My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 5 – Set and Sail

This is the last installment to the “My Kinabalu Story” series. I will be blogging about my Krabi trip in 2009 next! 🙂

padas_keretapi lama hijau

We woke up at 3am to get ready to get to Padas river, which was a 3-hour bus ride and 20 min-train ride away. The train only operates thrice a day; 8.30am, 1.30pm and 5.30pm and we wanted to catch the morning train, so we pried ourselves from the bed in the wee hours of the morning despite our aching bodies from the previous day’s climb.

padas_kaunter tiket padas_inside keretapi padas_keretapi lama

We are here! The area near Padas river is a peaceful village with schools and village houses surrounded by amazing scenic views of the mountains and a whole lot of greenery.

padas_stesen pangi padas_welcome

padas kampung house

Local boys assisting to pump and transport the rafts to the start point of the river.

padas_angkatpadas_push

Andddd we’re off! Woohoo!

padas river rafting padas river rafting team 2 padas river rafting submerged

Tunggang terbalik semua (we were all messed up flipped upside down and all…) but, good thing none of us fell out of the raft and our raft did not capsize. That would have been pretty terrifying and a whole lot of trouble…

masjid ar-rahman

After all the awesome kecohrable rafting, we then headed off to Masjid Ar-Rahman to wash up, pray and head back on our 3-hour bus ride to KK central – which took longer due to the evening traffic. Dinner and buying souvenirs followed after that, as it was our final night at KK.

Parasailing and Snorkeling

parasailing two balloons

On the last day we went to Manukan Island for some water activities! Snorkeling and my first time parasailing. We gathered at Jesselton Point to board the boat after having our breakfast. Our flight was in the afternoon so this was the last activity we managed to squeeze before heading home.

jesselten point entrance jesselton boats manukan island

Parasailing was a whole lot of fun! Basically the rope is tied to the boat and we have to wear a harness that will secure us to the “balloon”, and then the boat driver will drive the boat and off we go! You can choose to ride it solo or in pairs. Once above, you can see a birds’ eye view from above with amazing scenic views of the picturesque mountains surrounding the islands. While we were “flying”, dja and me were like aaah-ing, ooh-ing, happily squealing “bestnye! cantiknye SubhanAllah!” before enjoying moments of peace and just quietly enjoying the beautiful view. It was an amazing experience Alhamdulillah. Would love to do this with my husband one day insyaAllah, mesti romantic. Hehe.

parasailing from boat ropeparasailing boatparasailing_mus ez2parasailing_mus ezdja n me at snorkel

Anyhoo after this it was home sweet home as we had a plane to catch back to Singapore. Boo hoo. Dearest Sabah, I’ve fallen in love with you. If we are destined to meet again, insyaAllah we will meet in future! 🙂

mardmood: This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section or click on the links below!

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My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 4 – How to Overcome Altitude Sickness

Last week, I shared about my experience climbing up and descending Mount Kinabalu. Today I thought of sharing some tips on overcoming altitude mountain sickness (AMS), which can occur from an elevation of 2,400 m onwards. This post is also in time for this week’s “Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby“. If I were to title this post with a question, it would be “How Can I Overcome Altitude Mountain Sickness?”

AMS can affect anybody, regardless of whether the climber is an expert or beginner. My buddy was not able to continue to the summit due to AMS, hence this would hopefully benefit you climbers out there who are planning for an upcoming expedition.

view of south peak

As Mt. Kinabalu is of 4,095 metres in elevation, you are prone to experience shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and talking at the same time somewhere above 2,400 metres. AMS can be minor or major depending on the individual. In certain cases, it can even be fatal.

Here are some tips taken from my own experience:

1. Water, water, water. Always hydrate yourself!

As the atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, the air density (the number of molecules of both oxygen and nitrogen per given volume) drops. Which means the available amount of oxygen to sustain mental and physical alertness decreases with altitude. So we need to replenish the lack of oxygen by drinking lots of water.

2. Packing the right nutrition is extremely important. (See below paragraph for detailed explanation).

3. Recognize your body’s needs and take frequent breaks

Because of the climate change, you will find yourself out of breath more regularly, especially if you are climbing and talking at the same time. Take frequent breaks so that you will be able to pace out better, and use this time to drink up. Furthermore, take this opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and the scenery around you. The view does get better when you are higher up the mountain.

4. Listen to the rangers and the limits of your body.

[A side story regarding AMS which the ranger had shared with Khadijah; there was a case when a female climber who was climbing with her husband, felt some tightness around her chest and felt nauseous as she was climbing up. She ignored these symptoms and continued on despite experiencing the symptoms more and more. It was a fatal mistake because eventually she collapsed and passed away that very moment. To God we came from and to Him we shall return. The ranger had to carry her body down to base camp…]

nutrition_berries

Nutrition is very important and I believe it helped me a lot despite my inadequate training.

Here are some good foods I ate throughout the climb:

1. Goat’s Milk (Malay: Susu Kambing)

I drank this every night before going to bed, before and throughout (during the overnight rest at Laban Rata). It helps restore your bones and also provide the required calcium you need in your body.

2. Cranberries, Raisins, Figs (Malay: Buah Tin)

These are excellent supplements and energy boosters for during the climb. They provide natural sugars and have the right tinge of sweet and sourness to keep the AMS nausea at bay. [Fun fact: The figs hardened as we got higher due to the pressure and coldness. Interesting, aye?]

“By the fig and the olive…” – At-Tiin, 1

There’s many reasons why it was mentioned in the Quran. It has so many benefits!

3. 100 Plus

This goes without saying. Besides plain water, I had a 500 ml bottle with me which I drank *very sparingly* throughout…

I also kept some Snicker bars but it did not help much as it contributed to my nausea the higher I progressed. Natural sugars are the best.

Hopefully these tips can be beneficial to anyone planning for any upcoming expeditions. Best of luck in reaching that summit!

This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 3 – Summit & Descend

We woke up at 12 am and proceeded to the canteen to gather and start our climb to the summit. It was really cold by then and I had 4 layers of clothing – thermal wear, 2 layers of outerwear plus my adidas windbreaker-like jacket and gloves. Wore thermal leggings as well and then proper track pants. For my headscarf I had 3 layers of outerwear; a knitted inner, a ninja (so my neck is extra protected as well), and my thick pashmina shawl. Alhamdulillah, all this layering paid off because it kept me warm. Temperature was minus 3 degrees! Since we would be climbing in the dark we had to wear a headlight as you can see below. All set to go!

gear up for summit

Something funny happened after this though. Our group was supposed to gather at Gunting Lagadan hut before we all leave together to start climbing, but silly me had followed this Japanese group in front of me and missed the path to Gunting Lagadan hut! Slenger seh. After a while something seemed amiss as I knew I was supposed to stop somewhere first, but somehow as it was dark and I was not sure where the hut was plus I was too scared to turn back, I continued on…

guys at gunting lagadan hut

My group at Gunting Lagadan Hut – with the exception of me who had unabashedly started climbing without them. I promise it was completely unintentional. At all. Starting with them would have been more comforting (I mean like D-U-H, although in hindsight having a headstart might have prevented me from suffering from AMS and disallowed me to deal with any nervousness or anxieties while waiting to start). But no worries, I soon caught up with some of them especially Bai and Wan, the 2 fastest climbers in the team.

sampai gate

Taken during the day, but this is the gate near Gunting Lagadan hut that starts the climb to the summit. The one that I missed while climbing up at night… So once you see this gate on the way down, you know rest is near!

path to summit

The steep uphill path towards the summit (taken after I descended and managed to take a breather). No more walking or hiking here, but climbing, bouldering, however way you can think to navigate your way up. This part was truly mental strength 80%, physical strength 20%.

me at summit

Finally reached the summit of Low’s Peak at about 6+ am Alhamdulillah. It was no longer very dark and the sun had started to appear. Felt extremely thankful Allah allowed me to climb His mountain and reach His summit. The sun had already risen by the time we reached, so we could not sit down and see the sunrise. Which was absolutely fine with us! The view was just breathtaking. Magical that is Allah’s creations.

mus ez me sg flag

Whose “brilliant” idea was this?! (note: sarcasm) There, that guy on the left. Funnily enough, a Caucasion climber saw and said to us, “Hey you guys from Singapore! Cool!” Ya must tell the whole world right Ezriel? Haha. Malu seh.

south peak

View of the beautiful South Peak. Subhanallah. Simply amazing.

sunrise mt k

A glimpse of the sunrise from afar. A contradiction of man-made creation, fading away and God’s creations standing tall and magnificent.

the other side

The other side of the summit, where some climbers sat to enjoy the view and take a break from a night’s worth of climbing.

Descend.

This was the exact route we walked and climbed, in the dark… Lucky thing we climbed in the dark, so we could not see the steepness of the boulder!

night climb morning view

We started to descend from the summit after about 30-45 minutes. It was still chilly (still had my gloves on) and also had to give other climbers the chance for space. The temperature was starting to rise and although it was still chilly, it started to get warmer bit by bit.

najib and duo uncle man to summit

Saw some of my group members coming up while we were climbing down. I started to take more photos and climbed down leisurely while the two brothers, who had patiently waited for me during the hike up zoomed on and left me alone started to descend quickly. Since I couldn’t take pictures during the hike up due to the darkness, I relished this opportunity to snap away! Furthermore, my toes were starting to hurt wearing the rubber shoes…

me and kasree

With Kasree, one of our senior guides. He’s very experienced this guy and told me to stick closely to the rope. He shared with me that Kinabalu weather can be very unpredictable, one moment it can be sunny and the next it may start being really foggy, start to rain heavily or become very windy. That’s why we are encouraged to climb with windbreakers on. Alhamdulillah and fortunately, we had good weather throughout our journey although Abang Amirul did mention the possibility of rain seeing that it rained the day before we started our climb.

me between peaks

Yeah and then I asked Kasree to take a photo of me in between two peaks…

sayat sayat check point

Sayat Sayat Check Point, which is the final checkpoint before the summit. Here, there is an officer-in-charge inside the booth and he will record all the names of the climbers as well as check their name tags. This is for the certificate and for tracking and safety purposes.

nenek japan

Super amazed and inspired with this lady from Japan. She was much faster than me all the way climbing down, I felt like a weakling… She and her climbing partners continued leisurely climbing down while chatting in Japanese. I was trailing along behind them when I did not feel like walking alone and also nobody else was behind me! I enjoyed their company, even if I could not understand a single word they said…

timpohon gate

Reaching soon! Halfway there…

me at timpohon

Finally arrived at the end of our climb. Yes InsyaAllah, if God wills I will definitely come again 🙂

terima kasih sudi datang lagi

(Signboard says, “Thank You Please Come Again” in Malay).

mardmood: This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 2 – The Climb

summit trail sign

At 9 am we gathered at the start of the Mesilau Trail to start our climb. As Mesilau Trail starts at 2,700m above sea level, by this time we could already feel the change in altitude.

I felt giddy with both excitement and anxiety. Excited to start the climb (meeting the mountains are like meeting old friends) and anxious because I had never climbed above 2,400 metres, which is the height climbers start experiencing altitude sickness due to the decreasing oxygen in the air. My previous experiences climbing Mount Ophir (1,276 m) and Mount Stong (1,422 m) helped me with mental stamina, though starting off almost breathless at 2,700 metres was definitely a first for me.

summit trail start

Abang Amirul, our team captain chose the Mesilau Trail because it was more scenic (Timpohon Trail which starts at 1,890 m, as I discovered on our way down, had loads and loads of steps – going down was quite a pain on the knees! but more on this later…) and also more challenging for us; plenty of uphill and downhill slopes for us to manouver. Here’s a map of the two trails:

mt_kinabalu_trail

(click to enlarge)

As you can see, eventually both Timpohon and Mesilau climbers will meet in the middle and head to Laban Rata together. This is where you will meet more people as majority of people start climbing through the Timpohon trail. That day, we were the only group that started at the Mesilau Trail so once we reached Magnolia Shelter we got to meet other climbers.

big grp pix

Pre-climb briefing by our 3 guides, Kasree, Jo and a third (cute) one whose name I can’t remember.

pre-climb briefing

My fellow sister climbing partner for the whole trip. I’m super thankful to have this strong and determined sister as my traveling companion for this Sabah trip. I would not have embarked on this journey without her!

dja and me before climb

Here we go. Bismillah! Ready, set, go! Dja and me split up, she at the back while me at the front, to balance it up with the rest of the guys.

Views of the summit looming ahead of us. Bonzai plants can be seen as usual at high altitude places. Also, we were thankful for a clear day and good weather. On foggy days you may not be able to see the peak and at worst may have to cancel the climb if it rains or it gets too foggy. At one point we sat to rest and could hear the loud sound of the winds, which sounded like the waves in the ocean. That was how loud it was, signaling how strong the winds were blowing at that elevation. Us Singaporeans who have never experienced winter or extreme cold weather were needless to say very surprised with this discovery.

bonsai

Hearing the sounds of the winds reminded me of Surah Adh-Dhariyat, translated as “The Winnowing Winds” in which the first 5 verses explains the different types of winds:

  1. By the (Winds) that scatter broadcast;
  2. And those that lift and bear away heavy weights;
  3. And those that flow with ease and gentleness;
  4. And those that distribute and apportion by Command;-
  5. Verily that which ye are promised is true;

Plenty of time to reflect on these verses during the climb.

Mid-way, we began to see steps being built at places where certain slopes had become “non-climeable”. Now when you see steps, you know it’s going to be one long climb up. Steps are a torture to the knees and sometimes, your spirit because you are always stopping and starting, stop and start, stop and start. Slopes are better. However, I imagine the pro climbers who take part in the annual Kinabalu marathon will not be needing the steps at all.

more stairs

Uncle man’s porter carrying 3 backpacks – 2 Uncle Man’s and one of his own. We left our bags at Mesilau Nature Park to be transported to the base camp at Timpohon gates. So we only had to carry a small backpack, containing a jacket, water, some food, and necessities for the night stay at Laban Rata rest house. If you want a porter, it is chargeable at 10RM for every 1kg of your load.

uncle man porter

However… we could see why Uncle Man’s porter did not mind the weight of his bags because we saw other porters transporting bulky items on their backs! And in this photo if you look closely, it is a lady who wears the headscarf. MashaAllah. So inspiring. To carry these all the way from base to Laban Rata and do it everyday as part of their normal working life. Amazing!

porter box

Reaching Laban Rata

At about 4 pm my group of 3 (our big group of 18 had divided itself into smaller groups based on speed) managed to reach Laban Rata rest house.

laban rata view

We were the second sub-group to reach and waited for the rest of the team while we had our late lunch cum dinner. Food was buffet style, coffee, tea and hot water were provided. The only thing was queuing up a very long line but other than that, the food tasted good. Although when presented with limited choices after a hard day’s climb, you take anything you can get!

sub team at laban rata

The feeling of reaching Laban Rata was of euphoria. Like finally, a place to rest! The afternoon heat during the journey to Laban Rata has this ironical effect of making you feel sleepy mid-climb, and accompanied with your decreasing energy you really just want to sit at some rock and just doze off instead of continuing. The rest house is a cozy place to be; being high up in the mountains it has this kind of floating effect. In and around it, you are greeted with the sight of climbers of various nationalities and shapes and sizes. One day, I’m going to climb Kinabalu again just so I can be back at Laban Rata Resthouse. I mean, look at that view…

view 2

Rangers enjoying a game (or two) of volleyball at the heli-pad…

heli-pad

At about 6pm, the sun started showing signs of settling down. The moon took over, and night came engulfing us in darkness. By this time, the strong winds had arrived again, and it started to get really chilly. Everyone had their jackets and windbreakers on, and people started going back into the rest house to call it a day. We needed to sleep and wake up at 12 am for the night climb to the summit.

sunset1sunset3

The rest of our team managed to reach at about 7pm, just before it started getting really dark. Unfortunately, it was here I received some news. Dja couldn’t continue up to the summit, as she had  suffered from severe AMS 4 km to the climb. She badly wanted to continue, but was advised by the ranger not to continue due to her condition. For her safety, and because you really need to listen to your body at times like this. And listen to the ranger who has years of experience and seen all kinds of things happening.

The only thing I wanted to do listening to her on the phone was to give her a hug right there and then, but it had to wait till the next day at the base camp near Timpohon Gate where she had been arranged to stay for the night. I had no other choice but to continue to the summit since I was already halfway there.

Layered up for the short sleep as my bed was nearest to the window and it was super cold by then. I was worried of getting hypothermia due to my thin frame, so I layered up as much as possible and went to sleep with a heavy heart. I had my fellow brothers in my team but there is nothing like girlfriend support especially when you’re tired and sleep-deprived. All I could do at that time was pray for both our safety, she alone at the base camp and me alone as the only girl in my team to the summit.

mardmood: This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 1 – Connecting the Dots

Starting off Travel Tuesday with more of Kinabalu but in detail. Ready, set, GO! The first chapter.

Introducing: The Team

First and foremost, introducing the team. The team comprised of 5 Singaporeans and 13 Malaysians. Team captain was Abang Amirul who is Musaddiq’s cousin. Abang Amirul is a seasoned mountaineer who has been to Mount Kinabalu twice prior to this trip. This time, he opened the expedition to his Petronas colleagues and as fate has it, we came into the picture – literally.

sg team big grp pix

The Singapore team’s Overnight Flight

On Wednesday night, we departed from Singapore via Air Asia to Sabah at 5.40pm, reaching Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) at about 8.05pm. We took a cab from BKI to our hotel at KK Central, settled down and went out for dinner. After walking around for about 15 minutes we found a place called Stesen Ikan Bakar, a pretty chillax place selling all kinds of grilled fish. You name it, they have it. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to have a good night’s rest before starting the day full swing and meeting the Malaysian team tomorrow.

stesen ikan bakar ikan dan sotong bakar

Soaking our feet (and body) at Poring Hot Springs

Thursday morning, we headed off to go to Poring Hot Spring. Why hot springs first before the climb? For 2 reasons – it was along the way to Kinabalu National Park and, going on weekdays surpasses the weekend crowd. I remembered coming to this place on a weekend with my family and saw some families settling down their picnic spot with their own pot of rice.

3 hours later we reached Poring Hot Spring, which is in Ranau. It only takes 1 hour from Ranau to the base of Mount Kinabalu. Amazing scenery greets us along our journey.

mountain view

We stopped by some shops and markets on our way to have lunch, get some necessities, and meet the Malaysian team.

corn stick

Remember those old skool keropok jagung in the shiny plastic wrappers with 3 corn sticks inside? These are them! In less glamorous packaging but delicious nonetheless.

sabah houses

On our way we passed by many of these houses. I always wonder how these people’s way of lives are. They literally live amidst the mountains. And they don’t seem to don any thermal wear, I guess their bodies already adapted to the weather there. Most of them are also very fair-skinned, due to the cold weather. Reminds me of Adira, the singer who originates from Sabah and her snow white skin (or “putih melepak” in Malay).

hot spring sign

A little bit about the hot spring: Hot sulphur spring water is formed by the less violent manifestation of volcanic areas. Even where the volcanoes are no longer active. Many hot springs contain carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide in varying proportions and mineral salt are always dissolved in thermal spring water. Thus you have sulphur in the hot spring.

The left pipe contains hot spring water that flows continuously – it’s really boiling hot, while the right pipe contains cold tap water. You have to mix the two to get your desired temperature.

two pipes

Or if you’re too lazy to wait for the water to flow, you can always go straight to the medium-sized tub which is already filled with hot spring water. You need to let your body acclimatize to the temperature though, because it’s not as warm as it looks – it is really hot at first!

tub spring

The water in here is too hot for any soaking as it is above boiling point, hence entry is prohibited. It’s so amazing how Allah makes water of different kinds of temperatures and they all exist for a reason. SubhanAllah.

dilarang masuk

Hot water vapour from the restricted areas of the hot spring. After a long day of travelling and relaxing, we headed off to Mesilau, our place of stay for the overnight rest before starting the climb. Yes, we were going to start from Mesilau Trail instead of the Timpohon Gate which is normally used by first-time climbers.

hot vapour

Arriving at Mesilau Nature Resort

We reached Mesilau Nature Resort at about 7pm. Upon stepping out of our vehicle, the coldness of high altitude greeted us. Mesilau trail is situated at approximately 2,700 m above sea level while the other entrance start point, Timpohon Gate starts at 1,688 m in altitude. So it was already more challenging as we would be dealing with possibilities of AMS, which starts from 2,400 m onwards.

mesilau nature resort tea without sugar winter melon soup dinner

We were welcomed with a cup of hot tea (without sugar) upon our arrival. Our dinner started off with winter melon soup and an array of dishes. Delicious food Alhamdulilah. What we observed was that the dishes contained a lot of ginger. Ginger being a natural remedy to warm up our bodies was a perfect ingredient to be included in the dishes since we were at such cooling temperature, so perfect MashaAllah how everything is provided by God.

stairs

Our chalet is a double story but level 1 and 2 is only separated by a small flight of stairs. There’s a heater in every room, hooray! A mini fridge and other usual amenities were also provided. Actually from what we had been informed earlier, we were expecting a less comfy bunk bed type of place, which would have been totally fine with me. But Alhamdulillah we were surprised to arrive to a comfy place with comfy beds. Happiness… till the next day, when we were to start our climb…

mardmood: This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

The Man with the Humongous Water Tank

The Man with the Thirty Litres Water Tank

Mount Kinabalu: During my descent from Laban Rata to the base point Timpohon Gate, we came across this man carrying a humongous water tank making his way up to the rest house. The water tank was the main source for all water facilities at Laban Rata due to the lack of natural water points at the area. The warm cup of tea I was able to enjoy while overlooking the scenic views would not have been possible if not for this man and his equally humongous determination.

mardmood: This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

Summit. (Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue)

“Where are you?” I asked Khadijah, my sole female climbing buddy for the Mount Kinabalu expedition.

“I couldn’t make it up,” Khadijah replied.

“What do you mean?”

“The altitude sickness got to me and I had to climb down halfway. I’ll meet you guys back at the start point.”

My heart sank. Five of us had reached Laban Rata, the mid-point rest house where we were to rest for the night before climbing up to the summit. We were now waiting for the rest of our team members and I was on the phone with her, separated by an altitude of 2,000 metres.

Khadijah went on to explain that she was having breathing problems and felt nauseous at 4 km onwards, and as much as she wanted to continue on, the rangers had advised her to stop. There have been been several cases of climbers meeting a fatal death due to the decreasing oxygen in the increasing altitude so I was thankful that Khadijah was okay.

But this would mean I had to continue the rest of the climb up to the summit without her, as the only girl in my team. I felt upset, scared, and somewhat, alone.

Girlfriend company

Khadijah, or Dja as she is affectionately called, and I first met during a rockclimbing gathering with some friends. She was a friend of a friend, and our similar interest in adventure brought us together. This expedition was our first trip to the mountains together so we had developed a sisterly bond through our trainings.

There were only 2 girls in the team, which meant I depended on Dja for girlfriend company. Our 18-men team had consisted of 13 Malaysians, all guys, and 5 Singaporeans, consisting of Ezriel (who is also Dja’s fiance), Musaddiq, as well as his uncle, affectionately known as Uncle Man. Team captain was Abang Amirul from the Malaysian team.

At the start of Mesilau trail, we had positioned ourselves at different points for safety reasons, seeing that we were outnumbered by the number of guys in the team – me at the front and she at the back. So I was not aware of what was happening until I reached Laban Rata, 3,272 meters up in altitude. By then, there was nothing I could do but wait till the next day when we would reach Timpohon Gate, the end point…

Strength

After finding out about the news, I conveyed it to the rest of my team who was as shocked as I was. Later on I found out from Ezriel that Dja would be spending the night at a place near base camp, alone. I tried to gather as much strength as possible afterwards.

I prayed to God to keep both of us safe, in two different places. I prayed to God to keep me warm enough as the temperature had dropped and it was almost freezing. I prayed to God to protect me from altitude sickness as we were going to be in higher grounds. I prayed to God to give me strength to reach the summit and the wisdom to be OK if indeed reaching the summit was not meant to be for me.

Night Climb

At 12am we started our climb up to the summit. Coupled with our headlights, thermal wear, jackets and windbreakers, we headed off in the dark and cold night into the dark, always mysterious forest. There were many climbers from various countries and nationalities, but in the night only their accents differentiated them out as quiet chatter filled the air.

It is this same air, silently thinning as we go up, that threatened the breaths of several climbers. As we go along, some people had thrown up due to nausea from altitude sickness. It was scary to hear this in the silent night as every sound was magnified. I made a silent prayer for them to be okay. Also, I found myself getting breathless and so sipped my hydration pack of water more frequently than usual.

Lost…

My group had planned to gather at Gunting Lagadan hut, where some of us stayed, before proceeding to the gate leading to the start of the summit climb. However, in the darkness of the night I had unfortunately lost my sight of the hut and by the time I realized this I was already several steps ahead.

Fearing being lost of the tracks in the dark and ending up not knowing where I was, I did not turn back but instead continued on following a group of Japanese climbers in front of me. Ironically, I found comfort with their presence as it indicated that I was going the right way, and that I was not lost.

…and Found

Halfway through, I stopped an sat on a big-sized boulder to take a break and drank some water. Few minutes later, I saw 2 of my team members, Ridzwan and Baizuri, the fastest guys in my team. At that moment, the sight of them had never been so comforting. I had been climbing on my own with a different group and now, seeing them meant I was in familiar ground again. Perhaps God wanted me to feel this way so that I could appreciate the struggle. As happy as I was climbing alone, I was of course, happier climbing with my group. There is nothing like familiar territory to make you feel comforted.

This familiar territory then went on to question me, wondering why in the world did I start the summit climb without them. Umm, sorry guys. Totally didn’t mean to. And then another 2 of my team mates Musaddiq and Ezrieal appeared, wondering the same thing. You can question me all you want, I thought, I’m just glad I was found. At that point, they were my family for the expedition, and you know how families can be. They annoy you but you love them anyway. I must add that they were also happy to see me as they had been wondering where I had been all those while. Thanks, guys!

Step by Step

By now the terrain had gradually changed from dirt tracks to steep boulder-like tracks. It was more difficult because boulders can be slippery. Hence due to the absence of trees and easily accessible branches, there were strategically placed ropes at certain spots and these really helped me navigate my way up. It was also getting harder to breathe as per normal, and we had to stop every now and then to catch our breaths and drink up. I just went step by step because at some points, I just did not have the strength to speed up. It was all mental from then on.

The last checkpoint we stopped by was the Sayat-Sayat Hut, which contained a small office where the rangers would record your name by checking your tag as you go through this checkpoint. This was for the certificate that you had indeed summited Mount Kinabalu. On the way down, the rangers would double-check again with the climbers to make sure who reached the summit and who did not. Every climber would get a certificate regardless of reaching the summit or not, but the difference would lie in the color (summit in color, non-summit in black & white) and of course, the text. After a brief rest at this hut, we continued on.

I swear this last few moments to the summit felt like the longest journey ever. The summit was just right in front of me, but it was not. Every time I get close to it, I’m not freaking there yet. It was so frustrating and the mental aspect of it was excruciatingly painful. Trying not to think of my tiredness, as well as accompanied by my team mates who put their strength and ego aside to wait for me, I tried with all my might to just put one foot forward and go.

Finally, the summit!

After an excruciating and very slow climb, finally the summit, the real one, was now in sight. It was already daybreak and we had been climbing for almost 6 hours. But there was one last obstacle. The terrain here was an all-kinds-of-sizes-boulders, vertical uphill climb. The good thing was that even though it was uphill, it was not as steep as the previous terrain and there were a lot of literally climbing up with your whole body, hands and all, to get up. Again, all mental from now on. 80% mental strength and 20% physical strength.

When I finally, finally reached the summit, Alhamdulillah, all thanks to God, I was just…speechless. Just in awe of the smallness of myself against God’s majestic mountains. And the view, it was tremendously awesomely amazing beyond words can ever describe. As I stood at the summit point, thinking of Dja, thinking of my late adventure-loving dad, thinking of my upcoming wedding, and then everything else that happened prior to this expedition which almost did not happen, I thought, it’s not about reaching the summit. It was about many things, but it was never about the summit to begin with.

Out of the many things it was, one word was what it was to me: Humility.

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mardmood: This post is also part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.