Mt. Kinabalu: We’re On a High

Being on top of the mountain brings me that certain kind of high… but it was quite the opposite with Baba. Descending back to the rocky plateau to rest a while, he looked worst for wear – bluish and not looking very elated with the experience. This is his first climb ever, quite ambitious of us to do this but we did it!    I feel kind of selfish now looking at him, assuming he agreed to do it only because I wanted to do it. He is having altitude sickness and we want to go back on flat lands to end it.

After soaking ourselves up with chilly mountain air, we started walking down despite feeling like old women with a nasty arthritis attack. I admit not being too prepared for this climb, and like my previous climbs, descending had always been the part I dislike a lot. Slowly, cautiously we arrived at the cliffs and the ledges. What we’ve been walking on earlier is steep cliff with only those white ropes to anchor us and prevent us from toppling over amid strong winds. Baba said, it was good that summit assaults are made while it’s still dark, so we can’t see how scary the fall would be lest we do fall…

We must be one of the last batch of people to arrive at Laban Rata after climbing from the summit. It was around 10am and we need to check out at 10:30 – gone was Baba’s wish for shut eye before the long walk back to Timpohon. We organized our things and settled down in the mess hall for our breakfast. Baba seemed to feel better and we can smile in our pictures. We explored the hall and amazed ourselves with the events that led to the fame of Mt. Kinabalu climbs. We read about the unsung heros of Laban Rata and the climbathons that were held in this mountain. 

Once again we joined Ilya and Irina’s guide because ours excused himself once more. We haven’t reached the first rest area when batches of climbers started to pass us. Those fre*k*ng stairs are starting to torture our abused limbs more. Baba and I had to control our grimace with every step and try to smile at the excited bunch of climbers passing us.

We ceased our whining and complains when we met porters that carried so much heavy loads on their shoulders. Baba’s limited Malay vocabulary lead to some interesting conversations with the local porters and our guides. We learned that our guides make about 2 to 3 climbs in a week if the tourist influx is heavy. The porters on the other hand can do 2 climbs from Timpohon to Laban Rata in a day!

It started to rain, thankfully Ilya had an extra poncho for Baba. It was colder than ever and the view is obscured by the clouds. We are indeed very lucky to have started the climb the day before and were able to see the views. Several more hours on the trail, we met exhausted climber yet they managed to get excited with our tales of magnificent views on top. We tell them that it is truly worth every step they took.

It was almost five in the afternoon when we reached Timpohon Gate and another 15 or so minutes more to get a taxi and ride back to the park. The Balsam Hi-Tea Buffet was already closed and we were only given a pack of Yang-chow to eat. Our group was quiet. 
We all decided to wait for a bus to Kota Kinabalu and luckily got a ride. The ride back to town as quiet. I slept all the way through, waking only to snuggle closer to Baba. It was worth it. We are worth it. The price we paid, the sacrifices, every ounce of pain involved in every step of the way – they were all worth it. 

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! 🙂

Mt. Kinabalu: The Climb

Right after our visit to Kinabalu Heritage Park in November 2012, Baba and I vowed to climb the majestic Mt. Kinabalu “by hook or by crook.” The doors of opportunity opened up when a CebuPac seat sale happened in January 2013 and I was able to book a round trip Manila-Kota Kinabalu flight for March 8 until 13. Then we prepared ourselves to become broke when searching for the cheapest Kinabalu package yielded rates from RM750 to RM1050.

Luckily, I found an email address of Sutera Sanctuary’s booking staff and started pestering her from mid-January until February for 2-2day/1night slot on March 10 -11 or 11-12. She finally gave up and awarded my efforts with a congratulatory email and details of our climb package for May 10-11.  Paid it within a week and on the eve our climb, we met up with couchsurfer Ilya and newly-wedded wife Irina for our plans the next day.

At 5:00AM, we walked three blocks to meet Ilya and Irina and search for our ride to Kinabalu Park. Based on our visit there last time, Baba and I suggested we take a taxi instead which costs RM80/RM20 per person, the same amount if we’ll take the vans going there less the hassle of it waiting to get filled. Arriving early in Kundasang, I decided to get something to eat first before showing up at the registration center. We experienced some misunderstanding with our reservation and were really shocked when Ms Lovely Lady Sniffles informed us that what we had reserved is for May 11-12. But she then allowed us to push through and said that they have a slot for us, but we will now stay in Waras Hut instead of Laban Rata because it is already full.
Excitedly, we paid for miscellaneous, got our packed brekkie/lunch and hopped on the taxi with the other couple to reach Timpohon Gate. We were informed that our guide will just catch up with us so we just joined Ilya and Irina’s.

Baba and I considered this climb as a post anniversary celebration. A milestone in our relationship and yes, we’ll make it through “by hook or by crook.” We almost cancelled it for several reasons – the Sabah siege, family issues and financial constraints, but luckily, several windows of opportunities also kept drawing us closer to realizing it.

Having run a several times as preparation and having experienced climbing some mountains in the PH, I was confident about the climb. On the other hand, Baba was worried because this is his first ever climb. Yet we are ambitious and adventurous, we won’t back down on this peksman! But I underestimated the trail…

The first two kilometers were filled with excitement, energetic strides and a lot of pose-pose for pictures. We are loving the temperature, it was sunny but the altitude and the forest around us made it cool. Even meeting an injured guy carried by four porters on stretcher along the trail did not dampen our mood (okay, it worried us a bit).

We met several people on their descent, we thought these people were really fast, they were perky and seemed to have enjoyed the climb so much. We chatted we some of them while we were having lunch (packed apple and a sandwich plus a bottle of water) and they reassured us that it’s going to be worth all our efforts. But several kilometers and THOUSANDS of stairs more, I was started to feel the pain in my calves and a phobia of Po’s old enemy – the STAIRS.

I must be getting old, Baba was still very energetic and I blame it on the energy gel he just consumed, though he claims a stick of cigarette on every stop is all he needs. And as always, he, like a knight in shining armor, gallantly offered to carry my pack. And me, of course, feeling like a flop damsel in distress, argued a bit and eventual gave in. Baba carried my pack for several kilometers more. He kept on nagging me that I should stop hiking, mountain climbing and other crazy adventures on my own and that he should always be there accompany me when I plan to do something or go somewhere. (Nagpaka hyperactive na man ang pag ka overprotective nya!)

As we go higher, we started to feel the chill and the terrain became even more challenging. Several more people are descending, but these people now are not as cheerful as the earlier batch. We met people walking with a limp, with pained expression and others who looked really foreboding. Baba and I are taking more rests now because I can hardly pull my legs up those eff’in stairs anymore. Ilya and Irina are now well ahead of us. Though they claim to be both first timers, they look very adept at walking and climbing this mountain! Me and Baba kept on monitoring the distance to reach Laban Rata, and when our guide said that we’re less than a kilometer away, it gave us surge of energy and strength!

Just one more turn and we saw Waras Hut, but it was locked and our guide said we have to register at Laban Rata and have our supper there. I notice that Baba was already exhausted. He said he was feeling dizzy and ready to fall flat anytime. We hurried up a few meters more to Laban Rata dreading the hike back to Waras after supper. Luckily again, we were given beds there and there’s no need for us to walk back to Waras. Yay happy supper!

After supper, Baba gave way to slumber. I walked around the lodge and watched the sunset. Would have stayed out longer to admire this cold landscape but it was already freezing me numb!

Time check – 6:30PM, should rest and go to bed too, it’s going to be another extra long day tomorrow. I hugged Baba tight while he sleeps and I can’t help but smile. Despite the pains and the challenges, we’re made it this far… and weary as we are, we’re moving forward, we are ready for more.

***some pictures without watermark are from Ilya and Irina. 🙂