Have you ever wondered how does it feel to have the first flicker of light reach your eyes and the first heat touching your face? Standing there quietly, looking at the cloud lazily rolled towards you, and slowly, your surrounding becomes misty and after the clouds passed by, the sun filled the sky with brilliant color. That was exactly how I felt at South’s Peak of Mount Kinabalu!
As what one of my fellow climbers; Gideon Paren Ding of Technical Record (Engineering Department) told me “Mount Kinabalu humbles me”. I could not help but to agreed wholeheartedly. From now onwards, whoever tells me that Mount Kinabalu is not challenging, I dare you to climb Kinabalu then come back and tell it to my face.
Tracking via Mesilau instead of Timpohon trail according to Jamaluddin Ahmad of Maintenance (Engineering department) is what distinguishes between men and boys! I discovered that Mesilau really brought out the man in me! The trail was hard; we encountered 90 degree steps (no bigger then 3 fingers put together) with no handles, tall rocks with no rope to climb. For to jump from one slippery rock to other rock with a very shaky knee was definitely not an easy feat.
During the 10 hours walked to Laban Rata; braving the mountain rain and the freezing strong wind, (I was wearing only T-shirt and Bermuda) and very much alone, never in my life I felt so vulnerable. What keeps me going on was, the beautiful little purple flowers, that looks so delicate, yet bloomed along the trail despite the harsh weather. The flower is so delicate, but it survived.
I keep plodding on, stopped before I got too tired, moved before I got too lazy and every time I felt that I couldn’t move anymore.. I kept telling myself that each 5 steps are better than nothing at all.
2 kilometers before reaching Laban Rata, my body was already pushed to the limit, the cold wind had no mercy and I could feel the sharp pain every time it rained. It was around 5pm and dark. I had to use my instincts to move forward groping in the dark. I lost my way and out of desperation I started to shout “Hello!” “Hello” (I don’t know why I choose to shout Hello instead of HELP”). A few guides heard my voice and started to thump their feet and I followed the noise.
When I finally arrived at Laban Rata, the temperature was 0.9 Celsius. The journey didin’t end there when I was told that we will be staying at Gunting Lagadan, which was 150 meters from Laban Rata, it sounded very near, yet it felt like forever before we finally arrived. Not everyone has a head-torch or torch light, we practically crawled up the rocks as there were no ropes or stairs to get there. Upon arriving, there was a black out and we were all frozen alive. I was wearing my full climbing gear (complete with balaclava), struggling to keep myself warm for few hours before the climb at 2:00am
After the briefing by the Head Guide on the do’s and don’ts and what to expect during the climb, 15 of us set our journey to the peak. When we reached the rocky cliffs, we were strictly reminded not to let go of the rope no matter what, I was thinking “ok, it can’t be that bad. On our way back, I nearly had heart attack looking down the cliffs, there is no way anybody can find your body if things go wrong. This was the time when my physical strength tested to the limit. The rock was nearly at a 70 degree angle and it was very slippery, god knows how I managed.
The moment we reached Sayat-Sayat checkpoint, it was already 5:30 and we were advised not to proceeds to the Low’s Peak. I was quite adamant and my guide agreed to take me to the South’s Peak, the rest decided to stop at the checkpoint. When I reached South’s Peak, I experienced rushes of emotions as I took out the AirAsia flags. I was alone with no camera to capture the moment. My guide (that never gave up on me) felt sorry for me and ran down to the checkpoint to get the camera for me. Finally, I managed to take few shots the sunrise finally came, I just stood there, capturing every second in my memory as I witnessed God’s wonderful creation.
Mount Kinabalu, true to its name, is a mountain where the spirits live, as it is as beautiful as a fairytale. Every flowers, trees and rocks seems like carefully planted and arranged by the hands of the Master Himself.
On the way down, I kept looking back and marveled at how on earth did I ever manage to climb up the day before. I took my own time climbing down as the previous day. When I finally reached the end, it felt like saying goodbye to an old dear friend.
Just like the local song lyrics “Sayang .. Sayang… Sayang Kinabalu..” I shall come back again to visit my old friend “Dream the Impossible, and Don’t take no for an answer!”.