We had a very very early alarm call at 2am in time for us to be up, have a light breakfast and be out for 2.45am.
None of us seemed to have slept well but there was a definite air of intrepidation and excitement as we waited to start. Fortunately we could leave some things at the lodge so we didn’t need to carry everything to the summit!
We all donned our headtorches and began the climb. The first part was mainly steps, sometimes made of wood and sometimes fashioned out of rocks and/or roots. There were about 150 people climbing to the summit this morning and so progress was slow. Fortunately the sky was clear and so you could see the way ahead lit by a convoy of headtorches!
It took a while to get my legs working after yesterday’s exertions, but once there we made steady progress. The climb was hard and we knew that we had to cover 2.8km distance and almost 900m in height!
We trooped along stopping when needed to take a break from the neverending climb.
At km 7, we had to show our passes and then we continued on. The climb became steeper and the steps ended, replaced instead by a rope that you could use to pull yourself up with. Some sections were particularly tricky and progress was slow.
At around 5am the pre dawn started and you could start to make out the silouettes of the various peaks that make up Mount Kinabalu.
We were right at the back of our group and we kept stopping to catch our breath! Eventually, we arrived at the 8km mark and we could see where the summit lay about 800m ahead, and about 200m above us.
We walked on and managed to reach the summit at 5.50am, just as the sun was properly rising above the horizon. You could see the clouds below and we managed to take a number of great pictures, including the obligatory photo at the summit itself – 4095.2m above sea level!
By 6.30 we had taken all of the photos that we could manage and so we started to retrace our steps on the downward trail. The sun was shining brightly and the waking generally much easier. We took some more photos in the light and as we passed the 7km pass check station we looked back and I could see why you start in the dark….I’d never have done it if I could have seen the scale of the challenge!
We returned to the lodge in about 2 hours and after another light (and basic) breakfast we started the downward trail back to the park HQ. In the end it took us around 4 hours to complete and by the end we were all very weary with sore legs from the up and down exertions of the last couple of days. However, the sense of achievement in climbing a peak over 4,000m high was amazing although Ed and I agreed that it would be the first and last time up that mountain and that neither of us are particularly keen on hostel accommodation!
On returning to the park HQ we had a lunch at the restaurant before saying farewell to the local guides and boarding a couple of minibuses to take us to our next accommodation at Poring hot springs.
As we were saying our goodbyes to our local guide they said that it was the first time that everyone in the group had made the summit and also the quickest time that everyone had made it back to the park HQ.
The journey to the hotel took less than an hour but we haven’t moved far from the mountain as we’ve dropped lower and around the foothills.
The place that we’re staying is still in the national park and has some hot springs. It’s much warmer here and a bit more humid. We’ve got a little lodge in the grounds of the hot springs complex. Across the road is a line of shops and cafes and there appear to be a line of stalls which during the day will be full of hawkers seeking to the tourists that come to the hot springs.
After a shower and a sort out of our rucksacks, we hobbled across the road to have a very welcome cold Tiger beer.
We met with the test of the group at 7.30 and headed back to the same restaurant where we’d had our beer for food. We’re all pretty tired after our 2am start but still managed to spend some time chatting in the common area that is within the accommodation. Tomorrow is planned to be a relaxing day!