Around the World in 80 Tales

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Travel  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 4 (v.1) - Climbing Mount Kinabalu in MALAYSIA

Submitted: December 02, 2019

Reads: 13

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Submitted: December 02, 2019



As my alarm broke the dark silence I wondered for a moment where I was. It seemed like I'd only just gone to sleep and when I looked at my watch I realised why. It was 2.45am at Laban Rata camp on Mount Kinabalu. As my head cleared I quickly realised why I was getting up at this unlikely time: in a few hours I'd have the thrill of watching the sun rise from the summit.

As I pulled back the curtain, I was greeted by a black sky studded with glittering stars and a half moon. Yes! It was a vast improvement on yesterday when the mountain was shrouded in misty cloud. I put on all my clothing, filled my water bottle and secured my head lamp in place. I joined my group and together with our guide took our first tentative steps through the darkness. We were part of a long human chain that would snake its way to the top to catch those first rays of sun.

Technically speaking, Mount Kinabalu isn't a difficult climb and from Laban Rata to the summit is less than 3km. However, it's not exactly easy either. There is something about clinging to a rope on a steep granite slope in bone-chilling wind that almost makes you question your sanity a little. The mountain is unforgiving and if you don't rise to its challenge it will defeat you.

Sadly, not all who aspire to reach the 4,100m peak will make it. In the oxygen-depleted air, a girl in my group began to struggle. Through the darkness, we could see the black outline of the summit and we were only a few hundred metres from it. It was so close for her and yet so far because she couldn't continue. She was nauseous and had a headache - obvious signs of altitude sickness. We made sure she was sheltered out of the wind and had enough to drink before continuing our ascent.

Reaching the summit of Low's Peak is a delicate balancing act. You want to be there for the excitement of seeing the red glow on the eastern horizon and those first rays of sun hitting the granite outcrops on the mountain. But you don't want to be there too early because it's so cold! Fortunately I timed it perfectly. By the time I joined the dozens of others on the top and found a suitable perch, the day was about to break.

Sunrise brought with it a spectacular vista. Away to the west I could see the city of Kota Kinabalu and the South China Sea beyond. In other directions there were wonderful views of the rich green Borneo hinterland. The mountain itself is a majestic sculpture of granite that descends to alpine vegetation. As the sun warmed us, I'd love to have stayed longer but a cooked breakfast at Laban Rata and a knee-crunching descent to park headquarters awaited us. It truly had been a once in a lifetime experience.


© Copyright 2019 Dave Tomlinson. All rights reserved.


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