The sky was blue and darkness was just disappearing. The horizon began to emerge with reddish -orange hues. I could barely see the blinking lights of the huts in Laban Rata and Kundasang. My body was already spent but my spirits were high. Navindd and I kept moving. Hikers supported each other and urged us to press on. The thick blanket of cloud below us seem to have taken a life of its own, swirling and weaving. The sun began to rise behind the Ugly Sisters and Donkey Ears rock formations. However, the view towards the summit at Low’s Peak was clear. The serrated surface of the mountain became detailed. The sun peaked above the clouds around 6.15am. It was magnificent. Tired but elated. We continued walking and reached the 8km mark around 6.20am. Shadows formed of the surface. There were sounds of jubilation. About 500m away, the triangular but serrated peak glowed softly. Nearby, a monstrous St John Peak rose abruptly form the barren rocky floor. Several other peaks formed a unique structures. The highest, Low’s Peak is at 4095m, the highest. As we rested, Navindd developed some cramps in his foot and I was plain tired.
I looked up the trail to the summit. It was crowded and in most places a single file trek. Part of the large group were making the way up to the summit and movement was painfully slow. It was made difficult by the hikers descending from the summit. At times, traffic came to a standstill.. We decided not to continue on, 300m from the summit, as it would certainly take us quite some time to complete the circuit. Instead, we wandered around and savoured the fruits of our climb with the sun warming our bodies. Views to the valley below were certainly obscured. We were lucky with the weather today. Small pools of water reflecting these unique rock formations, added to the dramatic scenery. For the previous two days, the attempt to hike to the summit was cancelled due to poor weather. The surface in most places is slippery even without rain. Hence the ropes to give a little support along the way.
We began our decent around 7.30am. It daylight, some stretches were visibly dangerous. Yes, there are some element of danger if we strayed away from the ropes. We retraced our steps back towards Laban Rata, which could be seen in the valley below. Once again, I had to confront the treacherous rock face rope assisted decent. I was more nervous now that climbing is in daylight. Navindd seemed fearless. Hanging on to the dear rope, little by little I managed. It seemed like eternity. Past that stretch, my body eased completely. We reached Laban Rata Huts around 9.30am.
After some much needed breakfast, we prepared to decent the mountain. The weather began to change as dark clouds began to build up. The landscape evolved from barren to sub-alpine to cloud forest. It was humid and the vegetation lush. Epiphytes and orchids hung on trees and rotting branches. Birds darted quickly around the forest. Flowering rhododendrons added some colour to the green environment. As we descended, we met hikers going uphill. The strain of the climb was written on their faces. I was humbled by the heavy pack the porters were hauling up the mountain. Not to repeat my previous day’s error, I packed lunch at Laban Rata. It rained intermittently as we approached Timpohan Gate. It poured heavily as we entered the gate. It was around 2.40pm. Even in “good weather”, the climb is slippery at places and definitely on the barren rock surface towards the summit. I wondered about the predicament of all the hikers on the mountain.
We caught a bus back to the Park headquarters where we received our certificate of achievement. I am proud of Navindd with his achievement and the fact that we had travelled this journey together. I hope this little gesture of climbing Mt Kinabalu would instil a sense of adventure and love for the outdoors. I told myself, I am not climbing this mountain again. (I recalled the same statement after reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro in 2012). In my older age, I may have to find an easier way to bond in the future. Nevertheless, this has been a rewarding, adventurous and fulfilling journey. Well done Navindd, albeit some aches and pain.
On 5 June 2015, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck on Mt Kinabalu. Eighteen people tragically lost their lives including hikers, porters and guides. Through this story, I hope readers will have a greater appreciation of the unique landscape and environment, the ardours task of porters and guides and of course the enthusiasm, motivation and pain of individual hikers. This is a small dedication to all who have been there, those whom aspire to experience this natural phenomenon and above all, in memory to all those whom lost their lives. I belief they are in a good place. After all, this is a “Mountain of Dead Sprits”.