we were descending (the first sign was that I took off about 2 layers of clothing, hahaha), and finally, I was able to eat 2 servings of rice. This was my first real meal since we started the trek the day before.
Since Farah and Jeshua, as well as new friends Jan and Allen, were arriving late having chosen to take the Via Ferratta route on their way back, I was left with Gideon, Javi and Lance again, and together we left Laban Rata at 11:40AM and hit the Timpohon gate at 3:05PM.
Thanks, Lance Dy, for being so matiyaga with the shots!!!
I hope that I didn’t communicate my Kinabalu experience as an awful one, because it wasn’t. As does any mountain, it taught me more about the art of walking, and of going beyond ourselves. Ultimately, I see God’s sustaining power more every time I feel like I’ve reached my limits, which happened so many times on Mt.Kinabalu. Like what I told my husband, hiking for me is something deeply spiritual.
MISTAKES AND REGRETS
Hiking has also helped me develop immediacy in reviewing mistakes and I want share some of what I realized during this climb, just in case you’re thinking of going as well, and it’s your first time.
- Hire a porter if you must. I think it didn’t do me any good to carry all of my things on the first day. My first 6 kilometers already got me so tired that, well at least this is what I think, I wasn’t able to recover quickly enough for the assault the next day.
- Ascend slowly!!! I think my biggest mistake for this trip is to even try trekking as fast as Farah. I had never been on any mountain higher than almost 3000 meters above sea level before this, and the summit of Kinabalu is at 4095! I should have walked slowly in the beginning to lessen the shock of altitude gain and thinning air.
- Try to research thin and light, but warm/thermal fabric, for your hiking clothes. It can get crazy cold, BUT you don’t want your protection from it to be heavy and weighing in your backpack or your body! (You can also bring warming oil. I brough my Johnson’s one when we were doing the assault.)
- Waterproof everything! It always rains in the afternoon, our guide said. I was super wet when I got to Laban Rata and they take a longer time to dry because it was cold.
- Bring knee support. Pure ascent is not a joke, and logically so, neither is the descent!
- If you’re married: BRING YOUR SPOUSE. Do not do this without your wife/husband. I left Joe in Manila because he can’t join on the dates of the climb and still pushing thru with the trip is my worst mistake. Every step I made only reminded me of him. Every bad feeling encountered, I wanted to hold his hand and take a comforting look from him. When I reached the summit, I wanted to hug him and share the experience with no one else but him. I will never, ever do this again without Joseph. I’m telling you, make the right choice of climbing this glorious mountain with your spouse.
- Not married yet? BRING GREAT AND ENCOURAGING FRIENDS! They will surely matter at times when you feel like giving up!
These are pictures of the whole group. On our very last night, organizers Gideon Lasco and Ivan Henares, awarded us with our certificates from Kinabalu Park! Nice climbing with you all, and again, congratulations everyone!!!
Check out these links for an account of Kinabalu Expedition 2012