I have been climbing for more than a year ever since I started my training with MMS just last year and had 16 summits as of this counting. Whenever I would reach the top and look down on the earth below, the euphoria of happiness lingers knowing that I made it through a rough trail. The harder the hike, the sweeter the summit indeed! Mountains like life always have its delightful way of surprising us, of challenging us, of giving us an opportunity to take the biggest risks in our entire life – and making them all worth it and us to believe in the impossibilities!
The moment I said yes to join the Mt. Kinabalu climb October last year, I just know for myself that I have to rigorously prepare for it. I’ve heard and read stories about it, both the good and the bad. Given that it’s supposed to happen April of this year, technically I was given just 6 months to prepare – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even financially! Whew!
I started doing my own training routines like running during the weekends that I am free. I would eat healthy muscle-building foods and had more servings than the usual as I planned to achieve a certain weight gain. So if you’ve noticed that I gained some weight, it was intentional! Haha! I would join in the climbs that my schedule permitted – both the major and minor since I believe that the best training for a climb is another climb. Yes, the consecutive climbs that I had prior were actually just for this one. Physically, I just know I needed a stronger quadriceps for the series of stair climb that’s gonna happen, a lasting body endurance, and a migraine-free head due to the risks of altitude sickness. For which if you’ve read my previous post about our Pulag climb- I just know that I have a high probability of failing to reach the summit knowing that Mt. Kinabalu is 1,173 MASL way higher than that of Pulag! Can you just imagine that?
The moment I realized that I’m part of those 10% of the population that gets Altitude Sickness, I just know that Mt. Kinabalu is going to be a challenge. Many times have I thought to back out due to my physical condition, but 2Corinthians12:9 reminded me of God’s promise “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. This became my weapon to strengthen me mentally and spiritually. My family and friends were also in full support for this endeavor of mine offering words of encouragement, cheers, and prayers – they all meant a lot.
It was a 7-day (April16-22) trip to Kota Kinabalu Sabah, Malaysia but only the 3rd and the 4th day were allotted for the climb. The rest are just tour around the city and in the major tourist attractions of Kota Kinabalu. The climb happened last April 18-19 composed of 9 mountaineers organized and led by Sir Mark Tristan Santos.
Given my condition and as prescribed by the doctor, I have to ascend slowly to lessen the impact of the altitude sickness. I also had to take the prescribed drug for this, the Acetazolamide, which needs to be taken 24 hours before the climb and every 12 hours once started. 3 of us decided to take the Timpohon trail while the rest of them took the longer and more difficult route, the Mesilau trail.
When we reached the Kinabalu Park, we registered via the Mountain Torq, a travel agency that arranges climbs for Mt. Kinabalu. We signed all the required documents and waited for our mountain guide. Rose, Sir Ping, and I took the shorter route, which I definitely didn’t regret of taking.
8AM, off we entered the Pondok Timpohon gate, the very first gate of our loooong and steep climb. I began by following Rose and Sir Ping but since they are naturally faster than me, I lagged behind them which gave me opportunity to take photos and climb at my desired pace. There were markers at every 0.5km reached along with the altitude level measured in meters.
As per my research, altitude sickness can happen to anyone regardless of physical strength, training, age, or gender. It would be difficult to anticipate that you have one unless you have climbed at an altitude higher than 2400 meters. In my case, my prior Mt. Pulag climb (2922 MASL) served as an acid test and made me really prepare for this one. I’ve read blogs on how to prevent it or at least lessen the impact of it. I had myself checked by a doctor to see if I am still fit and the medications that I should take given that I was diagnosed with Acute Mountain Sickness.
During the climb, I was very wary of myself and really made sure that I am ascending at a rate of 1kph. Using my watch and the markers, I was able to measure it. Rate = Distance/Time. A 1 kph rate allows me to reach my target time of arrival as well for us to make it to the Assault and Ferrata Orientation at Pendant Hut which was at 3PM. It even already gave me a slack time so I can rest a bit.
The Altitude Sickness indeed still hit me upon reaching the 3.0 km marker which is already at 2455MASL. But the impact wasn’t that much compared to my Pulag climb. I threw up after I passed the 4.0km. Good thing, I was with my very nice mountain guide when this happened. He would tell me to rest for 15minutes at every kilometer. There was even a point in time that I think I had a quick nap in the middle of the trail and one random climber had to wake me up by giving me an acupressure in my right hand. Haha!
As the saying goes, difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. Prior the climb, I’ve been warned of the never ending stair climbs that were made through piled rocks. It was indeed difficult and could take your breath away – both literally and figuratively. The whole trail was beautiful and drastically changes from time to time like a movie scene. From a green mossy forest to a beautiful Zen garden-ish ambiance as if someone crafted it out in the middle of nowhere!
I saw the Mesilau Team coming (Anna, Lea, and Carlo) while I was resting at the 5.0km Pondok so I already went with them on their way up. We reached the Pendant Hut at 02:20PM. This is where we will be staying overnight and where we will have the orientation for the next day’s assault and via ferrata descend.
From the Timpohon gate to Laban Rata, it covers a total distance of 6km (Mesilau is at 8km), and a gain of 1400 meters in height, I completed everything at roughly 6 hours (8:15AM-2:20PM). Which was actually my desired pace, 1km/hour.
The orientation started at 03:30PM, so we had ample time to take a hot comforting shower after that long tiring trek. It was so refreshing and made me feel better. I wasn’t feeling dizzy anymore this time but the cold temperature crept in. Notice that we were all wearing our jackets still even though we’re already inside. That’s because we’re actually staying above the clouds- look at the below picture showing the view outside our window!
The orientation lasted for around 1 hour which was composed of a lecture of the expectations during the next day’s assault, the itinerary, and a comprehensive training of how to do the via ferrata. Almost all of us were first timers that’s why everyone was so participative. We also had to sign waivers for this activity.
Dinner was served as early as 6PM since we have to sleep early for the 2AM call time for the summit assault. It was a buffet dinner that we can eat everything we want. But since I threw up hours prior, my stomach cannot handle a large amount of food. But I made sure that I ate enough.
After dinner, we had some photo ops outside the Laban Rata restaurant. It was a perfect sunset scene that was covered by cumulus clouds. We then went back to Pendant Hut to prepare for the things needed during assault and to sleep and gain energy. As early as 9PM, I was able to sleep probably due to tiredness already. Whew! This is it!
*My next blog entry covers the assault and the via ferrata descend 🙂