Mt. Kinabalu: Scrambling Through the Darkness

Something woke me, yet I snuggled deeper into Baba’s embrace feeling the chill of dawn. I felt sore and achy all over and I tried to claim back my slumber until realization hit me — oh no, I haven’t rested enough and today will be another excruciatingly long day once again.

Baba stirred awake and we both scrambled to get dressed the warmest possible way we can. Ilya and Irina commented that they feel like they are back in Siberia with this cold, yet they looked like they are wearing only light clothing compared to us having two to three layers on.

Laban Rata is all awake at 230AM. We tried to stuff ourselves with food in preparation for the difficult assault that awaits us, but being unused to eating heavy brekkie, I only managed a toast and some coffee to Baba’s displeasure.

It was pitch dark outside but the lighted trails have started to twinkle with hikers wearing their headlamps. We followed the line going up, it was all stairs and rocks and very cold wind that welcomes you. It was so darn cold, my fingers are starting to tingle. I felt my nose start to drip several meters after leaving the warmth of Laban Rata. My legs, still sore from yesterday’s 7-hour walk seem to complain with shots of pain at every step. I didn’t dare voice it out, Baba would surely drag me back to the lodge with just a single word.

I that worried my calves would burst anytime soon. Baba was always asking me if I can, and giving up would rely on me – the realization of this would be my call. I am stubborn and I would die before I give up. Not even the dark cavern of nothingness at the edge of  what we walked on scared me. I held on to the rope and we continued to walk up, stopping more and more to rest.

Slowly, dawn began to break, and lighted the way to the peak. We sat on the rolling plateau of rocks to admire the magnificent panorama that is laid before our eyes. I held my breath and hold on to Baba’s hands. My hands felt numb and Baba placed them in his armpits to warm them. I noticed Baba’s purplish hue and started to worry.

All the time, he was thinking of me and the struggle I have to overcome this. He scolded me for being mule-headed and for not bringing that wool scarf to warm my neck and offered his even if it leaves him freezing his ears out! Of course I am mule-headed and I did not take it. All the while, he kept his eye on our guide to ask for water when I request for a time out.  And all the while, it was him who’s not feeling well and is on the verge of loosing it!

We almost decided not to continue to Low’s Peak and just sate ourselves with the view. But after reassuring ourselves that we can do it, we started our way up once more. Despite the pain, I smiled inwardly, we are both stubborn I guess. When it comes to our goals we’d never back down. We climbed slowly until we can see the tip, with each step closer to the peak, we seem to gain more strength.

Finally, we are at 4,095 meters above sea level – the highest point we’ve been in our lives with our feet still firmly at the ground. It felt freezingly cold and the bunch of Japanese are taking too long with their photo shoot. Ilya and Irina made it to the top minutes ahead of us descended quickly back to the plateau. Them Japanese offered to take our picture and we were grateful! After a couple of shots, we hurriedly climbed down and sat on a more manageable spot.

Once again we stared in awe at the expanse of land as far as our eyes can see. We have made it. We may be both mule-headed, but this time it is for a good cause. Baba and I will give our all when it comes to us, our dreams and our relationship. On the hike the day before, Baba asked me to remind him that he have something to tell me when we reached the top. When I asked him then, he simply said, “I love you so much…”

High places do calm me, I offered a silent prayer of thanks to our Creator. I felt his presence strongly while on top of the mountain, I felt him listening intently to us, to what our hearts are truly saying. I’ve had many challenges in my life, I always survived alone and came out of it stronger.

Yet this mountain manifest a lot more challenges in my life that I need to overcome. Scrambling through the darkness, I hear his voice above the shrill of the wind, I felt his hands securing me on dangerous ledges thus, I am even more grateful now that I have Baba with me to face all of it. And starting today, I am sure would never go through these challenges alone.

*** a lot of thank yous to Ilya and Irina for some of the best photos at the peak! 🙂