What goes up

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

  • This is a mountain porter climbing Mount Kinabalu, the 20th highest mountain in the world. He’s taking daily supplies to the Laban Rata Resthouse situated at 3,270 metres (10,730 ft) at the top of difficult and extremely steep 6 kilometre (3.7 mile) trail.

    Yesterday it took me nearly six hours to climb this trail leaving me gasping for breath and completely exhausted. The Kinabalu mountain porters climb this trek every day, sometimes twice, carrying loads of up to 50 kg (110 lbs)! They choose their loads and are paid 3 Ringgets (£0.61 or $0.97) per kilogram. If they so choose, they can also carry the trash from the guest house down the mountain too in loads of 15, 20, or 25 Ringgits.

    Seeing these porters, both male and female, carrying seemingly impossible loads up the hill, like full bottles of gas and bags of rice, really put my own efforts (and fitness) into context. I cannot even fathom how anyone could do the climb with such a heavy load, let alone doing it every day, and sometimes twice in one day!

    My own climb yesterday was hard work, and in the early hours of this morning my friend, Will, and I got up to make the final ascent to the summit with our experienced mountain guide, Rony.

    Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side and the clouds were still very heavy after a long rain shower through the night. To further complicate matters my rain jacket ripped as I was putting it on at the guesthouse. This meant that I would have no waterproof protection for the climb. In the end, that fact forced me to make the decision to turn back just about 1 kilometre from the summit.

    Will went on to make the summit but when he returned he showed me pictures that tempered my disappointment slightly. In the atrocious weather there was no glorious sunrise view, just the thick white mist of cloud cover. The driving wind and cold then made Will turn began the descent immediately. I’m glad he made it though. This trek was his idea and he was very driven to get to the summit, so well done to him – it truly was hard work!

    Coming down was thankfully much easier. It still took a few hours because of the terrain, but I was at least able to enjoy the landscape and take in the scenery that had paid no attention to while struggling up the mountain yesterday.