My new blog: For those who came here for the cake pop class, I've created a new blog with updates on classes and photos over at guiri in the kitchen

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mt. Kinabalu - Part 3 (The Summit Climb & The Descent)

Although I went to bed early the evening before, I didn't quite sleep well. Our room was next to the kitchen, and right next to the foyer, so noise was inevitable. I was awaken several times during the night by footsteps and voice of (inconsiderate) climbers who couldn't keep their excitement to themselves. I am not a light sleeper, but I guess the over-exhaustion from the previous day climb also made it hard to even catch a wink. I was glad I took 2 panadols before bedtime, which soothed that minor headache I was getting, allowing me to have at least an hour or two of quality sleep (before I was awaken unnecessarily).

After glancing at my watch for the umpteenth time, I decided to climb out of bed. It was a quarter to 2am. The rest were still asleep, so I struggled in the dark to find my 3-in-1 hot chocolate drink. In the background I thought I heard the heavy rain outside; perhaps we won't get to climb to the peak after all. I found out later that it was actually the sound of water gushing down the hillside, as a result of continuous downpour the night before. It was only drizzling lightly and we were allowed to continue our climb.

Last night Lyne wanted to opt out, but I managed to talk her out of it. I convinced her that if she really didn't feel that she was up to it halfway through the climb, she could stop anytime. Since we had 2 guides, one of them would be able to bring her down to Laban Rata. It would be a complete waste to stop right there before even giving it a try to the summit. She finally agreed to join us.

I wore a sleeveless-T under a long sleeve shirt and a windbreaker. To protect my ears from the cold I wore a beanie and I put on a headlamp to see in the dark. I also wore a pair of gloves (which was not waterproof nor colourfast - at the end of the day my hands were purple). Instead of carrying the entire backpack with me, I left it in the room and only brought my waist pouch along with a camera and a water bottle. And DON'T EVER FORGET to bring your climb permit, it must be presented at the Sayat-sayat Checkpoint. We also put on our poncho since it may rain again later.

Dark rocky mountain slope

We set off at about 2:45am, and it was really dark outside. The first 500m was a steady climb on clearly defined steps with handrails, but as we progressed, the climb got more interesting. Soon we were holding on tightly to ropes and no longer surrounded by any vegetation. There were only plain ascending rocks. The air also got thinner, and I had to stop every 20-30 steps to catch my breath. It continued to rain, and that made the climb even more difficult especially when I was wearing my glasses. We also had to be very careful with each step as it was quite slippery.

Lyne gave up after only 500m from Laban Rata, but Cornelius didn't think she was serious, held her hand and continued to pull her up for another 1km. In fact, both of them went ahead of us at some point. Just as both TW and I passed the 7.2km mark, we saw them coming down again. Her Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) apparently worsened and she had to descend as soon as possible. Cornelius brought her to the Sayat-sayat checkpoint to rest while to went up to look for the rest of us.

Although we continued our climb, we saw small crowds slowly descending from the top. I was sure they couldn't have reached the peak already. The sun was not even up yet! Then we heard shouts telling us to turnaround and make our way down. It was too dangerous to continue as water was already gushing down the slopes. Both of us looked lost, but we abided anyway and followed the group down slowly.

Water cascading from the top

So near yet so far. We were only less than 1km from Low's Peak but were forced to descend prematurely. The guides told us, it is better to be safe than sorry. We can always return in future - perhaps not during a rainy season. March and April is said to be a better time to climb.

Descending a rocky slope with water flowing at your feet was not an easy task. We had to be very careful not to be washed away by the strong current. We heard that the day before, a man slipped and broke his crown. :O Whenever possible I tried to hold on tight to the ropes. My gloves were completely soaked and my fingers were freezing (the next time I must remember to get a pair that is waterproofed). I had to remove it several times to squeeze out excess water, but that was not helping much. My hands, fingers and nails all turned purple, not because of the cold but because the black gloves I had just weren't colourfast.

Curious, I asked Cornelius if it was common to have people coming down in such a bad weather and bad condition. He casually answered no, and said that I should grab this opportunity to take more photos! How could I have forgotten about my camera? And so both of us took the opportunity to pose in front of the waterfalls :P

Say cheesseeeee!

We continued our descent slowly and waiting at the checkpoint for few other members of our group. TC was nowhere to be seen. He was well ahead of us during the climb, and we found out later that he was one of the very few that managed to reach the peak but unable to see anything because it was raining and the wind was very strong.

Anyway, to cut a super long story short, all of us managed to reach Laban Rata safely. TC was the only one from our group who successfully conquered the peak. The rest of us were just wet and tired. Lyne's condition improved after taking a supplement for colds and after a short qi gong session with Kuan.

The weather also improved as soon as the sun was up, which made our descent to the starting point much easier. In fact, after the breakfast I was a fully-recharged Duracell bunny and hopped my way down. I just couldn't wait to get back to KK. We arrived the Timpohon Gate at about 3pm.

All's well, ends well

And yes, for the next few days all of us walked like we've got piles. But I still returned to my dance class just 2 days after...itchy feet :P

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mt. Kinabalu - Part 2 (The Climb)

The very next morning we had our breakfast at the lodge before departing to the Kinabalu Park at 7:30 a.m.

Lyne loading her bag into the van

The journey took about 2 hours, and while the rest were quietly resting and saving their energy for the climb, Lyne and I, the two biggest chatterboxes couldn't stop talking. She taught me how to play "sap ng yi sap (15, 20)" and then we switched to "So you think you can spell". We went on and on, spelling words that start with the last letter of the previous word. Each time it got tougher as we kept coming up with words that end with the letter 'e' and 'y' :P Mind you we got quite noisy back there :P

Lyne & I camwhoring while the rest get comfortable at the back of the van

As soon as we arrived, we registered with the Kinabalu Park HQ to get our climb permit. It took them quite a while, so while waiting we roamed around and took some photos. This was the time where some came to offer us walking sticks for RM 5 each, and since we are getting 7, we managed to negotiate for RM3 each. Around the area where we parked was also a big signboard that marks each stop in the Summit Trail and with the distance and height from the starting point.

The Summit Trail

Still left with nothing to do while we lingered, we took our bags to weigh at the scale. The porters charge between RM7-RM8 per kg. My backpack weighed about 6.5kg while TW's was only 5.3kg (he had his water bottle on his waistpouch while mine was in the backpack). We decided to carry these ourselves. Also we had some bulky warm clothing on a separate backpack, and that weighed about 3kg. This separate backpack was given to the porter.

People waiting inside the registration office

Just when I thought that the weight I had was manageable, TC told us that we had to carry our own lunch! And that alone weighed 1.5kg (consists of cheese and ham sandwiches, springrolls, fried chicken, hard-boiled egg, a bottle of water, a can of Sprite and an apple). So I ended up with 8kg to carry until our lunch stop :O.

Some of the items in our packed lunch

Lyne and Amy preferred to walk empty handed and so they gave both their loads to the porter. Only TC and Kuan did not use the porter service (these are our 2 champions, always ahead of the team during the climb). We finally get to set off about 10:45am, and the van drove us to the entrance of Timpohon gate (about 4km from the Park HQ).

All set to go!

We started about 10:45am, which was considered a little late, so we had to stop for our lunch before the Layang-layang Hut (5th stop). These were the distances between each stop:

Starting Point (10:45am) - Timpohon Gate (1866.4m above sea level), approx 700m to first stop
1st stop (11:20am) - Pondok Kandis (1981.7m a.s.l), 441m to next stop
2nd stop (11:42am) - Pondok Ubah (2081.4m a.s.l), 750m to next stop
3rd stop (12:20pm) - Pondok Low II (2267.4m a.s.l), 920m to next stop
4th stop (1:25pm) - Pondok Mempening (2515.47m a.s.l), approx 800m to next stop
5th stop (2.10pm) - Layang-layang Hut (2702.3m a.s.l), approx. 1100m to next stop
6th stop (3:26pm) - Pondok Villosa (2960.8 a.s.l), 417m to next stop
7th stop (4:00pm) - Pondok Paka (3080.42m a.s.l), 550m to next stop
8th stop (4:48pm) - Laban Rata Resthouse, for our dinner (3272.7m a.s.l), approx 300m to GLH
9th stop (6:20pm) - Gunting Lagadan Hut, overnight stop (3323.5m a.s.l)

A small descent before the real climb begins (still happy)

After our stop at Layang-layang Hut it started to pour, but only for a short while. We continued our journey with our poncho on, as there were still occassional showers after that. Lucky for us the wind was not very strong.

Varied track conditions at different height

In total, we had to walk about 6km distance from the gate to get to Laban Rata, and by the time we arrived we were super exhausted. The last 1km was most difficult of all, as we were completely drained of our energy, and instead of taking approx. 40 minutes for each km walk, we were taking twice as much of time to cover the same distance.

Lyne still looking fresh while I am completely drained
(together with TC, she arrived Laban Rata 10 mins before TW & I)

We arrived just in time for dinner (only served from 5:00pm - 7:30pm)! It was a buffet, and the food was not too bad. Temperature at Laban Rata that evening was about 10.8 deg C. Some of us however, had started to feel a little headache, so we rested for a while before climbing another 300m to our overnight stop at Gunting Lagadan. We also refilled our bottles with water from the restaurant.

Our room in Gunting Lagadan with 8 bunk beds

It started to rain quite heavily that night, and we could only hope for the best the very next day. Frankly I did not shower that night, it was just too cold. Yes, heated showers were available, but it was really limited and we had to wait long time for it. Instead I boiled some hot water and used it on a towel to wipe myself clean before changing into a new set of clean and dry clothes. After packing what I need for the next day, I swallowed 2 panadols and went to bed about 8:30pm.

Next: Mt. Kinabalu - Part 3 (The Summit Climb and the Descent)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mt. Kinabalu - Part 1 (The City)

When Choong told me sometime early this year that he would be climbing Mt. Kinabalu, I immediately asked if I could join him (since it coincided well with our school's term holiday). And lucky for me, both MAS and Airasia were competing with free air tickets. When else could be a better time to get the tix?

We spent approximately RM920 per person for accommodation, flight, and airport transfer and some meals.

Return flight KL-KK : RM240
Mt. Kinabalu climb (2 lunches, 1 breakfast, 1 dinner) : RM600
Airport transfer : RM20
Accommodation at
Beach Lodge : RM40 (2 nights - with a/c)
Porter fees -shared (3kg) : RM24
Walking stick : RM3

On the morning of 6th Sept, mom sent both of us to the KLIA (thanks mom!). We got ourselves MAS tickets for flight to KK, as it was slightly cheaper than Airasia. We had a pleasant surprise too, as I was not expecting a meal on board a short distance flight. I thought we'd probably just get some juice with peanuts or maybe the best it would be a sandwich. But I had roti canai (which was quite good), and TW had omelette, and both lunch boxes came with yogurt drink, bread and biscuits.

Our lunch boxes on board MAS flight - not bad

Another unexpected surprise was a short stopover at Labuan, my birth town! I don't remember having a transit stopover when I bought the tickets. But anyway, I haven't been back there for at least 25 yrs or more, so that stopover was definitely welcomed, even though we arrived KK perhaps 30 - 45 mins later than the original scheduled time. We got out of the plane for a walk in the airport... just to get a breath of Labuan air... he he he...

TW posing at the Labuan Airport

As soon as we arrived KK airport we called TC who arrived very early in the morning with the others on a separate flight. But he was already in the ferry with his friends to Pulau Manukan!!! And he didn't wait for us :( . Anyway, both TW and I took a cab straight to the Beach Lodge to check in first. I asked the taxi driver about the new shopping center in town and he told us about 1Borneo. That'll be a nice place to visit on such a hot day!

Within 15 minutes we arrived at the door step of the Beach Lodge. TW was clearly put off by the condition of the place from the outside. Not forgetting to mention that it is on the 3rd floor with no elevator! The gate was locked when we reached, so we rang the doorbell. We were greeted by a nice chap. And it didn't look too bad inside too... as advertised in their website, its a little laid back, but everything was clean :) For me cleanliness was very important. Towel and blanket are also provided. What more can you ask for only RM20/night? ;)

View of our room at The Beach Lodge, clean and comfortable

As soon as we settled down, we asked for directions to 1Borneo since TC and gang won't be back until later that afternoon. From the lodge, it would take about 15-20 minutes depending on the traffic. We decided to take the bus, well... to be exact it was me who decided to take the bus (TW hated the heat). Most of the public transport were just vans but they were called mini bus. We had to take the City Bus in order to get to 1Borneo.

The City Bus that travels to 1Borneo

After just 5 minutes of waiting TW wanted to take the cab instead (which will cost about RM20/way). I suggested to wait for another 5 minutes, and finally we managed to board the bus (only RM1/person). Anyway we had to take the cab back as it was raining quite heavily after that (what a change in weather!) and we didn't want to get wet.

1) TW squinting under the hot sun, 2) TW posing in the bus

When we got back to the lodge that evening, TC and gang also arrived. Lyne only arrived about 8pm that evening. After dinner we debated and discussed on what to bring and what not. Lucky for us, Kuan's sister brought us an additional backpack to stuff some of the heavy warm clothing. We decided to leave that backpack to the porter.

We went to bed between 10.30 -11.30 pm that night.

Mt. Kinabalu - Part 2 (The Climb) next!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I survived!

I did not make it to Low's Peak on Mt. Kinabalu, but I lived to tell. More updates later!