Monday, May 24, 2010

Climbing Mount Kinabalu with Tapir.

Climbers the morning of the climb prior to their arduous journey to the summit.

On the 15th of May, avid trekkers from the Malaysian Nature Society Miri Branch embarked on an attempt to summit the tallest mountain in South-East Asia: Mount Kinabalu.

After meeting our guide and porter, we proceeded to Timpohon Gate at 8.45 am where we began our 6 km hike to the Laban Rata resthouse at 3272 m altitude.

The air was cool and crisp as we walked on the well-trodden trail, which was flanked with wild ferns and mosses. Upon reaching Layang-Layang rest hut, the vegetation changed to stunted alpine trees. The weather was cloudy during our ascent to Laban Rata. The clouds shrouded the views below, and as the chilly wind blew through the trail, it brought along rain from the higher altitudes.

Prior to our climb, we have been training religiously on the trails of Lambir Hill National Park. Even though we were physically able to tackle the continuous climb, we were not prepared for how our bodies reacted to the high altitude. A few of us experienced headaches, and some ran out of breath quickly due to the thin air.

We reached Laban Rata at 2.15 pm. We could see the imposing mountain behind the resthouse playing peek-a-boo with us behind a curtain of clouds.

It rained heavily in the evening, sending streams of rainwater cascading down the mountain in waterfalls. We remarked to each other that it will be a slippery and wet climb to the summit come morning.

At 2 am, we had our supper at the cafeteria before embarking on the 2.7 km hike to the summit.

The first few hundred meters along the trail was done on wooden staircases. Subsequently, we had to scramble up the granite mountain face with the help of several sections of rope. The weather at this point took a turn to the extreme.

The wind was mercilessly cold and constant. Rain drizzled upon us, reducing the visibility to a mere 10 feet. The weather condition made it very difficult for us to navigate on the steep slope. The thought of giving up did cross the minds of some of us, but we kept trudging onwards.

At 5.30 am, the rain had ceased. Dawn was breaking, and we could see how high we were up in the mountain. Every step we took felt like we were moving in slow motion. We could already see Low’s Peak from where we were. It seemed very near, but it felt like forever for us to reach there.

Finally at 6 am, we reached Low’s Peak.

The view was spectacular to say the least. Clouds spread out under us like fluffy white pillows; the rays of the sun gilded the mountain face with ethereal golden light which can only be described as majestic, and the lush forest of the Kinabalu National Park down below spread like a verdant green carpet that extended beyond the horizon as far as the eyes can see.

Though we did not spend much time at the peak, we had ample time to raise up our “MNS 70th Anniversary” banner for a well-deserved photo-op, our Tapir made it to the top! Perhaps the highest point yet for a Tapir.

We descended to Laban Rata for the much awaited breakfast. After packing our belongings; we quickly made our way down, slowly and surely, back to Timpohon Gate.

As we depart for Kota Kinabalu even after our repeated pledge to never do this again, we looked up at the beautiful mountain range, and we know deep down inside that we will be back again someday.

Mount Kinabalu was an unforgettable experience and a testament to the power of Mother Nature.

Climbers at the summit, welldone! Big toothy grins for MNS Miri trekking team after making it to the summit with our Tapir in conjunction with MNS 70th Anniversary.

MNS Miri were in Mt Kinabalu area to for a triple event together with MNS Sabah Branch. While the trekkers were braving strong winds and sheer slopes up the summit, the flatgrounders were busy with endemic birds in the park and astronomy with students from SMK Datu Paduka Mat Salleh, Ranau.

Faye Osman/MNS Miri/May 2010

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