Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Borneo - Mount Kinabalu Climb - Part 2

Borneo - Mount Kinabalu Climb (via Mesilau Route)
Part 2 - Overnight at Laban Rata & Early Morning Summit Climb

(Part 1 is HERE)

We had managed to get a rare and valued heated room with a hot water shower. Which was heaven on earth. Most people stay in unheated dorms and have access to only cold water. Honestly that must suck. I struggle in the cold and literally lose feeling in my hands and feet if I get cold. So I wasted no time getting my cold wet clothes off and having a HOT shower to warm up and then getting layered up. 

The trick here is to dress in layers and mostly in what you'll wear for the summit, so when you have to wake up in the middle of the night to start the summit climb you are ready, and also already warm. So I put on 2 pairs of socks, leggings, my waterproof pants, thermal t-shirt, second skin, another long-sleeve top and a beanie.

Once I was clean, dry and warm I headed down for a much needed and very yummy and enjoyable buffet dinner at 5pm. (Dinner is served from 16:30 to 18:30 here) Really the food was delicious. Possibly more so because we were pretty much starving by that point and would happily have eaten anything, but really considering the location and the fact that every single thing up there is carried up on someone's back the food is outstanding. It is tasty, varied, plentiful and really satisfying. One of the best meals I have had for a while actually.

Linus came to tell us that we could start our summit climb at 3am the next morning, and not 2am as most people do. Appparently this was because of how fast we had climbed the first day, and since the point of the summit climb is to reach the summit to see the sun-rise we had earned an extra hour of sleep due to being fast and fit. SCORE!! :)

A decided he was feeling tired and a bit ill still from the altitude so he headed to bed straight after dinner. I was still wide awake and a bit wired so I opted to stay downstairs and socialise, and I ended up meeting Adam & Jordan, 2 University of Montana Researchers who have been living on the mountain near Laban Rata for 3 months now. They are researching birds there. We had a really nice chat, and before I knew it it was 7pm and the place had pretty much cleared out. You are encouraged to go to bed early - and it's pretty much lights-out at 07:30pm as they encourage climbers to get enough rest before their super-early morning wake up.

So up I went to bed and tired to go to sleep listening to the pouring driving rain outside and hoping the weather would clear by morning. I did manage to go to sleep even though I woke up quite a few times during the night. Once because I was way too hot, and had to turn our room heater down, and also once or twice because my mouth was dry and I was a bit short of breath. Amazingly though I was awake and quite chipper at our wake-up call time just after 2am. After getting geared up and having a cup of coffee we headed down for 'breakfast'. We were advised to eat something but to keep it light and simple  so we each had a small bowl of oats. At 3am as planned we zipped up into our cold weather outer gear and head-lamps and joined Linus outside and got started. 
Thankfully the weather was still and clear and we could see the moon and stars. It was not that cold even. I remember thinking I didn't need my ski jacket after all! We got started on the climb which was more and more stairs. Linus told us to follow him and just go 'slow and steady', so I fell-in behind him and just started trudging along behind him in the dark and keeping his feet in the light of my head torch, staying at his pace, aware that the best way to deal with the altitude is 'slow and steady'. Still our slow and steady seemed faster than many other people and soon we were passing people. Many were having to stop to rest because and others seemed to just be struggling to breathe in general. Both A and I thankfully were feeling fine and just kept trudging, not really needing to stop at all. I only stopped to take my jacket and one of my long sleeve tops off, and then we kept going. I was watching my heart rate and it was at about 100-110 the whole time, normalising again within a minute or 2 if I stopped. So my body was coping fine.

After reaching the Sayat-Sayat check-point where you have to check-in on your way to and from the summit to certify that you made it, I decided it was indeed cold - at 3800m and in the dark this is not surprising. So I put my jackets and beanies etc back on.
After the check-point the terrain changed and we were now on the granite slabs and had to follow the roped route. Using the rope both as a guide and also as a climbing aid a lot of the time. It helps to haul yourself up using your arms to hoist yourself up and to reduce the reliance on your legs, which have already worked really hard! Linus was really great here gently encouraging us and giving pointers as to what to do and where to place our feet etc. He also helped us bypass slower groups and to keep going at our pace without being stuck behind people. Considering there are about 100-200 climbing it could get annoying if you have to keep waiting for people so it was nice being able to just follow him and keep going. Once we got to South Peak I got into a really good rhythm and just kept going. A and Linus were a bit behind me but instead of waiting I decided to press on. I had a last energy bar with me which I ate on the straight section up from South Peak towards the beginning of Low's Peak. As I started the climb up to Low's Peak I considered waiting, but decided to press on as I was feeling strong physically and mentally and was in that zone where you want to keep going while you can. Soon and without realising I had actually done it, I was suddenly at the summit! At 4095.2m!! I DID IT!

I think I got there at about 5:15am. I took a few photos there by myself and then sat nearby and waited while the dozen or so others did the same and then a few minutes later A and Linus appeared. We took some summit shots and then got out of the way so others could have their turn. We climbed down a short way and sat down to rest and wait for the sun to rise. The sky was clear with clouds on the horizon, and it was a bit breezy. So I soon started to get really cold really fast. My hands were so numb I couldn't use them and they stopped working, so when I tried to put my thick gloves on I couldn't. I couldn't work my camera, and my feet were numb too. We had some chemical hand-warmers with us, which helped a little but certainly didn't stop the biting coldness. You really do need warn gear for the top because it IS cold up there once you stop and it's made worse because you are wet from sweating and once that cools off you freeze.
We watched the sunrise for a bit but then all 3 of us decided the cold was just no fun and we wanted to head down and to try to warm up a bit. So we started the trek back down, passing many who were still on their way up. We paused to take photos as we went past South Peak and Donkey's Ears peaks now that we could see them properly in the day-light. Regretfully  I was still too cold to bother with clowning around or doing any jumping around shots. We carried on back down and Linus was great here he held my hand and guided me. The rocks can be slippery but he is very sure footed and having a firm and steady hand to grip meant I could focus on moving forward and not worry about stumbling or slipping. Soon we were back at the Sayat-Sayat Check Point where it was verified that we had indeed summited at Low's Peak and then we carried on to Laban Rata. It was interesting to see the ground we'd covered earlier in the dark. We needed to use the ropes again to guide and support us on the tricky and steep sections.

Next PART3.

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