It should be noted that we are attempting to summit this mountain in less than 24 hours. It is an intense trek and you know you are doing it hard within hours of starting. Start at 1800 metres, a 6 hour hike to advanced base camp, eat your own body weight in carbohydrates, sleep as much as you can and then wake up at 1:30am and be ready to leave at 2:30am to commence your summit bid……..truly intense!
There is a very subtle knock on our bedroom door and this little voice politely saying “Its time to wake up!” Karine and I both politely thanked our host and got out of our sleeping bags and tried to begin to function. I could feel the fatigue in my body from yesterdays hike. I didn’t ask Karine how she was feeling. It was written all over her face. She was also “tres fatiguée”. Slowly we got dressed and headed out to have our breakfast of sugar, sugar, shit coffee and more sugar. It is difficult to explain to anyone who eats these things regularly and as part of life that they are extremely bad for you and that great coffee is the main stay of western civilisation.
It was now 2:30am and it was time to begin our summit bid on the mountain. This mountain was violently shaken on June 5th 2015 by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake. The old town folk say it was because two tourists took nude photos of themselves at the summit. The young folk around here know its just nature doing what it does. As we walked out of the hut and into the darkness this story played on my mind.
We had 800 vertical metres to climb and approx 2.7 kilometres to cover to the summit and to witness the sunrise. Our guide Frendy said it was the first kilometre that was the toughest. So we just hunkered down and walked onward, heads down staring at the track in front of us…….just like on Kilimanjaro heading for the summit. Then the stairs came, wooden stairs. I loathe stairs, especially when trekking. You cant get a rhythm on stairs with people all around you.
Onward and upward we walked not being able to see to far ahead. when we rested we turned off our head torches and stared up into the night sky. the stars were incredible and you could watch satellites and high altitude passenger flights passing overhead. It was so quiet you could hear the planes from way up high. Beautiful, serene, empty darkness and not a sound could be heard but the footsteps of the summit party. So wonderfully alone on the way to the heavens.
As we reached 3800 metres the stairs were gone and we were now on a stunning granite slab. A guide rope is in place and it goes all the way to the top. We avoided using the guide rope as it played with your balance when other climbers also used it. Trekking up the slab was tough, calves burning, thighs burning and we were still0.7 kms away from glory. I remember thinking “The summit is only the halfway point mate. You still have to get back down.”
The slab was huge, it just kept on coming, it was crazy. It felt like you were on a treadmill. The rock all looked the same and it was still dark so there was nothing to see but other head torches. We just had to keep going. Breathing was now becoming a little difficult as we reached 3950 metres. With less than 150 metres vertical to ascend we were feeling it now, breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out. That was all you could do. It was also starting to get cold and the wind was picking up.
All of a sudden we were back on steep terrain and sort of in a line. I could see head torches coming towards me and the sky was starting to lighten a little as the sun crept over the clouds. I saw a sign post and thought ok this must be the last stop before the summit. Cold, tired, out of breath and hungry as hell, Karine and I reached the summit to claim our first mountain together.
We were super happy and savoured the experience as the sun began to rise. the weather was a little poor and it made the sunrise a little disappointing, but Karine being lets say “a little stubborn” wanted to wait and see what the weather would do. Frendy was fine with that and we walk down a little ways to allow others summiting a better path.
We settled into a nice little alcove of granite to protect us from the wind and with our camera’s poised and ready we waited. Slowly but surely the weather shifted and the cloud began to lift. What a display of natures finest moments all rolled into one. This mountain is truly spectacular in every way. The contrast of the sun rising against the grey pink granite. The massive slab beneath you and the jagged peaks surrounding you. The are not enough superlatives to describe the beauty and the enormity of what we were witnessing……..I had tears welling in my eyes…..I was so overwhelmed with awe…..Karine smiled at me and I cried. She hugged me and said “It is absolutely beautiful mon amour”.
Heading back down the mountain was a tough journey. The slab was amazing! What you don’t see at night is the major drop-offs you are walking past. This is not such a bad thing actually. It makes you just simply get on with it. I do think this is the most spectacular place I have seen. Mt Kilimanjaro was incredible as a mountain but this place is just mind-blowing…….truly mind-blowing. We could not stop taking photos. To capture this adventure is to capture your heart.
The pain of coming down the mountain to the hut was ok. The pain getting from the hut back to park headquarters was the most intense pain I have had in years. My knees, hips, calves and feet were just so so sore that I was sort of limping through the last kilometre or so of the trail. The detail can be avoided out of respect for our tired bones.
A big shout out to Karine for most of the beautiful photos. Merci beaucoup ma chérie 🙂
Mount Kinabalu is well worth the pain and fatigue that comes with it…….bring on the recovery!!