Climbing Mount Kinabalu

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

  • Today, my friend Will and I began a two day trek up Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Borneo’s Crocker Range and, at 4,095 metres (13,435 ft), the 20th highest mountain in the world (by topographic prominence) ahead of Mount Rainier and K2.

    I’m not going to try and paint a pretty picture here, in the thick equatorial humidity it was a gruelling trek that began taking a hard physical toll on me very quickly indeed. The track is rocky, slippery in places, steep and uphill all the way. It’s made harder still by the fact that the air begins to thin as you reach higher altitude. Within just a few minutes of beginning the two day trek I was panting like a dog who had just spent an hour playing fetch. My usual chatty demeanor was silenced as I simply looked at the ground taking slow and deliberate steps like some monk on a spiritual quest. Only this was no journey of meditation, it was a five and a half hour sweaty and generally unpleasant ordeal.

    At the end the first day we reached the Laban Rata Resthouse and it’s from here that today’s picture is taken. Looking out across a blanket of clouds at 3,270 metres (10,730 ft) we’re still a two kilometre trek from the summit, but thankfully this is where todays trek ends and we’re able to enjoy some rest and a good meal. I’m not going to pretend I had a moment of contemplation while looking out across these clouds. I was thoroughly exhausted and pretty much just took my camera out of my pocket at pointed it in the general direction of the view then took the picture before going inside to find a drink and a comfortable chair.

    We’ll be getting an early night tonight in a small unheated dorm room with other climbers. At this altitude it’s cold and it promises to be even colder and possibly raining when we awake at 2am ahead of our final 825 meter (2705 ft) climb to reach the summit for sunrise.

    I’m told that I’ll look back on this with a sense of achievement. Right now all I know is that my appreciation for trains and helicopters has been very much sharpened today.