Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy birthday Jason! The death march begins, our ascent up Mount Kinabalu!


Destination: Mt Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia

Number of Days there: 3
One thing unexpected: How horribly out of shape we are!
Favorite Restaurant: None

Times we took the: Bus: 2 Train/Subway: 0 Taxi/Car: 0; Motorcycle: 0
Estimated KM walked: TOO MANY (around 21 with 9.5 being straight up hill)
Where we stayed: 2 nights at Kinabalu Rose Cabin (RM 84 - US $28) & 1 night at Laban Rata on the mountain (RM 330 - US $110 including food)

What we liked: Kinabalu Rose - beautiful view of the mountain from our private balcony; Laban Rata - it's the only place on the mountain

What we disliked: Kinabalu Rose - It never felt quite warm enough though that it probably because of the mountain wind. Laban Rata - Where do I begin? Over priced, not enough heat & I saw a rat the morning we left. A RAT. SICK.

If you could do anything in the world, what would you do on your 29th birthday? I asked Jason that same question several times and he decided he wanted to climb a mountain. Silly husband, what? Climb a mountain? I thought he was a bit insane but then again I opted for a spa day for my birthday...we obviously have very different ideas of appropriate celebration activities. But, since that is what he wanted to do, we did it! We packed our warmest clothes and our hiking shoes and headed out for Mt. Kinabalu! Happy 29th birthday Jason!

We got off to a rough start and overslept our alarm (this is prone to happen when you're surfing the web til 2am) and missed the early bus so we grabbed a taxi to the bus station (25 RM - $8) and took the next bus to Mount Kinabalu (2 hours - RM 20 each - $7). We arrived at Kinabalu Rose and headed up to the park office to pay for our trip up the mountain. Sutera Sanctuary has a monopoly on the mountain so if you want to climb Mt. K you have to stay with them. It's rather pricey at 165 RM ($55) each which includes a dorm bed & 2 meals (dinner the night you arrive & breakfast after you reach the summit). This was the reduced price after several negotiations. It was originally 228 RM but included 4 meals. We opted for 2 meals (lunch the two days on our own). In addition to this the park office charges a park fee, permit fee, insurance & guide fee which is another 165 RM ($55). After visiting multiple desks and getting everything sorted out we were ready to climb the mountain! We headed back to our hotel for dinner & a good night's sleep before starting our trek.

A bit about Mount Kinabalu...4095 meters, it's the tallest peak in SE Asia and one of the easiest to climb. That being said, it's definitely not a walk in the park. It's over 9 km long and with a significant rise in elevation (the hiking trail starts at 1866 meters). You start day 1 with about a 5 hour hike uphill to the Laban Rata Lodge (though those that are super fit do it in between 2-3 hours - we are so not one of those people). You have roughly a 10 hour rest period at the lodge, they feed you dinner and then they get you up at the ungodly hour of 2am so that you can start the 2:30 am ascent to the summit. The ascent is done completely in the dark using headlamps. Looking back down the hill about 1 km in I saw a line of lights going up the hill like ants. In all honesty if I knew then what I knew now I probably wouldn't have made it to the top. The trail leads straight uphill over huge rocks and at is marked by ropes that you can use to guide your way. The ropes are also used to drag yourself up to the top at the particularly precarious points... Mom/Dad, I know what you are thinking. If any of you know my Dad, he is Mr. Cautious and this is definitely not a Dave approved type of activity. I think I'll feel differently about this in a few days after the memory has dimmed a bit but we'll see. In any case, we made it to the top with the last 500 meters being a total struggle for breath in the high altitude not to mention the cold wind. Brrrr! We made it to the top for sunrise and it was beautiful but so cold that as soon as it was over we headed down.

We all thought going up was the worst and I think Jason would say that the last scramble for the top was the the most difficult for him but for me it was going down...the whole way, all 9 km of it. First of all, our legs were dead tired and felt like spaghetti but it was also bad because we could see what we climbed up. It was scary! Imagine the face of a mountain, above the tree line and crawling down from it. We walked down using our walking sticks, using a Z pattern and also the ropes in the extremely steep parts. I didn't think the trail going down was ever going to end. Once we reached the bottom I was thrilled to be on flat land!

Now that a week has gone by I can say that I'm glad we climbed the mountain but I wouldn't do it again. With each passing day I forget more about the bad parts of the climb and remember how personally satisfying it was to make it to the top so perhaps in another year I'll be up for it again :-) It took us 3 days to recover strength in our legs and it's now been a week and the blisters on my toes from the descent are finally starting to heal. It probably didn't help that the day after the climb we headed into the jungle for 3 days and then started diving but hey, we're busy people. We've got stuff to do and a schedule to keep!

To see more pictures from Mt. Kinabalu please click here.

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