The mountain climb!
We got a local minibus bus to the Kinabalu Park area which was a long 2 hour drive in a crowded hot minibus!
We decided to spend a night near the Park entrance so we could walk to the start the next day. We watched quite a bit of TV as it was raining, misty and had 8 hours to kill. 'The Voice' similar to xfactor filled about 4 hours of that time before 'we' decided to watch Liverpool lose badly!
Day 1 - The accent
The climb can be tackled in one day, but at about 18km, that's not on the cards for us, and most people spend the night on the mountain. So the first climb would be 6km to the lodge to spend 'the night'. The quotes because the remaining 2.7km to the top starts at 2.30am after supper!
We headed to Kinabalu Park for about 8.30am as we knew that it's meant to take 4-7 hours to climb the 6km to the lodge. However after all the faffing and checking in, we actually didn't start until 9.30am. We had to register in a few different places and then you are only allowed to climb once you have a 'guide' (they don't actually guide you, they just make sure you don't fall off a ledge or anything). We were both surprised to see our guide was a short stumpy lady called Margeret. It was all smiles at the entrance gate as we walked the first 100 metres downhill.
However, after the downhill start it was only up, up and some more up!! The first 1km was really hard, and apart from that first 100m it just consisted of steps! For the next 5km we were pleased when we reached each 0.5km milestone and when we made it to rest huts.
What made it harder was that the higher you climbed, the more tired you got, but at the same time the thinner the air got! We were exhausted! We still managed to pass a lot of the Chinese and Japanese climbers though, who were all kitted out with all the gear, but had clearly never been on any sort of hike before and were really struggling! We're not hikers either, but at least hadn't tried to look the part, and simply looked liked two stupid travellers attempting to climb a mountain!
Now those of you that work with me, Emma, will know that I planned a fitness regime in the 6months leading up to this trip and vowed to go to the work gym (so no excuses of it being out of my way) at least 3-4 times a week. That actually slipped to twice....in the whole 6 month period!!! So I'm really not fit! But what did make the climb even worse was the fact that I still hadn't properly recovered from the food poisoning! Perfect recipe for climbing a mountain!!!
The last 1km was a real struggle. You knew you couldn't turn back, but the steep steps and rocks to climb just seemed relentless. At this point Margaret went ahead to spure us on....and finally...after 5hrs 15mins we made it to the lodge! We didn't even feel relieved, just knackered. We slumped on chairs whilst Margeret checked us in, even though we were meant to.
We were probably about average time wise, but that's only because some of the Asian climbers took SO long. One couple took 10 hours!! A few didn't even make it, and turned back! What really puts you to shame are the locals who carry everything that is needed at the lodge up the mountain. We saw guys carrying full gas canisters (see photo). Crazy!
The lodge was actually pretty nice considering it was 2/3 of a way up a mountain!! The only problem was that due to a problem at the mountain power station there apparently wasn't enough electricity to power any hot water or heating, although the lighting and kitchen was fine?! So we had a freezing cold shower after which my lips were the same colour as my jumper for the next hour (see photo)! Kris had a beer to warm up!!
You may have noticed that we took about 3 photos climbing up. We were so tired and in bad moods that we couldn't be bothered, and at the time, didn't want to be reminded through photos of the worst day ever!
We went to bed at about 7pm knowing we had to be up by 2am. Neither of us slept that well, which didn't help, and hated the sound of our alarm going off alerting us to the fact that it was time to start walking again...this time in the dark!
Day 2 - Climb to the Summit
After a brief supper we were ready to go, but Margaret didn't arrive until 3am!! She either over slept or was so impressed with what she'd seen from our previous hiking ability that she knew we'd be up there in plenty of time for sunrise. I think she overslept!
If we thought the previous 6km were hard the final 2.7km were horrendous! It was dark and all we had to follow was the light from our LED head lamps. It was wet and cold. But worst of all it was REALLY steep!! We had to use ropes to climb up sheer pieces of rock and scramble on our hands and knees. I was actually sick on the way up (see photo from on way down) partially from still being ill and partially altitude sickness. It was so mentally and physically draining for us both, which isn't something we ever say!
The climbing was also different to the previous day as the boulders and steps were now steep slippery granite. Just as hard for both! We both at some point shook our heads saying 'I can't make it'! It's difficult to know what made us continue but I think the only way we managed was to follow the small circular light from the headlamp and block out all thoughts!!
After 3 hours of climbing we reached the top just before sunrise! Success! We felt so rubbish that I'm not sure we fully appreciated the view at first, but we did it!!
We actually took a few photos at the top and eventually were able to enjoy the view, we could see the coast, it looked like the view you get from an aeroplane as we were so high.
Day 2 - The climb down
As soon as we started coming down we both felt a real difference. Although it was pretty sketchy at times, as it was so steep we had to absail down. This proved a problem when we got stuck behind a group of Chinese that were so incredibly slow it created a huge traffic jam of people! Not good when all you want to do is get down as quickly as possible!! We took a few more photos on the way down and they have come out great.
Our decent back to the lodge took us 2hrs 10mins (but we could have done it a lot quicker if it wasn't for the Chinese group). We had a quick breakfast at the lodge and weren't ready to leave but wanted the torture to end, so headed for base.
Some people had told us that going down the mountain would be harder. We didn't think so as although its hard, its quicker as you pass milestones faster which eggs you on a bit! Our legs gave up with 1km to go and so we hobbled and limped painfully down. We made it down in record time (our record!) of 3 hours 30 minutes. We were very relieved to reach the bottom and only then did it feel like an achievement.
Over the 2 days we climbed for 12 hours and 50 minutes, which felt average (that includes stops on way up though).
To bring us crashing down after our high of finishing the climb, there is a nice big sign telling you how slow your time was compared to the winner at the recent 'Kinabalu Climbathon' where the winner went up and down in the same day in 2 hours 37 minutes! Margaret also told us she did the climb in 5 hours in one day.
We found out that quite a few people that we met and chatted to didn't make it to the top, most of them not even bothering to get out of bed at 2am!
Sorry to name drop again but Karen, (Em sister) I don't remember you telling us how hard the climb was and that there'd be blood, sweat and tears involved!! You could have warned us!
We got a taxi back to KK with some Europeans that didn't speak much English (how rude) and before we knew it, the moment we had been dreaming about from 1km into the climb, we were at our hostel having a hot shower!
That night we didn't ache much, but the next day our legs weren't co-ordinating with the rest of our body and its safe to say we were in some pain! Walking up and down stairs was near impossible! You could tell the people that have climbed the mountain, as everyone has the same 'Kinabalu hobble'.
Time will tell how we feel about the climb but at the moment the memories of pain are too raw!